Once I took a trip up a mountain just for a couple of hours, and that trip still impacts my perspective on challenges and life.

I was working on a farm on the island of Mallorca and two guys who had grown up on the island invited me to go wild goat catching with them. The plan was to catch a male goat and then put it with the female goats on the farm so that they could do goat things together.

To catch a wild goat on Mallorca, you need some supplies: you need long sticks with hoops on the end to put over the goat’s head, you need lots of rope, a couple of big, slobbery, super-excited dogs (we had four with us), and you need boots with hard rubber soles. You need the boots because wind and rain erode the rock at the top of the mountains into ridges as sharp as knives. They literally cut right into your sole. So keep that in mind as the story continues: We’re 1000 meters above the valley below, we’re scrambling up cliffs and jumping across chasms, and we’re running on knives.

So we got out of the truck with the four dogs and started hiking up the mountain as the sun began to set. It was July so the air was really warm, the ancient olive trees on the slopes below us rustled in the breeze blowing off the Mediterranean. And the dogs didn’t pay attention to any of that because they smelled goats and took off barking as they ran. And the two other guys took off after them. Everybody but me looked like they were flying around those cliffs as the goats scattered.

This was pre-recovery for me, so I was just a bundle of fear and worry carefully moving very slowly up the cliffs towards the peak, trying to do my best to pretend like I was a mountain man, too, trying to ignore my brain telling me that the next step was going to be my last step before I fell and my skull burst like a melon.

Goats are smart. Definitely smarter than many people. But goats don’t know very much about people. Catching a goat is all about using the goat’s intelligence, not yours. It works like this: the dogs smell a goat, and then they chase it. You run frantically after the dogs (over the knives, across the chasms, etc). The goat will find a spot on a cliff that’s too high for the dog to reach. Once it finds that spot, it’ll just hangout there. It doesn’t have to run further because the dog can’t touch it. The goats know all about dogs. But, the goats don’t know that the humans have a long stick with a rope around the end. So once the dogs had cornered a goat, one of the guys was able to reach down from a ledge above the goat, loop its head, and then hoist it up to his ledge.

Then we stayed at the peak to watch the sunset, and then we went back to the farm. That’s all there is to the story. But it sticks with me. And I think it’s because I remember how much I struggled to keep up with the other two guys and how easy it was for them to jump around those cliffs. What they were doing was possible. There was no difference between us other than they knew how to run around mountains and had practiced doing that, and I had never done it. And I could do it, too, if I also got rid of all the baggage I was carrying around in my head (it makes me top-heavy).

So every now and then, when I hear somebody complaining about all of the reasons they can’t do something, I just think: “You know, there’s a guy chasing goats across a cliff in Spain right now, and he doesn’t care about the excuses you’re crushing yourself with.”

– Mark

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