Payoffs, Pain and the Little Things: Lessons from the Trail, Part 3

This is the final post in my 3-part mini-series on lessons from the trail. You can view the first post here and the second post here.



Lake Conroe, the "big" payoff after two days of hiking.


Gorgeous scenery on the ENTIRE Half Dome trail.
Much bigger payoff was worth the pain!


I’m a fit person, but my feet were killing me after just a few miles. We’d planned to camp for two nights, but mid-way through the second day of hiking, we determined that it was best not to stay a second night. The biggest factor, was that we felt the payoff wasn’t worth it. Honestly, hiking with a 30 lb. pack, eating freeze-dried food, and going to the bathroom in the woods isn’t all that fun! It’s the scenery and the quiet connection to nature and each other that makes it worth it… but the scenery wasn’t amazing, and the wind was picking up to the point of discomfort. Our feet were in terrible shape during our Half Dome hike, but standing on top of a mountain is pretty good at melting away the pain. I also figured out that the 30 lb. pack was killing my feet more than any other part of my body, but my standard-size backpack during the Half Dome hike didn’t have nearly this kind of impact (even though the load was not well-distributed like it is on a backpacking pack). Basically, the little extras in my pack for a few days had way more impact than the one-time stress of the standard backpack.

So, I have to ask, is your payoff worth it at your job? Is the money, work, and sense of accomplishment actually making the pain worth it? Does the “dream job” measure up? I know we all have bad days at work, and sometimes it feels like we’re ready to retire at 30, but for me, I’m generally happy and satisfied when I’m working at my job. The pain in the job is usually a long commute, boring work, low pay, or long hours, as opposed to aching feet (although, I’ve had my share of aching feet after trade shows!). It’s these “little things” that end up making the payoff less than stellar. For me, a long commute is a pretty big impact on my payoff, as the cost in gas, time away from my husband and my hobbies, and stress of traffic makes me hesitant to accept a job that requires more than 30 minutes on the road (traffic included, hate it!). I’m terrible about rationalizing that the stress isn’t that bad, but the little things add up. And, if you’re waiting for a payoff that never comes, you need to re-evaluate your career path. The “little things” take a mental, physical, and emotional toll, and you need to know when to pack up and head home.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first backpacking trip, but it taught me quite a lot about what is and is not worth it. A little pain is acceptable for the right payoff!

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