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One Step at a Time!

Getting Started

‘Karen and Jay share thoughts on the virtue of approaching life’s challenges - taking ‘one step at a time.’

A journey begins with the first step. And getting started, taking that first step is often the hardest part of the whole experience. How many times have you had a true deep-down desire to do something – to accomplish something really important – but you just couldn't seem to muster up the conviction to take the first step? Whether you feel you don’t have the energy - or maybe it’s the courage that you just don’t seem to have – whatever it is that you are missing, you just don’t take that first step. And success truly is all about just taking ‘one step at a time.’ The idea of breaking things down into manageable chunks – and moving forward.

When I was growing up, my mother had a saying that I remember her telling me on so very many occasions. If she sensed that I was experiencing a certain reticence to get moving on something that I really needed or wanted to get done, she would say ‘Dear, just start putting one foot in front of the other.’

And she’s not the only voice I still hear from time to time. I often come back to an insight that Steve Jobs shared – when thinking about how things actually get done – and in essence, the process of success. He said ‘you can always connect the dots going backwards – in retrospect’ – in other words, you can explain the sequence of events, the progression of how you got from where you once were to where you’ve ended up. But you can’t do it the other way around. ‘You can never connect the dots going forward.’ There’s just no way to know exactly how the whole progression of steps will unfold. The implication, of course, is that you just have to get started, take the first step and have the courage and agility to figure things out along the way. Course-correct as you go – taking one step at a time – and in that way, move ahead to make good things happen.

Approaching life's challenges one step at a time is a powerful mindset that can help us overcome obstacles and achieve our goals. When we take things one step at a time, we break down complex challenges into manageable tasks, reducing stress and all those things that tend to overwhelm us. It helps us focus our attention and energy on what we can do in the present moment, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.

One of the key virtues of approaching challenges one step at a time is that it helps us to build momentum. Taking small steps consistently can add up to big progress over time. For example, if someone wants to lose weight, they may feel overwhelmed by the idea of losing 50 pounds. But if they focus on losing just one pound at a time, they can build momentum and develop the habits and mindset necessary for sustained progress. This approach can help to create a positive feedback loop, where small successes build confidence and motivation, leading to even greater progress.

Another virtue of this approach is that it encourages us to cultivate patience and perseverance. And how many of us can ‘lack patience’ from time to time! When we approach challenges with a long-term perspective, we are less likely to get discouraged by setbacks or failures. Instead, we can view these setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow, and to adjust our approach accordingly. This mindset can help us to develop resilience and grit, which are essential qualities for achieving success in any area of life. And, in some ways, also puts us in the mindset of ‘not beating ourselves up’ when something goes awry, or when we feel like we’ve had a bit of a misstep.

One real-life example of the power of approaching challenges one step at a time is the story of J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series. Rowling faced a number of setbacks and rejections before finally achieving success with her writing. However, she never lost sight of her goal and continued to take small steps towards her dream, such as writing for even just a few minutes a day. This persistence and dedication eventually paid off, and Rowling went on to become one of the most successful authors of all time.

Another example is the story of Diana Nyad, the swimmer who famously swam from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64. Nyad had attempted the swim four times before finally succeeding, and she approached the challenge one step at a time, breaking the journey down into manageable chunks. Rather than focusing on the distance she had left to cover, she focused on swimming one stroke at a time, and took breaks every hour to refuel and rest. This approach allowed her to build momentum and overcome the physical and mental challenges of the grueling journey.

Approaching life's challenges one step at a time is a powerful mindset that can help us to build momentum, cultivate patience and perseverance, and achieve success in any area of life. By breaking down complex challenges into manageable tasks and focusing on the present moment, we can overcome obstacles and achieve our goals, one step at a time. And as my mother used to say, ‘Just take the first step – and then put one foot in front of the other.’ When you take this approach, marvelous things are likely to happen!

Appalachian Trail - Five Million Steps

The longest hiking-only footpath in the world, the Appalachian Trail, passes through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. The trail was created in partnership with the National Park system and in 2022 was 2,194 miles long. In 2023 another 4.1 miles were added because of footpath relocations and more precise measurement techniques. The trail takes an amazing 5 million [estimated] steps to complete; it covers a multitude of mountains, starting with Springer Mountain in Georgia and ending at Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Taking several months to complete, picking the right time to start is tricky because of the dramatic change in weather whichever direction you go, north or south. The most common direction is south to north because one can get a start in the spring while making their way towards the snow-covered mountains which by the time they arrive, the snow has melted and the parks in the north are open. However, there is a push to encourage north-south thru-hiking as there is less trail impact and damage. An average of 5,000 people per year attempt to start the trail in Georgia, but only 25 percent of them actually finish. There are several factors that prevent hikers from finishing, including, but not limited to, finances, injuries, supplies, and motivation.

A hiker has to consider all these factors because some sections of the trail are harder to complete than others and one patch that is particularly difficult is the 100-mile stretch of wilderness in the New Hampshire White Mountains. With no stores to restock, this already grueling part of the trail is particularly more so when not prepared. However, throughout the trail system, there are do-gooders known as Trail Angels, who leave notes of encouragement and food for the hikers to keep them going on their journey.

Several notable people have finished the trail, including our own Governor Sununu. Remarkably, a man named Warren Doyle has thru-hiked the trail nine times while even adding the longer section hikes. Incredibly, Mike Hanson was the first blind person to complete the trail. The fastest complete time was Andrew Thompson, who ran the whole way and finished in 47 days!

Whether a day hiker or thru-hiker, each person has to take it one step at a time and much like in life - might find unexpected help along the way!

The Boston Marathon – 'One Step at a Time!'

Running a marathon is very much about the notion of continuously focusing on ‘one step at a time.’ Thousands of steps over a 26.2-mile journey. I’m very familiar with the challenge. I’ve run a number of them – including Boston several times, the Bay State Marathon in Lowell, Massachusetts – and even a classic race in Keene, NH, in 1978 – the Clarence DeMar Marathon. More on that one below along with an explanation of why Clarence DeMar is perhaps the most noteworthy figure in New Hampshire running history. By the way, I’m planning to run the Bay State again this October along with my son, Lincoln.

Interestingly, with the Boston Marathon less than a month away, prospective racers are just now completing their many months of training. And, not surprising, New Hampshire athletes have a deep connection to the Boston Marathon – given its close proximity to our state and the race’s deep, rich history. For instance, a number of Granite State notables who have run the Boston Marathon include Governor Chris Sununu. Jeremy Woodward, also known as ‘Ironheart,’ has run 13 marathons, including Boston and completed an Ironman triathlon, all after having had two heart surgeries.

This year, Special Olympics athlete Charles Scott Helfrich, is both running Boston and fundraising along with Thomas Cantara and high school friend Eric Tinker. They have raised nearly $7,000 so far. Dick Correa of Newbury and Bob Kennedy of Durham are a couple of young 75-year-olds. Dick has raised an incredible $350,000 over his years of marathon running for the Dana Farber Institute and Bob has completed an amazing 270 marathons all over the United States. Kevin Skarupa of WMUR will also be running this year. In fact, he even made it to the Battle of the Badges last weekend, which was sponsored by the Elliott Perry Foundation. Elliott’s best friend, Officer Kyle Daly can boast of his wife SueEllen who has run the Boston Marathon. Margreta Doerfler, who ran last year to benefit the Boston Children’s Hospital will be running this year with her brother Evan Weber. Evan survived a brain aneurysm five years ago and this will be his first run while raising funds for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.

As mentioned above – Clarence DeMar deserves special recognition in the annals of NH-Boston Marathon accomplishments. In true ‘record setting’ fashion, Clarence DeMar, from Keene, NH, won seven times from 1911-1930, a record that has not been beaten. And most likely never will. In fact, in 1978, the Clarence DeMar Marathon was established in Keene, actually starting in Gilsum to celebrate this remarkable achievement. As in so many areas, this is yet another example of Granite Stater’s leading the way. Here in New Hampshire where we are known for our ‘First in the Nation’ Presidential Primary and as well as many other ‘firsts,’ we are proud of our native son Clarence DeMar - achieving more ‘firsts’ than any other runner in Boston Marathon history.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing back in 2013. That same year, at 47 years old, Don McLelland of Belmont decided to start exercising to get into better shape. He had never run a mile before in his life. He then attempted and completed his first 5K. He said when he crossed that finish line, something deep inside of him changed and he became inspired. It was about pushing through boundaries and doing things he hadn’t previously thought he could do. A few years later, he went through the long qualifying process, which can take more than a year, in order to be accepted and run in the Marathon. Those who are not able to qualify through athletic ability are still eligible to run for a fundraising effort.

Don has since run several marathons, ultramarathons and the Ironman. Despite all of these amazing accomplishments, he humbly shares that he continues to look at so many other people with awe and amazement. “I’m just a regular guy who wanted to get into better shape,” he says. There are countless stories of people who participate to fundraise, to honor someone’s memory, to overcome some great adversity they have faced in life along with a host of other reasons. And while it’s true that people come from all over the world to run in the Boston Marathon, many of the really great stories come from our own local folks right here in New Hampshire! Persevering with Granite State diligence – focusing on ‘one step at a time.’

Positive Profile of the Week: Travis Mills – ‘One Step at a Time’ – with a Very Special Meaning

This week, we are delighted to highlight a leader who truly embodies the spirit of ‘one step at a time’ through his faith and his remarkable life story – Travis Mills of Maine.

Like so many, Karen and I are very thankful for the service and sacrifice of our many veterans. The story of Travis Mills is very special – and immensely inspiring.

Travis was a staff SGT in the 82nd Airborne division. During his third tour in Afghanistan, he was the victim of an IED resulting in critical injuries that cost him portions of both legs and both arms. He received and continues to get care to assist him and is in fact one of only five quadruple amputees to survive such injuries who fought in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You would think that ‘would be it’ for Travis, but it wasn't.

Members of the military are trained to overcome, to rise to the occasion, and to assist their fellow soldiers in arms. That's what Travis did and continues to do to this day.

He tells his story of overcoming what seems like overwhelming odds in a New York Times Best Selling book titled ‘Tough as They Come.’ Today, he serves as a motivational speaker bringing a spirit of positivity and overcoming challenges. But Travis’s biggest commitment was the opening of the Travis Mills Foundation Home in Rome, Maine.

Travis and his volunteer team raised nearly $3 million to purchase and rehab the Elizabeth Arden estate in Rome, Maine, turning it into a totally free retreat for military families and special needs veterans. The retreat is fully handicapped accessible and features not only events like water sports but prepares veterans who have had some setbacks with the training they need to adapt to everyday life. Some of this training includes how to use traditional gym equipment, things to be ready for when returning home, and ways you can take what you learn and apply it to help others.

This amazing program at the Travis Mills Foundation is called The Warrior Path. The seven-day on site initiation begins at the foundation’s retreat in Maine then continues for 3 months with additional off-site training. I encourage you all to visit and see

first-hand the impact Travis and the foundation are making day in and day out. I am not surprised that Travis has and will always be ‘Army Strong’ as he serves as an army of one to help those in need to better themselves - the ones we love, those who have served, and our country! Thank you, Travis, for your amazing inspiration and leadership!

Quotes of the Week: One Step at a Time!

"You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Lao Tzu

"Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try." - John F. Kennedy

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

"Believe you can and you're halfway there." - Theodore Roosevelt


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