Break Free of the Sidewalks in Life

Traceur“You can find the way by yourself naturally… to not do this to impress people, just follow your instincts.” —Sebastien Foucan

Guest Post by Oleg Mokhov

Can you drastically improve your life through physical activity? Yes. Absolutely. And not just your health: you can find clarity and direction, increase passion and happiness, or improve any other aspect of your life through a physical activity. I did it with freerunning.

What’s freerunning? The short categorical answer: an urban running pseudo-sport. The real answer: it’s about finding your own way.

Freerunning is taking your own (most effective) path through obstacles and structures in a city, or whatever setting. Vaulting over a fence instead of walking around it. Jumping over stairs instead of taking them down. You find and take the creative short way instead of the intended long way.

Now, why would you do this? Well, first of all, it’s fun. Freerunning is an urban sport in a way. You use your creativity to find and maneuver through obstacles – like skateboarding. But freerunning can also be a discipline for personal development: following your own way. And that’s what it became for me.

Here are three life lessons I got from freerunning:

1. Find and Follow the Most Effective Path

The most effective path towards accomplishing your goal is rarely the most immediately visible. If an obvious path was the most effective, then everyone would take it. But it’s not, so you have to find it.

The good news is that the most effective path is also the most rewarding. You get results sooner than later, and you enjoy what you’re doing a lot more.

2. Be Confident In Your Unconventional Path

Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path, and not care what people might think of you for not following societal standards. Remember: you live for yourself, not for others. Your life is for you, not for them.

When you do what feels right for you and not care what people think, you start to shed self-consciousness – and boost your confidence.

3. Break Free of “Sidewalks”

“Sidewalks” are predetermined paths that most people take in life. They’re usually long, boring, and not the most effective. One example is mediocre 9-5 jobs. This isn’t knocking jobs in general, just the unnecessary day jobs that many people settle for.

You have the most fun in life and become the most remarkable by not doing what everyone else does. You do things your own way. You break free of “sidewalks” and follow your own path.

So how do you break free of “sidewalks?” Be inventive and creative: learn to look beyond the obvious in order to find the most effective path towards your goal.

During freerunning, it might be seeing a second-story rooftop and a street lamp next the building – you can climb up that post and jump over to the rooftop. In your work, it could be finding a way to increase results in less time. Your true passion might be hidden from you: it’s not a box to check off in a high school career adviser meeting, but combining your interests in a unique way.

What if you loved traveling, video editing, finding cool stuff off the beaten path, and building websites? The “sidewalks” would be to pick video editing or website design and focus on a career doing it full time. You’d be okay with that, but you wouldn’t be truly happy or living your life to the fullest.

But what if you combined all of those interests? Go to different cities and create videos documenting hidden gems, then posting your videos to your site that helps people to discover them? You can monetize it with ads, offering premium products, affiliate sales through travel guides, or whatever else. All of a sudden, you broke free of the “sidewalks” and followed your own path. And your life becomes drastically better for it.

I Improved My Life by Following My Own Way

When I started freerunning, it was like a whole world of opportunities opened up to me. I stopped seeing the city as predetermined blocks of sidewalks, staircases, walls, and so forth. Instead, it all opened up to me like a playground where I can explore and find my own paths.

After freerunning for a while, I noticed paths I hadn’t before. A staircase next to a ledge became a potential shortcut. A handicap access to a building transformed into a vaulting playground. But what’s interesting is that this finding of hidden effective paths started spilling over into the rest of my life.

I started noticing opportunities I could take with music-making, writing, and online business. Before, I felt limited, like I had to choose from a few potential careers. I could either be a electronic music artist, or a blogger, or an online business owner, but not any of them combined – much less fused together.

The more I did freerunning, the more unconventional paths I started seeing in my life. I saw past the predetermined and limiting models: the get-an-indie-record-deal music path, the write-a-daily-blog-for-a-target-niche blog method, and the find-a-niche-and-dominate-the-keywords online business approach. Instead, I realized how I could combine these passions into an organized system that was both value-giving and profitable. And that’s how my site Lifebeat was born, and why you’re reading this article now.

Freerunning helped me to find my own way. It started by running and jumping around and soon spilled over into the rest of my life. It went from physical activity to a personal development discipline. By doing freerunning, I drastically improved my life by following my own way.

Improve Your Life by Following Your Own Way

Are you living to your fullest potential? Do you want to do more but are afraid of what people might think? Are you itching to pursue your passions but can’t seem to find a way to do it? You can drastically improve your life by taking a cue from freerunning: find and follow your own way.

Be confident in your unconventional path. Break free of “sidewalks” to live how you really want to. You can only be you… everyone else is already taken.

About the author: Oleg Mokhov is the world’s most mobile electronic musician and co-founder of the premium royalty free music store Soundtrackster..

photo courtesy of amfdesigner

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Jonathan Beebe December 10, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Thanks for the great analogy between “free-running” and “finding your own path in life”, I’ve never heard of that before. Well, I’ve honestly never heard of free-running before so you had my interest peaked.

I agree that following your own path, and deciding what you want to do based on a combination of your interests and your passions is the best way to go about life, but unfortunately most of us start of being conditioned from a very early age of what we’re “supposed” to do, and are presented with relatively few options (most of us hear that we’re supposed to finish high school, find a way to get into college, discover what “major” you want to pursue, and then get a job somewhere else).

Unfortunately that’s where I stood for the longest time, until I finally realized WHAT I wanted to do and made a DECISION that I’m not settling for less anymore… and I’ve never looked back since.

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bloominglater December 10, 2009 at 8:28 pm

as soon as i started reading this post, i was taken in. i started thinking about neo in the matrix: jumping through windows, flying across buildings–stopping time. what if we could really see all the parallel choices in an instant? what if we could really SEE the unconventional path unfold instantly in front of us? what amazing insight. thank you for an incredible post. i also have varied interests and am wondering how to find a way to pursue all of my passions in an unconventional way: music, writing, blogging, marketing. it all seemed so overwhelming until i read this post. now, i’ll look for ramp instead of the sidewalk.

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Anthony Licari December 10, 2009 at 9:41 pm

When you look at what contemporary society deems as “successful” those who have achieved that “success” has almost never followed any conventions or standards. They all found their own way. From athletes to wall street moguls. If you don’t break free and blaze your own path you will become a follower, a victim of uncontrolled variables.

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Marcus Sheridan December 10, 2009 at 10:02 pm

GREAT post! I had never heard of ‘freerunning’ before but the analogy to life and getting the most out of it is an excellent one. Thanks for inspiring!

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Henri December 11, 2009 at 5:03 am

Good stuff Oleg. I can identify with finding unconventional ways of doing what you love. It’s scary but rewarding. I’m constantly battling with fears and insecurities of my own but at the same time it is so much fun and you grow so much faster. It’s the shit your pants and love it lifestyle ;)

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Nathan Hangen December 11, 2009 at 6:17 am

I’ve always been intrigued by freerunning, and I really like the way you’ve compared it to breaking through boundaries and creating your own world. Well done Oleg.

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HDT e-business December 11, 2009 at 7:22 am

Interesting concept! I remember a French movie called “Yamakasi” that is about free runners. You can try to find some videos on YouTube, these guys are really impressive!

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Oleg Mokhov December 11, 2009 at 8:07 am

Thanks for the great comments everyone.

@Jonathan: I was in the same boat. Unfortunately too many of us are socially conditioned to do what’s “right,” and that usually means choosing a proven career path and sticking to it. Might be a fit for some, but not for most of us. Glad you were also able to break free of the sidewalk and start finding your own path.

@bloominglater: That would be WICKED, seeing all the alternate paths Matrix-style :) . Until we get neuro-implants (and bullet time) I suppose we’ll have to utilize our creativity and ingenuity to find our unique path.

@Anthony: Agreed. Those that follow the sidewalks in life work for those that broke free of them.

@Marcus: Glad the article could be of help to you. Check out some freerunning vids on YouTube, I almost guarantee you’ll be amazed and hooked :)

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Nate December 11, 2009 at 10:02 am

Oleg – I really like this article. I also like your approach to mixing passions. It doesn’t have to be one, strictly defined, specialist path. In your case, you love music and it sounds like you love blogging, so you’ve combined them. I think may people might like a number of things and then they think they have to choose amongst them or pick the ‘best’ option. It doesn’t have to be all of them. I HATE cliche business terms, but I’ll use one here. It’s about thinking outside the box. You don’t necessarily have to do things in a certain way. Learn to experiment more. Test often and fail often. That may sound like a bad thing, but it’s not. By doing so you learn and eventually you end up naturally finding your groove.

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Tomas Stonkus December 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

Hey Oleg:

Very cool! I am glad you are doing more and more guest posts. It is an inspiration to me as well. On with the topic…

Free running in life. Interesting. I would say sign me up and I am glad to have met you as you full unconventional ideas. Most people go through their lives surrounded by people just like them and it does not occur to them to do things differently!

I might have ended up the same way, but I always kept questioning things and kept seeking a different path for things; I just lacked the know how! So thank for showing the way :)

The next best thing to do when you are trying to change the way you live is to change who you surround yourself with! People around you have a huge impact on your life.

If you are seeking to freerun find people who do it and become friends with them and in no time you will be freerunning too! People always seek to be accepted and understood by people that matter to them.

If you live surrounded by people doing unconventional things, doing things the conventional way will be weird to you! So let us all find a people who lead unique lives and learn from them to start leading our own free run life style :)

Best,
Tomas

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Cate December 11, 2009 at 10:42 am

What a great article and a blog! I absolutely agree with you. We’re all borrowed time and we should live our lives to the fullest and stop living for everyone else. I have friends that started something similiar to freerunning. They go from city to city and t’s a technology based city-wide scavenger hunt loaded with physical and mental challenges. If you have the time, check out their site. I think you’ll like it. http://www.gourban.org.

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Jon December 11, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Enjoy both. The sidewalks and the off roads.

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Roland December 11, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Parkour?

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Nathalie Lussier December 11, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Hey Oleg!

I love your concept of sidewalks.. I usually look at things through the lens of a conveyor belt, but I think sidewalks are a much more positive metaphor!

They were definitely created with a positive goal in mind (to keep people safe) but sometimes it’s okay or even better to make your own way. :) Love it!

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sui December 11, 2009 at 8:23 pm

not only is freerunning a good simile for life, it sounds like an intriguing sport in general! sounds like it can open a lot of minds to newer possibilities :)

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Srinivas Rao December 12, 2009 at 11:53 am

My favorite line in this post is “You can only be you…everyone else is already taken.” Regarding breaking free of the sidewalks, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve blazed a fairly unconventional path by starting a blog, and forcing myself to take it to the next level by turning my blog into a real viable business. After a 6 month search, I walked away from a job after only two weeks. It wasn’t an easy choice, and I didn’t know what the next move would be and I still need to find a real job. But Knew that I was stuck on the “sidewalk” and moving at the pace along with every other battery in the matrix. That’s not the life I was ever meant to lead.

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Oleg Mokhov December 14, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Thanks for the great comments everyone. I’m glad I was able to provide something of value to Jonathan and yourself.

I had no doubt in my mind that Illuminated Mind readers are a remarkable bunch. I’m honored to be here.

@Henri: Definitely scary but totally worth it to unconventionally combine your passions. I agree – this fun and growth-oriented lifestyle is awesome.

@Nathan: Thanks for the nice comment Nathan. Glad you liked the concept of tying freerunning into breaking through boundaries and creating your own world (I like how you put that).

@HDT: Since parkour/freerunning started in France, it’s only fitting that the French started incorporating it in their films :) I’ll have to check that one out. Another one that seems to be famous is “District 13.”

@Nate: Agreed. It’s all about failing often to succeed faster. Selectively try as many things as possible – the more you eliminate what doesn’t work (fail), the faster you’ll discover what does (succeed).

@Tomas: You’re right – finding and surrounding yourself with people who inspire you is definitely effective. Like you stated, when most people you know are unconventional and living life how they want to, following life the conventional way becomes weird. You naturally become encouraged to start finding and living your own way. Beginning to surround myself with remarkable people has been super-helpful to me, and it seems to be for you as well.

@Cate: Interesting concept your friends have of tech-based scavenger hunt from city to city. Thanks for sharing the link. Very unconventional, very awesome.

@Jon: Everything has its uses. Use the sidewalks when needed for safety, but don’t get shackled by them, both literally and figuratively in life.

@Roland: Thanks to David Belle and Sebastien Foucan coining different terms for almost identical things, there will never be a consensus on which term fits what :) Freerunning is about finding your own way and lends itself to a life philosophy, whereas parkour is more about efficient moving from point A to B if I understand correctly.

@Nathalie: Thanks for the nice words. Like Jon wrote, I agree that everything can have its uses (sidewalks provide safety) – the important thing is to just not get shackled by them and utilize your freedom to find your own way.

@sui: Yeah, I love the connection that physical activity can have towards personal development and life in general. Definitely check out some freerunning vids on YouTube, some creative feats of movement to be found.

@Srinivas: That’s so awesome you’ve been able to break free of your job “sidewalk,” and just pursuing your unconventional path with your blog in general. Not easy and definitely scary, but then what endeavor worth pursuing wasn’t? Finding our own way is something new and uncharted, but when we get out of that comfort zone and start attaining our unique lifestyle, we couldn’t live any other way. So fulfilling.

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Travis | iStorm Training December 17, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Great article! As a facilitator for iStorm Training we help people “find their own way.” You are quite literally “finding your own way” – breaking free from sidewalks, etc. Just wanted to say great article. And thank you!

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Peter December 17, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Great stuff, Oleg. I noticed a similar shift of vision after a few years of adventure racing, which is a sport where the aim is to find the fastest path through a wilderness environment. Staring out the window of a train one day I realized I was looking at the landscape as a series of artificial boundaries that I could choose to recognize or ignore. Waterways could be swam, roads were suggestions, fences could be climbed, marshes could be crossed. It opened my eyes to how much the sport had changed my outlook.

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Jared-Brandentity December 17, 2009 at 8:39 pm

As always…amazing Oleg!

Even in the 1920’s Robert Frost preached that the unconventional path, the one you create for yourself, which is congruent with your identity, and enables you to find your authentic self, is the one to follow:

1. The Road Not Taken

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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Jason December 19, 2009 at 4:52 pm

freerunning has always seemed like a very cool sport. However, with my flexibility at 40 I may seriously injure myself. I do love cycling and really find those moments of clarity and creativity when on my bike.

Perhaps I need to get back on my bike…

Great analogy and fun reading.

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Steve-Success Factors December 29, 2009 at 6:42 pm

This is an interesting perspective. So much of it has to do with our mindset. We need to commit to creativity and innovation, to a different paradigm. We need to read about and rub shoulders with those who who are urban runners, so that we don’t get stuck skipping rope on the sidewalk ;-)

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David @ A Happy Pocket Full of Money February 1, 2010 at 6:35 am

A great post, thanks! I believe the first thing to do always, is to find the most effective path, from those who have been there done that, and then follow it, adding your own flavor as you go along. Copy success, then add your imprint to it.

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