Matt Niswonger

How will you create an amazing season of adventure?

Founding Editor Matt Niswonger in Yosemite with El Capitan in the background.

Founding Editor Matt Niswonger in Yosemite with El Capitan in the background.

A few years ago I participated in a weekend seminar called the Landmark Forum. Standing in front of a room of about one hundred total strangers I was describing what my life would look like if I achieved my potential. Speaking into a microphone, I was tasked with sharing a mission statement for my life. Except that I was kind of faking it, and it showed. As I looked into the audience people seemed fidgety, and I could tell my words were not inspiring anyone.

After a minute or so of failing to inspire even myself on the subject of my own life, the group leader walked over and held his hand up. I don’t remember his exact words, but the gist was that I was painful to listen to. If I couldn’t even inspire myself, how did I expect to inspire others? I was politely invited to sit back down and consider that I was completely dead inside. Ouch.

Feeling a bit embarrassed but liking that I was being challenged, I walked back to my chair and sat down. This was going to be a lot of work. Watching others struggle to articulate an inspiring mission statement for their lives left me feeling a little better. At least I wasn’t the only one who felt dead inside.

My initial purpose for participating in the Landmark Forum was that I was at a career crossroads and I wasn’t sure about which direction to take. Feeling disempowered about reinventing myself at age 40, I was completely “stuck” between a desire to be successful and a lack of understanding about how to get there. All I knew was I needed to make a career change and this transition was challenging me on every level.

There were many thoughts going on inside my head, and over the course of the weekend I became clear that I had been stuck for quite some time, over a year, and this inability to move forward in my career was having a spillover effect on my family and my marriage.

So I was in trouble, but what could I do?

As the weekend progressed I began to move away from a feeling of hopelessness and I stopped beating myself up about the past and engaged in the formal process of creating possibilities for myself. This process of looking into the future and creating personal possibilities is very specific to Landmark, and this process more than any other succeeded in breaking my internal logjam.

Almost three years later I look back on that weekend as the start of big changes in my career and life, and all for the better. These days I am working with a group of scientists using satellites to help farmers reduce water waste in large agricultural operations. I am totally inspired by this work. It’s hard to even relate to how I felt three years ago, because now I am absolutely thrilled with my career and see a bright future ahead.

There have been a few diversions along the journey since that weekend in San Francisco, but I am crystal clear on the fact that I started on a path towards my current vocation alongside one hundred strangers when I formally created the possibility of having a job that I love. That day I created a future for my self that is happening right now in real time as I write these words.

Now that I have seen first hand the powerful results that are available to me through the formal creation of possibilities, I have brought this approach to every aspect of my life.

Which brings me to the point I am making with this Editor’s Note: If you were to stand powerfully in the realm of creating possibilities, what future would you invent for yourself this summer? Long mountain bike rides with friends? Surfing five days a week? Going on a climbing trip to Yosemite to face your fears on a challenging big wall? Kayaking a gnarly section of whitewater? Something else?

Welcome to ASJ #85, our annual water issue. Feel free to use these pages to put yourself into a creative mindset and invent possibilities for your summer. Inspired? Then we have done our job. Create a possibility for yourself and your life and make it happen this summer. Then send me an email and tell me about it:

Thanks for reading!

~ Matt Niswonger