Man On The Run

Posted on April 10, 2012

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“Unconsidered, merely indulged, ambition becomes a vice; it can turn a man into a machine that knows nothing but how to run. Considered, it can be something else-pathway to the stars, maybe.”

– Wallace Stegner

 Men indeed are on the run. They are either running to or from something; that just seems to be in our DNA. And for those of us that are highly motivated, risk takers, ambitious dream chasers, our passions can easily lead to an over-the-top obsession. Properly defined, an obsession is: “The domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image or desire.”  Regrettably, at one point in my life I actually lived in obsession of something. It was more than 28-years ago, and although the thing that I lived for more than anything else wasn’t a bad thing – in fact it would be considered rather wholesome to most – it became all-consuming to me. Let me explain.

The white-tailed deer is and continues to be a wonderful part of nature. To say the animal has played a huge role in my life would be an understatement. But there was a time when this creature dominated every fiber of my being. It didn’t start out that way, it seldom does with any addiction, but as success built on further success, and being naturally driven to achieve, I took deer hunting to an unnatural level where it took the highest priority in my life.

All of my decisions became wrapped around this animal: how much and where money was spent; vacation time reserved exclusively for hunting season and an inordinate amount of time away from my young wife and two small children. Selfishly, I’d convinced myself that in order to achieve my goal – to be the best – all of this was necessary; just a part of paying my dues.

However, as I would later realize this track I was following ultimately became enslaving, as all false idols do. I had to – needed to – live up to the billing; the hype of who I had become. The satisfaction I once derived from hunting was no longer enough, I needed more and I needed it more frequently.

This worship at the alter of the white-tailed deer brought senseless fear into my life that led to questions such as, what if I fail to succeed? What will people think? How will I be viewed? What will happen when I don’t meet the expectations of those that think, “I’m all that”? My entire identity was based on what did or didn’t hang from a game pole at seasons end.

In his newly released book, Man On The Run, Helping Hyper-Hobbied Men Recognize the Best Things In Life, Zeke Pipher writes, “There is something old and deep in the hearts of men that drives them to find significance in what they do. This desire to find self-worth through performance can be traced all the way back to Genesis 3.”

So, was my addiction normal, was it just a natural progression of the human spirit to seek achievement at any cost? Or, was it ambition that went too far and became a selfish all encompassing obsession that severely blurred my priorities? Sadly, at that time in my life I had listened to the wrong voices, echoes that Zeke warns of when he writes, “One of the persistent voices that encourage men to chase tiny, disastrous dreams comes from the marketing industry.” He goes on to explain, “Most men navigate a gauntlet every day. From the moment they sit up in bed and put their feet on the floor until the time they plug in their cell phones at the end of the night, they’re hit from all sides with opportunities and demands. Men face hundreds of decisions a day. Decisions about where to spend their time, energy, and resources. Decisions that challenge their values. Decisions that test and prove their character. The waves hit us from all directions.”

What had essentially transpired in my life those many years ago is I believed a lie, the same lie that continues to be perpetuated today, “You gotta win to get love.” Zeke explains, “That’s the lie that’s tucked painfully into the hearts of millions of young and old boys. That’s also the lie that causes boys to clench their fists, pull up their boots, and do everything they can to perform well. Performance must be measured, and it seems in our society, it’s judged by who makes the most money, owns the nicest homes, carries the prestigious titles (shoots the biggest bucks) and earns the advanced degrees. Men will knock themselves out trying to win in order to get love…The Performance Story has produced a world full of exhausted men who are trying to prove that they measure up by what they do. This way of life deepens the ache in men’s hearts to feel significant…” but, and I speak from experience, “There’s no lasting contentment in the Performance Story. There’s no joy. Just exhaustion, pressure, and continual awareness that his self-worth is on shaky ground.”

With fourteen chapters speaking exclusively into men’s lives, Man On The Run covers the issues that we face and the remedy to fix that which has been misplaced. In the final chapter, “Driven By Dreams”, Zeke makes a point that reminds me of my own life when he scribes, “Active, hard-charging men are driven by dreams. When they can picture how an activity will bring them closer to the future they desire, they have sufficient motivation to carry it out. If they lack dreams, they lack energy…Zealous men know how to dream. They prove this point with the unending energy they have for certain pursuits. Men will spend long hours in the garage, as they picture heads turning when they drive through town in the purring, shimmering car they rebuilt. Imagining financial success and the respect of an employer motivates some men to be consistently the last to leave the office. The image of showing my kids a massive set of elk antlers motivates me to work hard-studying mountain ranges, organizing my gear, and practicing with my bow each week. Dreaming is easy. The challenge lies in choosing the best dreams…If there’s one thing that God loves to do, it’s help men trade smallish, empty dreams for big, challenging, life-demanding ones. A life of small dreams is a wasted life. There’s no thrill in climbing low mountains. No man has to live a wasted life.”

Perhaps you are a hyper-hobbied man, one who’s adventurous pursuits has taken you over the edge like mine did to me. Zeke’s contribution of Man On The Run shows that men are indeed capable of living with passion and zeal while at the same time remaining balanced and faithful to their most important relationships and priorities. They can learn to run well, while running after the right things.

Thankfully, much has changed in my life from over a quarter century ago when I recognized the trap that I’d been ensnared with. It was then that I fully understood there’s not a whitetail walking this planet, regardless of how big he may be that is more important to me than my God, family and friends. Think about this the next time you might be tempted to discard a relationship over a whitetail: When you eventually die there will be no whitetails attending your funeral (and stuffed deer heads don’t count because they’re past caring). Only those people that cared most about you will be there to pay their final respects.  Those are the ones that count. Those are the ones that matter. Those are the ones you invested in. Those are the ones that experienced the journey beside you and are there now that you have reached your final destination!

Man On The Run is published by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster.com and sells for $14.99. It can be purchased wherever books are sold.

All images on this site are copyright protected and the property of R.G. Bernier

 © 2011 R.G. Bernier Nature Photography – All rights reserved.

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Posted in: Book Review