The problem with the "plateau"

The problem with the "plateau"

Jeff Lund

The problem with the plateau or streak of bad luck or poor results isn’t just the outcome, but that we can wrongly conclude that we aren’t worthy, or good enough. It can be a huge hit to the self-esteem when we can’t make the lift, do the trick, get the job or even be noticed at work.

I harvest my first buck of the season in August and for the next month, the only meat I consumed was organic, free-range venison. With three more tags, I could have stocked the freezer for the good part of a year! I was stoked. Then I stopped seeing bucks. September became November in a hurry and the season ended. I camped, I hiked, I called, I sat, I did everything that I had done before, what people had recommended, and what I’d read. Still, no luck. A dozen nights spent in the woods and double that in day hunts yielded me nothing but frustration.


People lose – professional sports teams, Olympians, Abraham Lincoln – but the thing about losing at hunting is that I can’t help but imagine if I lived when Natural Selection was still going strong, I would have starved. My inability to adapt and survive would have left me starving. Pioneer Jeffrey of 1871 would have returned to the wagon after hunting for food to find my girlfriend gone, to be with someone who could actually provide for her on the Great Plains or who had a chance to make it to California. Actually no, she’s loyal enough to stay by my side and starve with me, which would be worse. 

Anyway, my back luck with hunting spilled over into steelhead fishing, so I have now gone over four months without catching a fish. Add that in with the hunting futility and you’ve got one bad Alaskan.


It’s hard not to take it a little personal because something I’m doing is wrong, otherwise I’d be having success. That’s how things work, right? Do things right, get success, at least at some point.


Why can’t I win?


Life is spinning wheels sometimes. I’ve had tough months at school when it didn’t seem like anything I was doing was right and that I was having no impact on my students. I wanted to better my life in some way and was met with total resistance. There have been times when tragedy hit the family and I waited for the dark cloud to pass. Despair is temporary and just because depression is real and dangerous and anyone can have it, doesn’t mean everyone does have it. 

If I were to make a comprehensive list, a timeline of all the times I have been wronged, I would have a strong case for deserving a steelhead. Then what? Now that I have my list of grievances against the Universe, God, whoever, would it make me feel better? Probably not, because no one really cares and it wouldn’t help at all. In an age in which we attempt to out-victimize each other, we dig deeper levels of misery so that we can win…at being miserable, proving to our friends or social media that things, indeed, are worse for us.


It is complete nonsense, worse than a waste of time because energy is being used for something that isn’t just unproductive, it’s positively destructive.


What people care about are stories of people who did things, who persevered. Who didn’t succumb to a plateau, dry spell or rough patch. We want to be like that. We want courage, we want resilience. We want to remind ourselves that in the scheme of things, it’s just a fish, just a PR, just a skateboard trick, just a playoff loss.


Why do I need the steelhead anyway, right? Is it to show off? To validate myself on social media? If that’s the goal, not to feel good, but to feel validated, that’s relying on a flimsy, fickle and, in most cases, indifferent population to get self-worth.


No one wants to learn lessons because they are learned during times of misery. However, we do all want the benefits, so we better pay attention. 

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