Hope in the Desert

In need of a little motivation?

My brother, Neal Spackman, recently finished a decade-long endeavor, The Al Baydha Project, in Saudi Arabia. The goal was to turn a desert into an oasis. He describes it like this in the linked youtube video:

“The climate is hyper-arid, and the land is non-arable. The ecological degradation is extreme, with no significant natural resources to work with: no soil, no water, and almost no biological capital. It is a landscape made desolate by decades of desertification. Our tools… were nothing but mountains and stone, sunlight, dust, and floods” (from an average 60mm a rain a year).

For nearly ten years, Neal and the 100 local bedouins on his team spent tens of thousands of hours in the heat and the sun with no certainty of success. To make a long story short, it worked! Neal made a prairie of grasses from desert, dust, sun, and a tiny bit of water. You really should watch the 20-minute video to see the story from start to finish. It is amazing.

I find extraordinary motivation in this story. The Al Baydha project shows the power of pushing forward when success is uncertain. None of us knows what will come from pursuing our current dreams. We’re somewhere in after starting but long from being able to see a finish line.

In that space, it’s tempting to give up. You’ve put in hundreds of doubt-filled hours over the years, and you’re not sure anything will come from your efforts. “Will this even work?” The doubt gnaws away at your willingness to push on, but you push on. You push on, driven by some combination of stubbornness and hope and the dream that got you started in the first place. You push on with no certainty of success.

After you’ve pressed on, after you’ve dealt with your demons, after you’ve persevered, and after the project is over, you’re able to see what has come from your efforts. At times that means a change of plans, a pivot to something new, but now with new skills and knowledge that you couldn’t have gained otherwise. And at times, you’re able to look back and say, “It worked!”

To anyone out there in that “in between”, to anyone who’s struggling, who’s gone back to school, or who’s exhausted from late nights, who’s uncertain of the outcome of all their work, who’s seen no rain for two years–to all of us chasing big dreams, don’t give up. Keep pushing on.

Remember the green that blossomed from dust and rock. There is hope for us in the desert.

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