Anyone can succeed.
It takes a rare and special talent, however, to fail—and fail with such gusto that the failure becomes secondary to the triumphant achievement of mere survival. This is the definition of epic failure—where legends are born.
Be honest: Do you care to hear about someone’s perfect trip? Do you find it interesting that he had a great time, and nothing scary, dangerous, or stupid happened? Do you plead with him to regale you again (and again!) with tales from that excursion where everything went swimmingly? I doubt it. Because those stories suck.
What I’m interested in is the trip from hell; the one where you got lost, ran out of food, broke your ankle, snapped your skis in half and had to fashion snowshoes from willow saplings, baling wire, and sinew gnawed from the steaming innards of a snared rabbit. That’s a story.
So here’s a mini-guide to epic-ing. The only concrete rule is: Don’t die. Without someone to tell your story, it sucks by default.
1.) Strive for Completely Unattainable Goals
Always shoot higher than you can ever realistically hope to achieve. When it comes to epics, failure is the greatest achievement possible. Ambition is rarely a bad thing, and you’ll never fail epic-ly (and, thus, succeed) if you only try things within your comfort zone. Epics are, by definition, uncomfortable. Kind of like a venereal disease, but with less social stigma and fewer treatment options.
2.) Planning… What Planning?
Never, ever make a plan. Leap blindly into the abyss. Throw caution to the wind. Get lost. Maps are for people who don’t know where they’re going, and you definitely know where you’re going. Right up until you don’t, which is the glorious moment your epic begins. Don’t spoil it by whipping out a map. Ignore weather reports, avalanche reports, terrorism reports, TPS reports, report cards, and, most of all, reporters.
3.) Stay a Little Fat
If you’re in perfect shape, with toned muscles, limber ligaments, and porn-star endurance, the odds of injuring yourself badly or pushing yourself to physical exhaustion in a reasonable amount of time are pretty crappy. You probably don’t have the vacation days to pull off a multiyear Shackelton-style epic, so sit down, eat some onion rings, and never stretch again. You’ll be able to injure yourself easily after a few months of sloth, which will facilitate some of the greatest local epics you can imagine.
4.) Compounding Problems
When you run into minor trouble on your adventures—like a slightly shattered patella, a tiny bear mauling, or mildly explosive giardia—push right on through. Sprint past the point of no return; limp beyond the line in the sand; crawl on hands and knees to the breaking point and take your last ragged breath on the other side. When life hands you lemons, make margaritas, drink four too many, fall down the stairs, and wake up in a puddle of blood and vomit. Because that’s way more epic than making crappy lemonade.
5.) Never Admit Defeat
Every time you abandon an epic adventure before its full epic-ness can be realized, a baby tiger is chopped up and sold for parts on the Asian black market. Seriously. Don’t ever give up. Unless you hate baby tigers.
6.) Drink More
Alcohol is a powerful and volatile catalyst in the formation of outdoor epics. Put a bunch of over-hyped, under-sexed, and secretly insecure outdoorsy dudes together around a campfire, give ‘em a handle of Yukon Jack, and BLAM! They’re sure to cook up something absolutely idiotic and glorious. Conversely, if you’re already in the middle of an epic, you may find that strong booze will give you the presence of mindlessness to continue doing what you’ve been doing so poorly (see #5).
7.) The Story
This is the payoff for all of your suffering. Your epic story has been forged in the hottest ovens of agony; tempered by tears of disappointment; hammered by the heavy blows of defeat and inadequacy. Spare us no detail, and take pride in its telling. You may have been grossly unprepared, disgustingly misguided, revoltingly incompetent, and negligent with your life and the lives of others, but you made an adventure where no one else could. To be more precise, you made an adventure out of absolutely nothing.
I’ll drink to that….