Founding a nation is the ultimate in extreme sports. Forget about base-jumping, hang-gliding, or whitewater rafting (Or the sports that are actually extreme and not the tame ones I listed because I’m such a light-weight.), signing documents that will surely end your life has got to be quite the rush. In my head I picture Benny Frank and John Adams letting out a rebel yell when they signed the good ole Declaration of Independence. And John Hancock? Couldn’t even hold back the excitement enough to write a normal-sized signature; that’s an adrenaline addict for you.
When the colony of Jamestown was founded, you know the colonists had to be buzzing like crazy. Even to sign up for this kind of a journey, you really had to be part of some type of extreme sports support group. I imagine the classified ad read something like this:
Wanted: Men who get a rush out of living their lives in a continual state of peril. Applicants should be rough, tough, and a have a few screws in the loose position. Possible side effects include, but are not limited to: motion sickness, dysentery, diarrhea, scurvy, being mauled by bears, losing toes to crabs, having strange trees talk and sing to you, starvation, scalping, and in rare cases survival.
Yet, what occurs to me throughout all of this is that you’ve got to be willing to put something on the line to achieve greatness. And I’m not even talking about achieving greatness by modern standards, having a few million twitter followers and a reality TV show. (On a side note, I think Benjamin Franklin would’ve had both of these things if he lived today. And in truth, I’d watch it in a heartbeat.) Great actions require sacrifice. They require that the actors are willing to give something up, even as much as their lives, – or in modern context maybe just having their Iphone fall in the water? – to see it come to fruition.
As Donald Miller says, we aren’t drawn to stories about people who live their lives trying to achieve menial things in life – a Lexus, Iphone, or a dazzling pair of trainers (British for tennis shoes). So why do we spend time trying to live those story-lines out? Instead, let’s become adrenaline junkies about the things that matter. Be willing to thrown your cap over the wall (modern context: laptop or car keys?) over the wall. This provides an inciting incident which forces us to get up and go get it back.
That’s where the adrenaline kicks in. One of the purposes of adrenaline seems to be that it provides us strength and energy when we don’t have the necessary energy required. It comes along when we’re teetering on the brink of greatness, or dangling on the edge of collapse. Adrenaline pops in when we’re dancing on the razor’s edge (A place I like to avoid mostly because adrenaline and peeing your pants are scientifically linked. Take my word for it; no, you don’t need to look it up.).
So it’s time to take a page from our founders’ book and be willing to suffer dysentery and crab-pinching (Disclaimer: metaphorically speaking) in order to achieve something that is far more worth it. It has been said that a society that forgets its past is doomed to repeat it. So let’s actually learn from the past, but let’s learn the right thing.
I don’t want to forget that Adams, Franklin, and John Smith were more than a wee bit nutty. But they were just nutty enough to do the thing a sane person wouldn’t have the foresight to do. These men were crazy, but crazy like a fox. So don’t be afraid to be an adrenaline junkie, but be an adrenaline junkie in the things that matter.
And don’t forget to watch Pocahontas; it’s on Netflix now. History at its finest.