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On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Chase Is the Reward

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Allison Vesterfelt, who is the author of Packing Light, a book about learning to live life with less. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Darrell. You can follow her daily on TwitterFacebook, or her blog.

Have you ever felt like you did everything right — followed all the rules, took all the right turns, made all the difficult decisions a person is supposed to make — only to get the opposite of what you wanted?

Chased by an airplane

Photo Credit: twm1340 via Compfight cc

Maybe you built a successful business that was taken down by someone else’s stupid mistake. Maybe you bent over backwards to hold your marriage or dating relationship together, and it still fell apart.

Maybe you got the degree but still couldn’t find a job. Maybe you studied and studied and studied (and studied) for that test, but thanks to a few rogue questions, you didn’t get a good grade.

I don’t know about you, but when these kinds of things happen to me, I always feel so cheated.

A few years ago, I started to feel like this was the story of my whole life. I had gone to graduate school, gotten a great job, and was shopping for condos in my favorite neighborhood in my hometown of Portland, Oregon.

But despite the fact that I was keeping up with what everyone told me I was “supposed” to do, I felt really unsettled. Something felt wrong.

My life felt like it was full of stuff but empty of passions and dreams and things I really wanted to chase after.

So, I decided to change directions…

I had always wanted to quit my job and travel to all 50 states to write a book about the experience, and I knew that if I didn’t take the opportunity right now, it probably wouldn’t ever happen.

So I decided to sell everything I owned, move into my Subaru Legacy and start driving.

It was a huge sacrifice, and it took some finagling to get my family and friends on board, but I was convinced that this is what I needed to do if I was ever going to achieve my dream of writing a book someday.

The problem was, two years later I had given up everything and still didn’t have the thing I really wanted — my book. The experience left me wondering: What was the point?

If we aren’t going to get what we want out of life, no matter how hard we work, what’s the point of working so hard?

If we’ll never achieve our dreams, no matter how much stuff we give up, why give up our stuff? After all, if we’re going to be without our dream, we might as well have a nice couch… right?

I wrestled with these questions for a long time before I finally came to the answer that changed my whole life. This answer has given me freedom to let go of everything and chase my dreams with focus and passion. Here it is:

The chase is the reward.

By that I mean, when you set out into the world to chase what really matters to you, something amazing happens. It doesn’t matter what you’re chasing or if you achieve it or not.

Because what you have at the end of the journey is the most valuable thing you will ever own. It is something that can’t be measured or stolen, something that can’t be misplaced. When you do what you know is right and chase what you really want, you have your reward.

You own it. It’s yours. The chase is the reward.

The reward is the character you gain

I heard it said once that we should worry more about our character than our reputation. I think that’s true.

When we chase what matters, our reputations might be compromised (you do crazy things when you’re chasing a dream and everyone has an opinion), but your character is bolstered.

Chasing a dream teaches you about hard work, commitment, and patience in a way you can’t learn from reading a book. This is on-the-job training. Even if you don’t ever achieve what you set out to do, when you get to the end of the journey, you have something even more valuable.

You have become the best version of you that has ever existed.

The reward is wisdom

People ask me all the time to share the wisdom I have with them about the online publishing world or about writing a book. Without fail, my thought is always, “What do I know?”

But then, as soon as we get to talking, I realize I can answer many of their questions.

This isn’t because I’m smarter than anyone else or because I’ve read a bunch of books (although I’ve done that, too). Most of the wisdom I have comes from the path I’ve walked.

I went on the journey. And the wisdom I gained in the process happened quietly and discreetly, just a little each day until it added up to something really valuable. And now I have it forever.

The reward is compassion and empathy

When you do something really hard, it changes you forever. You become less critical of people who mess up or make a fool of themselves. Because when you’re doing something hard, you mess up and make a fool of yourself all the time.

I’ve never messed up more than when I was chasing my dream of writing a book. But now, when other writers make the same mistakes I made, I can identify with them rather than judge them.

Empathy is the fuel that keeps relationships running. It can make or break a business, your friendships, or even your marriage. And when you chase something you care about you get it in droves, and it can’t ever be taken from you.

The reward is greater perspective

When I left my hometown of Portland and traveled to all 50 states, I met people, saw things, and gained experiences I never would have if I’d stayed home.

Those experiences broadened my understanding of the world and of myself and opened up new ideas and opportunities for me. This is true both for all things.

When you “leave home” (whatever that looks like for you) to chase what really matters to you, there is no way your perspective can stay the same.

You’ll see new things, meet new people and gain new experiences. Those experiences will change you; and that change is unspeakably rewarding.

When you look back on the path you’ve traveled outside of your comfort zone, you’ll see the perspective you’ve gained.

The reward is strength to keep going

I like to think of this as a workout or climb up a mountain. Each day you do a small part. Run a few laps. Take a few steps. Just one at a time.

You might push yourself a little or even a lot. But for the most part, you just do the task at hand. And before you know it, you look back and can see how far you’ve come.

You’re stronger than you were before. You’re higher on the mountain.

The same is true when we chase what really matters to us. What happens on a day-to-day basis might not feel very rewarding by itself. It’s just a few small steps up a very large mountain.

But over time, it adds up to something important. And before we know it, we look back, and catch a glimpse of the view. And that’s exactly the motivation we need to keep going.

If you’re interested in reading more about Ally’s story, check out her newly-released book called Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage. It’s available anywhere books are sold.

How else are you finding that the chase is the reward? Share in the comments.

About Allison Vesterfelt

Allison is a writer, editor of Prodigal Magazine, and author of Packing Light. She lives in Nashville with her husband Darrell. Follow her daily on Twitter (@allyvest) or Facebook.

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  • Razwana

    Allison – there is nothing more to do than to absolutely love this post! Your journey is a unique one.

    It’s about not attaching anything to the outcome, isn’t it? I’ll be happy if….. I’ll be fulfilled if… I’ll be a success if….. I write this book.

    I’ve found that once fulfilment is not contingent on a specific outcome, my happiness levels rise.

    Question for you – what is your dream now?

    • Guest

      on Razwana. Yes. Your comment rings true. If someone is unhappy single.
      Probably unhappy married. It becomes a fundamental decision and path of
      walking. Will I be a grouch or a delight?

      Much of life is what comes out
      from the inside not our surroundings. It connects with Matthew 15:11:
      “Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes
      out of the mouth, this defiles a man”.

    • http://storiesmadepowerful.com/ Arlen Miller

      Right on Razwana. I agree. Your comment rings true. If someone is unhappy single. Probably unhappy married. It becomes a fundamental decision and path of walking. Will I be a grouch or a delight?

      Much of life is what comes out from the inside not our surroundings. It connects with Matthew 15:11: “Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man”.

      • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

        Arien — So often we forget that we can choose our attitude! Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

      • http://www.simplewithsyd.com/ simplewithsyd

        Sure like what you said, and truth is what I love!
        Many search for happiness or fulfillment in obtaining the ‘something’ but it starts from the inside out. How grateful I am to know this contentment. I really have been on the absing and the abounding sides…both are fine. Actually abouding is hard because of the distration.
        But like all there rest that seem to be part here, I am absolutely chasing the passion and I love how Ally said that the chase is the reward. I get that…love it! True :)

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Razwana — I’ll love how you put that. “I’ll be happy if…” I think we’ll all be so much happier if we stop putting conditions on our own happiness. In fact, the most joyful people I’ve met are people who have learned to have a good attitude even in really terrible circumstances.

      The answer to your question is: A home. I’ve moved 3 times in the last two years, each time to a different state (all of this after my 50 state trip). So I’m looking forward to finding a place I love and staying there for a long time.

      What do YOU dream?

      • Razwana

        I absolutely HEAR YOU, Allison
        (or..um…read you…) about wanting a home. Recently I calculated I moved 10
        times in 8 years. Finding a place you love and want to stay at –

        My dream – is to build my writing
        business, quit my job, and live by the Mediterranean. I’m yet to pick a spot,
        but that’s the next few holiday destinations sorted !

      • http://www.simplewithsyd.com/ simplewithsyd

        Hi Allison!
        Sent you an email from your site. :)
        Have to laugh and the similarity of our current dream : )

  • Derek Thompson

    Everything you say here chimes like a bell! Life is a journey and an adventure, not a destination. We determine the quality of our experience and last month’s ‘defeat’ can very easily end up as next month’s ‘triumph’. I lived in the US for a year, long ago, and wound up with a clicky knee, four credit cards and a wheelbarrow’s worth of debt. I also gathered enough memories, insights and experience to write a novel. Lemons, anyone?!

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      So true, Derek! I’ve been learning that lately, too. At one point in our journey something can seem like a setback, and then a few days later we can realize that “setback” was exactly what launched us forward. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • http://storiesmadepowerful.com/ Arlen Miller

    Thanks Ms. Allison and thanks Mr. Jeff. That sounds like a perfect
    companion message to Jeff’s ‘The In Between’. O, the beauty of what
    happens while we wait. Thanks for these 2 timely reminders (The In
    Between and Packing Light) to not miss life … while we’re living it.

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Arien — thanks for sharing, and I agree. It’s funny because in a way the concepts of “chasing” after something and waiting for it seem contradictory, but I think they’re actually quite similar. They both require learning to be fully present and enjoy the journey.

  • Monica

    I absolutely LOVE this post! This is so on what I needed to read. Each day I’m becoming more satisfied with my journey and happier about my decision to chase my dreams. Sometimes I ask myself what if it doesn’t happen? What if I do all this work, and I still don’t get the results I hoped for? Then I read a post like this one and know there is nothing else I’d rather be doing at this point in my life.

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      That’s awesome, Monica! I’m so glad I could encourage you to keep at it. You won’t regret it.

  • http://www.damn-edge.blogspot.ca/ Sam Edge

    I have really enjoyed the discussions around the In between since reading the book. Irritability and short temper were defects I had a tough time with as a workaholic in my 20s and 30s. For me it was more about my motives than my pace. Once I focused on doing the right thing and less on the next project enjoying the chase came freely.

    I read a proverb a day for the month of August to help me stay on track and one that seems on topic is Psalm 28 “the fool flees though no one pursues”

    Cheers Sam

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Thanks for sharing your story, Sam! I love what you said about focusing on doing the RIGHT thing, instead of doing more things. Really helpful.

  • Fallon R

    Definitely my favorite post!!!! I couldn’t help thinking of how this applied to my life, and the dream I’ve been working on: highpointing the 50 states. The past three summers my mom and I have managed to climb the highest mountain in each of 48 states, plus an attempt on Wyoming’s Gannett Peak (didn’t summit because of conditions on the glacier and rockfall). If we had summitted I would have become the youngest woman to highpoint the Lower 48 states. We’re going back in June to try again. I loved how this post talked about the journey and seeing and learning things you couldn’t without leaving the house. Definitely agree with the message and with the metaphor of climbing mountains–it’s always one step at a time! Having traveled to all 50 states by the age of 16 has also been an amazing experience in itself. My blog is summitsofthestates.wordpress.com

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Fallon, what a cool story! Best of luck to you with that goal. I hope you become the first woman to highpoint the lower 48. Amazing.

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

    Love your thoughts here. Sound cliche but the joy really is in the journey and in the doing. Am I the only one who finds it cool/amusing that you were driving a Legacy?

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Eileen — honestly, I had never even noticed or thought about that! So funny. Thanks for pointing that out. I love it.

  • Irene Aprile

    Thank you both, Allison for writing and Jeff for sharing, this beautiful post. It really helps to read about other’s journey and see that these kind of doubts are not only in my mind.
    I’m exactly at this point in life: I always did what I was supposed to do, I went to school and was one of the best in my class, I went to university and get a degree in chemistry, I never mess around, but still… I feel that something is amiss.
    I don’t know yet what to do about it, but reading posts like this one really helps. Thank you!

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Irene — you’re in such a great place. The possibilities in front of you are endless! I’m so glad this post could inspire you to start exploring. All the best to you as you step out in faith and do something different.

  • Lorna_Faith

    Really love these words, Ally. “What you have at the end of the journey is the most valuable thing you will ever own. It is something that can’t be measured or stolen, something that can’t be misplaced. When you do what you know is right and chase what you really want, you have your reward.”
    I’ve pondered one of the hardest journeys we ever took as as family and tried to make sense of it. …most often not succeeding. 10 years ago we turned down almost a year’s worth of work after hearing God speak to us “quit your business and I’ll show you the next step.” So we prayed for confirmation…which was in the form of going to knock on a guy’s door to tell him to ‘not quit what he was doing because God had a bigger plan than He could see.’ He stood there and cried…he was in youth ministry and was going to quit that very day…because everything was going downhill fast. So that was also the confirmation we needed to quit our painting business and with 4 small kids at the time, we didn’t know where it would take us …but we knew we wanted to follow God’s voice. There were lots of miracles in the next 17 months …but after the end of it we were also homeless for about 2 weeks …all 6 of us living in our van…until of course we ran into someone who said we could live with him to get back on our feet, which we did a month later. Sometimes those memories still haunt me to this day,…but I think that’s why your post resonates with me. The reward is the chase and what we learn on the journey changes us forever. Sometimes the chase is still hard…but I guess that’s where our character grows. Thanks so much Ally. p.s. loved the rawness of your book BTW…powerful:-)

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Lorna — wow, what a story. Thank you for sharing. It’s a testament to what happens when we’re willing to enter into the journey, even when we aren’t sure how everything will turn out.

      So glad this post resonated with you and that you liked the book!

  • http://mickholt.com/ mickholt

    As I read this, two things kept coming to mind. The word “experience” and the phrase “if you don’t try you don’t know.”

    Liked this one too, well done. Keep at it.

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Good words. Thanks!

  • andyblanks

    Loved this, Allison. We rarely gain anything by avoiding discomfort. Good reminder.

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Thanks Andy! That’s so true. Learning that in my life right now.

  • http://donnielaw.com/ Donnie Law

    This is great wisdom! I too easily focus on the destination instead of the journey. It’s about the journey.

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Yes! So hard to keep that in mind. Thanks Donnie.

  • http://www.leadlifewell.com/ Marvae

    There was a time when I thought the goal was to arrive. Now, like you, I have realized that it is the chase, the journey, that is most rewarding when I slow down enough to engage fully with it. It does require sacrifice. It is hard! In the end I have learned so many new things that have helped to shape me into the person God intended me to be all along! Thanks for sharing!

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Awesome. Thanks for sharing, Marvae. It’s funny to think about how it’s a “process” even to discover that life is a process. :) Glad you resonated with the post.

      • http://www.leadlifewell.com/ Marvae

        Yes… I have a blog post brewing in my head along similar lines… thinking that I would arrive one day at the “picket fence” picture I had in my head only to discover that there is no picket fence picture… that it really is in the getting there!

  • David C. Hughes

    Hi Allison (and Jeff)! Thanks so much, Allison, for sharing your amazing adventure. For over 33 years I’ve struggled with my calling versus security (avocation vs. vocation), and this year, with my family’s blessing, I finally called it quits on a six-figure income, a six-figure pension, and a very secure future. What I’ve gotten out of the bargain is peace . . . . . excitement . . . .and the blessing of being able to engage every day, all day, in the thing I’ve been called to do: write. And you know what? So far, money has NOT been an issue. It’s been amazing over the last couple of years how things have “just happened” to make this dream a reality, and I intend to use these opportunities and experiences to convince other folks that they too can live the dream if they’d just let go of their attachments. Keep up the good work, the enthusiasm, and the faith. God bless!

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      What an encouraging story, David! I can relate in so many ways. Since I quit my job, I’ve definitely had moments where finances felt thin, but I’ve also been so surprised to see how little I have to worry about when it comes to money. Living with less reminds me to be more careful with spending, but I’m actually happier that way! Less is more.

      Thanks for reading and sharing.

  • http://jknightsworld.wordpress.com/ Jevon Knights

    Never make the destination more important than the journey, something that I truly believe in. But selling everything to live in your Subaru… wow, talk about risk. Glad it worked out.

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Thanks Jevon!

  • http://TrafficSmartMarketing.com/ Tom Southern

    You had the guts to quit and live in your car, and things good enough to sell, plus money to tide you through the journey: petrol, etc. 3 things some people might not have. Which is something to consider.

    But your discovery that: “when other writers make the same mistakes I made, I can identify with them rather than judge them.” – That spoke to me.

    It pinpoints exactly what I feel about anyone struggling to set up a blog and get it working for them successfully; getting readers, income, etc. It’s this empathy, understanding and common bond, that elevates those few people who actually make it truly online to become popular bloggers, from the crowd. Dare I say Jeff, you’re one of these few?

    Allison, you said it so much more succinctly and beautifully than anyone else. You should have written War of Art. In fact, I think you have. Shorter, better and more meaningfully. Cheers!

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Tom — I’m so glad this was helpful for you. It’s crazy how much having empathy for others can free you up to be really good at what you’re trying to do. It also humbles you, and makes those who are ahead of you really willing to help.

      Glad you liked the post! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.minecraftjuegos.com/ Minecraft Juegos

    life is full of difficulties and challenges, how to overcome these challenges is the need confidence and love of life

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt


  • Leanne Sowul

    Allison, this post really resonated with me. I am a music teacher currently extending my maternity leave, partly so that I can be home with my one-year-old but also so that I can spend some time writing a novel, blogging, and otherwise trying to start a career as a writer. So far, I’ve made a total of $60 writing (and have 7 drafts of a novel, 200 blog posts etc) but for me, the reward is feeding the flame of my passion. My gut and my heart tell me that this is the right path for me, and every step I take toward it keeps that fire burning and makes me feel alive. Life without passion, without an outlet and a direction for that passion, isn’t worth living.

    • http://allisonvesterfelt.com/ Allison Vesterfelt

      Leanne — thank you so much for sharing. Your story sounds so similar to mine. I was a high school language arts teacher before I quit my job!

      I love what you said about your gut telling you this is the right path. It certainly hasn’t been perfect or easy, but at least I know I’m headed in the right direction.

  • Bryan Castro

    Great article. I’ve had a couple recent experiences in my life where the result was what I considered failure. However after reading your article I realize that the chase has made me more than if I had succeeded in the endeavor I was striving for. Thank you for your insightful post.

  • http://yourlifebetter.net/ Darrell

    Wonderful post Allison (my daughter’s name btw!). I completely agree with the sentiment where you write “When you do something really hard, it changes you forever.” Boy is that true. Having been through some major struggles with depression I am now much more sympathetic to everyone. You just never know what some else has been, or is, going through. Really enjoyed your essay!

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

    “That’s funny.” – “What is?” – “That plane’s dustin’ crops where there ain’t no crops.”

    • http://www.pelicancards.com/ David Bennett

      Look up ‘North By Northwest’. It’s a Hitchcock film and nicely watchable.

      • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

        Yes, and the piece of dialogue I posted above isn’t from Star Wars.

        • http://www.pelicancards.com/ David Bennett

          Ah, you were quoting from the film. That zipped by me.

          • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

            It zipped by you like that murderous biplane zipped over Mr Thornhill’s head.

            • http://www.nomorepencils.com/ David Bennett

              Yup, I had that in mind.

              Did you. like me, ever wonder what the pesticide was? Did you worry for the hero’s future wellbeing having been exposed to what was probably a big dose of DDT?

              • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

                Sure. I’ve been particularly worried about the long-term health consequences for the child whose conception the closing shot of the train entering the tunnel appeared to symbolize.

                That said, given that Cary Grant lived on in good health for another 27 years, I conclude that whatever prop dust they used was DDT-free.

                • http://www.nomorepencils.com/ David Bennett

                  I meant the hero in the film – not Cary Grant.

                • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

                  I know. I just threw in Cary Grant as a bonus.

  • Valorie

    Amazing–everything you say I agree with–only the chase in my life is my wonderful 9 year old son, Chase, (who happens to have Down syndrome), is my reward. My life has changed in infinite ways by being blessed and chosen to be his Mother. Thanks, Allison.

  • http://rebeccarenejones.com/ Rebecca Rene Jones

    So true. I find the most exhilariation in the actual act of “getting there.” So, for writing, it’s not that moment where you get to step back and admire the finished product (that part’s actually pretty darn scary, since nothing really ever feels ready-enough)…instead, it’s the adventure of untangling ideas and discsovering what I actually THINK. Thank you for this post.

  • http://smartliving365.com/ Kathy @ SMART LIving 365.com

    Thank you Allison for the great reminders you’ve offered in this post. It’s so easy for us to get target focused on what we ‘think’ will make us happy and forget that it really is the journey–not the destination! As the author of three published books, it can tell you for sure that if you don’t stop, breathe, enjoy and learn along the way then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. But while I agree that we must set the course for your future–I’m not sure that “chasing” works for me. For example, I have a puppy named Kloe and I learned early on that if she gets loose, and I “chase” her…she thinks it’s a game and just runs away faster, looking over her shoulder to make sure I’m still chasing. But when I stop, get calm and wait for her without fear…she comes running to ME. While there is always a time for action, sometimes the best course of action is working on our consciousness. Good luck with your book and ALL that you intend in the future!~Kathy

  • CelesteVaughan

    What a great article and so timely! I’ve been working on my first book for almost three years. As a pharmacist, learning the craft of writing has been long and difficult, but I’m getting there. And I’m a better person for it. But I will admit, I wish books and blogs could be written via osmosis from brain to paper. It’s so hard to find the time necessary to get it all done! Thanks, Allison for such a great post and thanks to Jeff for posting it!

  • Spencer Bailey

    I love this concept. Too often we get caught up with the end result that we miss out on all the opportunities to grow and enjoy life during the journey.
    If you don’t absolutely love what you DO then you shouldn’t be doing it. Too many people love what they GET (like their paycheck) but they hate everyday leading up that point.
    I am glad their are voices out there like you that are telling people that the work is what ought to be fulfilling, not the conclusion.

  • Aaron Tkachuk

    Thank you.

  • SewFiction

    Amazing words. Very overlooked elsewhere. Thank you!

  • Melanie

    Great post! I am on a very similar journey…this gave me a beautiful reminder of why I am doing what I am doing. Thank you so much.

  • Tracy Stella

    Brilliant post, Allison. Thank you for sharing your gift with us – your writing gift and also the gift you gave which reminds us of all the presents we get to unwrap in the process of pursuing our calling.

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