Moving Your Life Forward, Wildebeest Style

Forward — the world’s most popular and worthwhile travel destination.  Resting out on the horizon, tucked under the sun, it’s an oasis awaiting for all of us. If we are diligent enough, we can pick up our lives and go there as often as we like — moving on to less debt, better relationships or maybe even just a happier us. Whatever we want, it’s waiting for us.

And yet, despite its obvious benefits,  it’s a hard ass trip to commit to sometimes. With obstacles both known and unseen, it’s difficult to  know if forward is a place where we can be. Sometimes we don’t know if we can get to new jobs, better lovers, more money or our deepest dreams. And we have no clue if we’ll actually make it there or hurt along the way, or if it’s a mistake to move forward all together.

As we move toward our goals this year, let’s not allow the anxieties of moving forward become a stumbling block for us. Because let’s face it. As my mother always says:

“You won’t be the first to do this, and you sure as hell won’t be the last to do it either.”

And it’s true.  Even if you don’t know who did it, or how to find them at this moment, there will always be someone who has done what you want to do. Or done something damn near similar enough that you can glean from their story and make a pathway to your own goals. And that’s so comforting, right? With just a little willpower, some Googling and camaraderie, you really can get to where you want to go.

Enter the story of the wildebeest: a great example of moving forward from nature herself.

White bearded wildebeest, Ngorongoro crater Tanzania. Photo by Lee R. Berger

White bearded wildebeest, Ngorongoro crater Tanzania. Photo by Lee R. Berger

Every year, around 1.5 million of these beautiful animals and their closest friends trek almost 1,800 miles through plains of the Africa; obstacles be damned. Their reason: to LIVE. Food and water supplies dwindle away over time and about every six months they have to volley between the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to survive. And they must do this every year, back and forth, for the rest of their life spans (which can reach up to 40 years).

It would be nice if this were just a scenic walk through the African countryside, with cocktails and free pedicures every 100 miles or so, but that’s just not how forward goes. This migration is hard work.  The animals cross rivers,the violent currents of which can swallow dozens at a time. Crocodiles weighing up to 900 lbs. lurk in the shallow waters in droves, just waiting to pull them under. At night, they have to rest in shifts for protection from the lions and cheetahs waiting for them in the grass. There is starvation, dehydration and a slew of other challenges that threaten to thwart their progress and end their lives.

The true nugget in this story, however, is not in the fight to the finish, but in how they actually get their gloves on in the first place.

See, when a baby wildebeest first plops out on the ground, rolls over and meets his mama, their relationship is kind of meh. It’s not really like a human’s or a killer whale’s. Mama kind of just chills with him for about eight months, and then goes on about her business. If it’s a girl wildebeest, then she can join her mama’s crew for the rest of her life and roam about with them. However, if the wildebeest is a boy — than that dude is solely responsible for picking a crew to hang out with, convincing them he’s worth their protection and trying to make things work out as best he can — all while migrating to a new place to eat and live. That’s a little hard, right?

In the spirit of finding great examples of moving forward — when you return to the number of animals taking this arduous journey and surviving it year after year, the outlook of the situation sort of changes. That means, there are 1.5 million other thinking, emotional animals out there, fighting for their goals too — every day. And the two things that make them successful are the relationships they build with others who support them and their sheer will to succeed.

While your goals probably have nothing to do with dodging crocs in a river or fighting off lions, there is something amazing happening here that is worth making a connection to. If your  forward requires the best of your wits and heart to surmount great obstacles, give some thought to the wildebeest migration journey. It obviously scares the shit out of them, but they move forward anyway!

Find some people who will truly support your goal. Maybe if it’s only one, just make sure they really get it — no judgments needed. If it’s to lose weight, join an online group of strangers who understand your fears. If you are getting over a divorce, find an author or a therapist or a Snapchat buddy (I have no idea how the hell to do that one, but I could figure it out in about a day if you need me to) who will help you get through it. The point is — find your people. You don’t have to do anything alone.

And also, sharpen up your willpower. You will need it to fight off every obstacle in the way. It’ll take some effort, but if a wildebeest can do it, surely you can too.

For more on this amazing migration story, that began in the 1960’s and might not last forever, consider taking a vacation, and definitely watch the video below.

A Year in the Serengeti – A Wildebeest Story from Michael Dalton-Smith on Vimeo.

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