Mike Posner is one awesome dude.
You may know him from his hit songs ‘Cooler Than Me’ and ‘Took a Pill in Ibiza’ but not too long ago, he decided to take the not-so-light decision to walk across America. After travelling 2851 miles, he finally made it and not without some incredibly inspirational messages and insights to share.
You see, Mike didn’t do this for a charity or because he lost a bet with a friend, he did it to test his own limits, to become comfortable with discomfort and ultimately, to become someone that he could be proud of when he looks in the mirror.
Obviously, walking across America isn’t the only way to see what you’re made of and to become inspired by yourself. However, taking some of the lessons from Mike’s journey and the struggles that he overcame is a great way to find inspiration and start making a positive change in your own life.
Lessons from during the walk
When you are talking about a 2851 mile walk over a number of months, it is difficult to know where to begin with the struggles that he faced on this arduous journey. Most of the challenges that he dealt with were published on his Instagram page, but no doubt there were many more, particularly psychological ones, that went undocumented.
Sore Feet (Obviously)
One of the daily struggles that he faced was blistered and bruised feet. Not a single day went by where his feet didn’t hurt, which isn’t exactly ideal when you are walking for around 30 miles a day. Mike talks about putting the pain of that aside and continuing on anyway. He had a job to do and it didn’t matter if his feet were hurting him or not, he had to keep moving.
In an interview with Time, he says:
“It never gets easy. The whole way it hurts. But your mind gets better at dealing with things that aren’t easy. That’s a superpower.”
Whether it be sore feet, a sore body from working out or simply a mind that doesn’t feel like working, it is important that we keep moving forward. Not only when we don’t feel like it, but especially when we don’t feel like it. This is one of the key messages that can be learned from Mike’s walk.
Coming Across Roadblocks
A walk across the entirety of America was never going to be easy and the last thing anyone wants when they are in physical and often mental pain is a significant roadblock.
Yet that is what Mike got. Physical and mental. Again and again.
There was a time where there was flooding around the Missouri River and Mike was up to his waist in water on the Katy Trail. It wasn’t safe to go any further so he had to abandon his planned route and go back north, exactly where he had come from to find a new route – retracing steps that he thought were behind him and making the challenge that bit longer. This was just one actual roadblock that he faced on the walk.
Later on in the journey, especially in the second half of the walk, Mike documents many of the mental roadblocks that managed to sneak into his mind. Whether they were doubts, worries or just general fatigue, the number and magnitude of the roadblocks kept growing. But he had to keep pushing and developed his mantra for the whole walk: ‘KEEP GOING’.
The parallel with our own lives isn’t too hard to decipher here. When we encounter roadblocks in our path, unforeseen circumstances or simply plain old bad luck, we need to be ready to adapt to change and keep moving forward. It is worth remembering that sometimes you need to move backwards in order to move forwards again. An upward sloping line on a graph is almost never linear, but has many jagged points before it reaches its end point.
Getting bitten by a baby rattlesnake
Okay, so he has blistered feet and tormenting thoughts for hours on end in walking isolation, how could this get any more difficult?
I know, maybe throw in a poisonous rattlesnake bite.
Mike received this bite while walking through Colorado and was immediately airlifted to hospital. He was told that he might die if the antivenom wasn’t applied quickly enough, he was told that his leg might need to be amputated if things went well. If everything went perfectly, he would only have to learn to walk again. No big deal.
That would have been enough for most of us to ‘see the signs’, say that we tried our best, that we had already learnt enough lessons and call it a day on the whole thing.
Not Mike Posner though. In a hospital gurney he is pictured with his ankle in a giant cast and can be seen smiling. Yes, smiling and excited to get back on with the walk after he learns to walk again. At times, it is hard to remember that this guy is human, but I guess that is the whole point. He set out to do this walk to see what he and other ‘normal’ humans are capable of. Which turns out to be quite a lot.
So after having to start again from square one, he eventually managed to walk again and was back on the trail in no time.
The lesson here is much easier said than done. If or when you get bitten by a rattlesnake or when it seems like everything that you have worked for has been snatched away from you in a second, it’s time to re-evaluate, re-plan and re-build your wall. If he can recover from a poisonous rattlesnake bite to complete the walk, I’m pretty sure that we can look at our own problems again in a different light.
Lessons after the walk
After 6 months of walking and nearly 3000 miles completed, Mike Posner completed his walk by diving into the Pacific Ocean at Venice Beach, California. I can’t even begin to imagine the sense of accomplishment and joy that he must have felt at the finish line.
Although Mike learnt many lessons along the way, it was only afterwards when he started to digest everything and had time for reflection did even more lessons start to emerge. Not just about him as a person, but about us as human beings. As he puts it in his new song about the walk: ‘The walk is over but… beginnings always hide themselves in ends.’
Perseverance, consistency and improvement
In an interview with CBS after completing his walk, Mike said:
“Not one morning that my alarm goes off, [at] 4am, did my body go ‘get up and walk dude’. Zero times! You go do something and you finish it, and no matter what, you’re gonna find some beauty in yourself.”
Mike Posner is just another person who has managed to quash the idea that you need to be motivated before you can act rather than just acting anyway, whether the motivation exists or not.
Joe Rogan is someone else who has echoed this point over and over. He claims that:
“There have been many, many, many, many days where I didn’t want to work out, I just didn’t feel like I had the energy and I just forced myself. I think there are very few people out there who know how to force themselves. That’s a learned skill.”
To persevere and to be consistent is a superpower that anyone can learn. It is something that Mike learned on his gruelling walk, it is something that Joe has learned throughout his life and it is something that many people can and do learn by simply doing. It doesn’t have to be much, but if you can manage to be 1% better each day, that adds up over time to something truly special. Problems and challenges are going to keep coming, and the sooner we can accept that, the better off we will be.
Mike made it a habit and completed this walk by completing the first step, and then the next, and then the next…
The beauty of the unknown
Maybe insights such as inner strength, motivation and achievement are all things that one might expect someone would learn from a challenge like a walk across America.
However, one of the key lessons that Mike found after reflecting on the walk is the beauty and power of the unknown. He had no idea about what to expect from the walk, what challenges he would face, what amazing people he would meet or even what lessons he would learn.
He was told that certain places were dangerous, he was told that he shouldn’t travel in certain areas, he was advised to not continue the walk after the rattlesnake bite. However, whilst these people might have had Mike’s best intentions at heart, he himself didn’t know that certain places were dangerous or if he could continue after the bite.
He knew that he would have to find that out for himself. And that’s what he did.
It is also true in our own lives that we may be told what we can and can’t do, what careers we should pursue and whether we should love or hate pineapple on pizza (you should love it, by the way). Yet we can never know the unknown unless we actually venture there for ourselves.
As famous author and speaker Anthony de Mello puts it: ‘It’s not that we fear the unknown. You cannot fear something that you do not know. Nobody is afraid of the unknown. What you really fear is the loss of the known. That’s what you fear’.
If we can overcome our own fear of the loss of the known, get out of our comfort zones and dance with the unknown rather than fight it, there are many treasures to be discovered – as Mike and many others have found on their life’s journey.
This article has been about the remarkable achievement of Mike Posner and how he managed to become a hero to himself and many others by putting himself way out of his comfort zone and completing an incredible feat.
This article isn’t just about Mike though. It is about what it means to be human, the challenges that we face and the lessons that we can learn. Perhaps most importantly, it is an important revelation about what all of us are truly capable of.