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  • Writer's pictureRobert Findeisen


In the world of backpacking there is a popular saying, “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain”. The meaning is that a few ounces here, and a few ounces there, quickly add up to pounds and when you have to carry everything, that weight soon becomes very noticeable in very unpleasant ways.

Man backpacking in the wilderness, contemplating

As we journey through life, our metaphorical backpacks can get heavier and heavier. Author and speaker John Bytheway used the analogy of rocks that we pick up on the way and put in our packs. Every negative thought we have about ourselves is another rock we shove in our pack. Every negative thing said to us likewise can be added as a rock to our backs. Every bad experience… well you get the idea. Soon the small, light pack we start with, looks like the pack Samwise Gamgee is hauling in the Lord of the Rings movies. Complete with cast iron pots and pans hanging off the outside. Soon it’s hard to even pick up the pack, let alone travel with it. In the real world, this can lead to depression, anxiety, and the like.

backpacking in the wilderness

So, what do we do about this? Your first inclination might be to drop the pack and leave it in the middle of the trail or to sit down and never get back up. I know I’ve been tempted to do both. Neither is a good solution. We need to keep moving, and our packs also contain a lot of useful tools that we need. We must lighten our packs, but we need to be smart about it.

When I went to Recruit Training for the Marines, we had to go on long marches with our packs over difficult terrain. Before we went on the first march, the Drill Instructors taught us how to reduce our load, while keeping the essentials. A great example of this was our rations. We were issued MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) which came in a large plastic bag. In this bag were other plastic pouches often in cardboard boxes. The DI’s had us open the large bag and remove all the boxes and anything else we didn’t need. Then we took everything we kept and put it in the large bag and taped it shut. This removed weight, reduced the space the MRE took by half, and reduced the garbage we would need to pack out. The result was smaller, lighter packs while still having the food we needed.

At the summit man sits contemplating

We can do the same thing in our metaphoric pack. Some things are easy to figure out how to do on our own. In other cases, we may need some help. I would never have thought to field strip my MREs in that way. Fortunately, our DI’s had both done these marches before, and were trained to teach us the methods that work. It’s helpful to have someone look at our packs and ask questions like “do you really need this?” And “let’s keep the useful parts of that but get rid of the rest.”

Bringing this out of the metaphorical and back to the practical. I’ve made some dumb choices and have had a lot of bad things happen to me in the years I’ve been alive. These have followed me and weighed me down and affected both my self-image and my views on life. It wasn’t until I met my wife, who works in the mental health space, that I even realized how much extra weight I was carrying. Even after recognizing that, it’s often not easy to simply dump those things out of my pack. This is where having someone who can help and hold you accountable really helps. This may be a quality friend, spouse, a parent, therapist, or coach. We all need someone to both support us and to call us on our bullcrap. Just be careful that the person you use isn’t also adding more rocks to your pack.

Friends and family are great, because they care about you and can often offer an outside view on this. Provided they weren’t the one who put it there in the first place.

They are standing at the top. Looking down the mountain they just climbed.

Sometimes you need someone with training or someone who’s not tied to you on a personal level. This is where professional therapists or counselors come in and often they are covered under insurance, an Employee Assistance Program (AKA an EAP) or can also use your HSA (Health Savings Account) if you have one, to pay for services. Many church organizations are also willing to help with the cost too.

In the end we can only carry so much before we get weighed down and can’t continue. Even when it doesn’t stop you from being able to carry on, it will impair your ability to perform to your highest levels. As such, it is imperative that you occasionally take stock of your proverbial backpack and either remove or to “field strip” unhelpful items and if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.


Rob Findeisen

Semper Fidelis

Rob Findeisen is a professional content copywriter and you can check out his website through ironfound marketing:

1 Comment

Apr 29, 2022

Really liked this incite. Thank you.

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