Sweat Equity – Or Don’t Sweat It

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For many of us, we identify with a particular aspect of our personality more so than we do other aspects. Some of us are prone to going “chips in” towards one facet or another, forsaking balance in pursuit of something “more”. When we do this, we often tie our value as a person to the output of the particular pursuit on which we’ve gone all-in on. Far too often we ignore what we can control while we toil away at tasks intended to fix, or influence, those things we cannot control. And when we fall flat, our perceived value also falls flat. Feeling like a failure due to factors outside of your control is a self-inflicted wound and one that cannot be avoided regardless of effort. Learning to manage balance is an important life skill; one that might just save you from your own passions. It certainly saved me from mine.

Sweat Equity

I was raised in a “hunting 101” family. We covered the basics: walk quietly, sit still, be quiet. We did not discuss things like trail cameras, food plots, or herd management. My exposure to those things would begin in the early 2000s and was heavily influenced by Bill Jordan, Michael Waddell, and Mark and Terry Drury. Things would be thrust into overdrive in 2005 with the acceptance of my first “real” job, and the acquisition of a 100-acre family farm near the start of bow season. For someone that admittedly “knows no moderation”, I immediately went “chips in” and hitched my “value wagon” to the results of my bowhunting pursuits. I was certain that if I worked harder than the next guy, I would “earn” a wall full of Ohio Big Bucks. Within weeks of closing, I was immersed in my pursuit to become that “Mark Drury of SE Ohio” and it was in the pursuit that I thought I find happiness.

The years that would follow, found me in the woods 52 weeks a year, hundreds of hours a year working on projects I was certain would propel me to hunting greatness. I dabbled in the hunting industry and had unrealistic expectations about what I could achieve because I lacked a proper perspective. I failed to realize that the success I felt I could achieve through hard work, ultimately hinged on one reality: right place, right time. (This alone is influenced by a host of other issues like access, genetics, and pressure.) My ignorance caused me to believe hard work in the form of habitat management, would sway the scales in my favor come hunting season. All the failures began to pile up, so did the pressure. I’d centered my life around one pursuit and as the certainty of success gave way to doubt and frustration, I was defeated. I was ready to disassociate myself from the one pursuit that had defined me for over a decade. It took a change in perspective to revive my passion and that change came from one major revelation: Sweat equity alone does not kill deer.

Don’t sweat it.

Fast forward to the current day and you’ll find a much different scenario on our farm. The presence of years of sweat equity is evident in overgrown trails, dozens of former (unvetted) stand sites, and more than a few projects that never resulted in a dead deer. Gone are the days of the “Hit List”, finely manicured trails and stand sites, or anything Drury-esque for that matter. But what you will find now is a happier hunter. One that understands my value has nothing to do with my trophy wall and that “right place, right time” is influenced by chance more so than effort. I learned to redefine what “effort” meant in terms of output and that burning myself out in July hanging stands under the expectation that it’d be a sure thing come November, was a recipe for failure. Effort meant getting up earlier, sitting longer, observing more. It meant hunting smarter, not simply working harder. Quite literally, I sweat less nowadays. Metaphorically, I also sweat less. I no longer care about what my trophy wall says in terms of inches of antler and how that correlates to my perceived “value”; but what does it say in terms of memories and experiences? Those are the things that provide lasting value. The value is in the pursuit. It’s the planning. The anticipation. The adventure. And the memories that live on long after the sweat has dried. There is no value in sweating for sweating’s sake…

The lesson.

For the more cerebral individual, life is more than just blindly going forth. It’s filled with internal dialogue about “why” and that constant analysis can be burdensome at times. When it’s not just as simple as “shut up and hunt”, you must effectively manage expectations so that you garner the most from all experiences. Respect the preparation, but don’t think you can work yourself to an outcome simply because someone says, “sweat equity pays”. In my particular instance, doing less would have meant more when you look at the early years of habitat projects. Where there is one, there are hundreds of examples of giant bucks falling to hunters who invested zero sweat equity into the killing of that animal short of “right place, right time”. The same examples can be found in all aspects of life. Hard work alone is not enough, but it helps.

The old adage that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” is really just telling us that “right place, right time” is the controlling factor in our success. In the business world, managing expectations is a key component to achieving success. The same goes for daily living and the pursuit of our passions. Getting caught up in the hype, buzzwords, and unrealistic expectations set by those not walking a similar path to our own is a recipe for failure. Getting burnt out trying to affect change over things you cannot control robs you of the enthusiasm you need to capitalize on the things you can control. Hard work alone is not enough, but it helps.

So, what can you control? The expectations you set for yourself. The perspective through which you view your existence. The quality of your life’s experiences is controlled by your expectations and perspectives. Choose properly.

Stay mindful my friends.

Jesse Roush – The Ohio Outdoors

Jared Van Hees

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