The continual accumulation of minor improvements

February 21, 2023

In 2014 we flew to Portland, Oregon, rented a car, and headed south to Eugene. We met with Cameron Hanes to film a promotional piece for Plano there. Like many before us, and so many since, we followed Cam running up the mountain, pushing iron around a gym, and launching arrows at the range. It was a memorable experience for a lot of reasons.

Cam, as you know, is a machine. Literally. A machine.

A machine does what it’s made to do. It does not stray from the task. It does not complain. It does not need coaxing. You press the accelerator, and it goes. You hit the brake, and it stops.

Cam possesses a machine-like ability to self-discipline. There are days he doesn’t want to go. But he does it anyway. Over the years, he’s transformed into a mountain running arrow-launching elk-killing contraption that very few, and absolutely no one with lesser discipline, can match.

We started the day with Cam lacing his running shoes and running up the mountain, Chase and I, and a Sony FS7 in tow. We started fine. But as the grade increased, our pace slowly ground to a halt. Cam imparted a piece of wisdom about how to get to the top, “It’s like chopping wood,” he said. “Each step is another swing of the axe, and you just keep chopping that mountain down until there’s no more mountain to chop.”

Cameron Hanes
Reviewing footage with Cam

I think about that advice nearly every time there’s a climb ahead of me, whether running a trail or climbing to a vantage point. Chop. Chop. Chop. And when you accumulate enough chops, the task ends, and you earn a well-deserved break. Your heart rate comes down. Your respiration returns to normal. And you enjoy the fruits of your labor — a better view, a task accomplished, and a slight improvement in your ability to deliver oxygen to working muscles that need it.

If you chop down enough mountains, take enough steps, and accumulate enough tiny improvements, you can do damn near anything you have the determination and patience to achieve.

Every goal, every desire, and every dream ahead of you is a mountain. Finishing a degree is a mountain. Buying a home is a mountain. Building a beautiful, secure future for your family is a mountain. Becoming the best version of yourself is a mountain.

Start chopping. And don’t stop until you chop those mountains down.