Setting Impossible Goals
By Bryan Cohen
The above picture is a snapshot of me during my senior year of high school at our local Relay for Life event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. I am drenched in sweat because of a foolhardy and ambitious attempt to jog/walk 49 miles in one day.
This strange and seemingly impossible goal came on a whim. Those plastic beads around my neck in the picture are tiny-colored feet. We received one after each mile we travelled which was equal to four times around our quarter-mile track. After I was a few hours into the 24 hour event, I had travelled nine miles, since all I had done there was walk or jog the track since I’d arrived. I had seven orange feet and two green feet. I asked the plastic foot dispensing booth how many colors they had. The attendant said they had seven. For no discernible reason, I decided I wanted seven feet for all seven colors or 49 miles in total.
I was athletic at the time, but I certainly wasn’t a marathoner. I’d never even heard of anyone I knew running more than 10 miles at a time. This seemed like a truly impossible and crazy goal. So, I went for it.
When I told my high school peers what I wanted to do, they immediately wanted to help. When you set a huge goal and tell the right people about it, it’s amazing how much help you can obtain. People I barely knew volunteered to ice my feet or jog a lap with me. I even jogged a mile with my brother Jamie while holding a boom box that was blaring Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” (don’t let either the presence of a boom box or Pink Floyd fool you, this was definitely in the year 2001).
Roadblocks occur in the midst of every worthwhile goal and mine was major to my high school mind. My girlfriend of seven months told me about 20 miles into my quest that she didn’t want to keep dating after I went to college. For a nerd like me, who had only had one girlfriend previous to this, the news was devastating. Tired, heartbroken and aching, I pressed on in my goal. Just because something knocks you off track during your attempt for intense achievement, does not mean you should give up. When asked what he would do if the Confederate Army looked to be winning the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln said, “Oh, there’s no choice but to keep pegging away.”
I did not reach 49 miles by the end of the event. By 35 miles, my legs had cramped up too much and each step sent overwhelming through my feet and calves. I called it a day. 35 miles was a huge achievement nevertheless and it reminds me of the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “Shoot for the heavens and you’ll end up among the stars.”
When writing you should set audacious goals. You will feel a drive like never before. People will come out of the woodwork to help you reach the finish line. There will be related and non-related setbacks. Press on as hard as you can and see where you end up.
Oh, and by the way, I did the same event the following year. Once again, I didn’t end up with 49 miles. I did 50.
Bryan Cohen is a writer, actor and comedian from Dresher, Pennsylvania. Since graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill he has written four books (1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More, 500 Writing Prompts for Kids: First Grade through Fifth Grade, Sharpening the Pencil: Essays on Writing, Motivation, and Enjoying your Life, and Writer on the Side: How to Write Your Book Around Your 9 to 5 Job), several plays (Something from Nothing and Chekhov Kegstand: A Dorm Room Dramedy in Two Acts) and he was the head writer for an un-produced Web series (Covenant Coffee). His writing and motivation website Build Creative Writing Ideas has had over 100,000 visitors since it was founded in December 2008. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Follow Bryan on Twitter @buildcwideas.
Giveaway!Bryan Cohen is giving away 100 personalized writing prompts to one giveaway entrant chosen at random during the blog tour. Personalized prompts are story starters that cater specifically to a writer’s subject matter, strengths/weaknesses, etc. Cohen will create the prompts to cater exclusively to the winner. He is giving away free digital copies of his book The Writing Sampler to everybody who enters, which includes excerpts from each of his four books on writing. The book contains essays, writing prompts and tips and tricks to enhance your writing skills. In addition, for each of Cohen’s books that reach the Top 500 on Amazon during his blog tour, he will add a $50 Amazon gift card to the drawing (up to six $50 cards in total)!
To enter, simply post a comment to this blog post with your e-mail address. Entries will be counted through June 2nd, 2011.
What a great post, Bryan! I can only imagine how daunting it was. And to be delivered an emotional zinger like that in the process. It's no wonder you didn't quit right then and there. Yes, 35 miles is very impressive and doing 50 the next year. Wow...just wow!ReplyDelete
You already have my email, but I'll list again, just in case!
Wow! 49 miles in one day!! What a determination!ReplyDelete
And congrats on doing 50!
@Michelle - Thanks Michelle! Fortunately, I can still say that I'm just as crazy :). You are entered!ReplyDelete
@Misha - Thanks Misha! It's definitely up there as one of my life achievements...so far :).
And thank you Melissa for letting me do this guest post for my blog tour! Woo!
As someone who has lost my father and uncle to cancer, and my son has inoperable tumors, I am always happy to see what people are willing to do to help the american cancer society. That you went that many miles is wonderful (and you are so much better than that old girlfriend).ReplyDelete
Wow. 35 and 50 miles? That's incredible! I would keel over after, oh, probably one. I'm kind of a champion athlete like that:) Loved this post, such a great story!ReplyDelete
Dear God... I would have died... Literally passed out (after one of many necessary smoke breaks) and they'd have had to call the paramedics! Congrats!ReplyDelete
Intense - as an aside, I can't believe a girl would break up with you after you'd gone 20 miles during a cancer charity event. This should clearly be the subject of a future blog post ;)ReplyDelete
Whoa! I think ten miles is alot and I think you're ex is a bitch for breaking up with you during your run! Could she not find a better time?ReplyDelete
But what an achievement both years!
It is inspiring! Looking forward to your visit at my blog on the
Hi B-ry! Boy, it's hard to keep up with all your writing projects. This is cool though. I like your ideas about setting impossible goals, and then suprising yourself with what you can accomplish! I certainly did that with my sculpture I made for the Redtwist show, and now I might be on the verge of starting a new side business from it. I'm very inspired by you :)ReplyDelete
Oh wow! I'm in true awe. 35 miles is quite an accomplishment. Very inspirational post. Thank you for sharing it.ReplyDelete
35 miles without the proper preparation and traning...hats off! Setting impossible goals can teach you that there are no things impossible, you are limited by your imagination! Best of luck with your projects!ReplyDelete
Thank you all so much for the fantastic comments! I'm glad to share my story. Let's be nice to the ex, I don't think anybody is very good at timing in high school :).ReplyDelete
@Debbie - I'm so sorry for your personal losses to cancer. My good friend's mother lost her fight with cancer 2 days after the race. My dad has gotten cancer twice, but has fortunately fought it off both times. I'm always happy to contribute to this cause! And thank you for entering my giveaway!
@Jenny - Glad you loved the post! After the 50 mile day, I pretty much did keel over. All they had to drink was soda (not great for dehydration)! But it was a great experience :).
@Bookish Brunette - Aw, thanks. Yeah, smoking, not so good for the long distances :).
@ Nir - Haha, it was high school, man. I could definitely write an entire book about that relationship, but in the mean time, I'm sure Swam could tell you all about it.
@Heather - Thank you so much! I can't wait to write up the guest post. Not sure what it'll be yet, but I'll try to make it special :).
@A-Crate - That's awesome that your sculpting is becoming a business!! I love your sculpture! Let me know if you need some Google AdSense coupons for advertising, I have a few left over :).
@Missie - And thank you so much for checking it out!
@Anachronist - Thanks so much for the kind words and the luck. I'm glad you share my opinion on achieving "impossible" goals :).
Wow, 50 miles--that's quite the achievement!ReplyDelete
Press on as hard as you can and see where you end up <- I love that. :)
Wow! Talk about accomplishing dreams :) I have to admit, this is one of the most unique (and absolutely EPIC) giveaways I have ever come across! I'd love to win!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much!
great post! Its amazing how we can surpass our goals with will powerReplyDelete
Having done the breast cancer 3-day walk a few years ago, I cheer your accomplishment!ReplyDelete
I'd love to be the recipient of 100 writing prompts!
Email is: email@example.com
Blog is: http://blackinkpad.blogspot.com
As you well know Bryan ... I was at this event, and as one of your best friends (then and now), I think you should explain why I only came to know about Rachel breaking up with you at relay for life just a few days back (and many years after the fact!).ReplyDelete
Now then, good work with everything. You know that you've helped me learn some of the tricks of the web marketing trade for my own musical pursuits. I'm obviousy a fan ... proud of ya buddy!
ps: take note that there are two specific things I remember about the relay:
1) while you were walking 50 miles, the rest of us walked one and then spent our time on frisbee, soda, cards, and general shenanigans.
2) All of us thought that you were nuts ...
What a great accomplishment for a teenager; 35 miles and then 50 miles! The Relay for life is an inspiring event and has helped many people.ReplyDelete