What does #NOTAVACATION mean?
As we enter our third season, I wanted to take a moment to talk about #NOTAVACATION - what it means and why it matters.
First let me start off by explaining what the phrase means as it relates to our veteran program, culture and approach to the status quo:
As with many businesses – whether they are nonprofit or for profit – Heroes and Horses was born out of the need for a solution to a problem. So, what was the problem? There are 60,000+ nonprofits focused on helping veterans, millions are spent each year in this sector, and yet 22 veterans are choosing to take their own lives every single day, and these numbers are not declining. Clearly something wasn’t working. This is not a criticism of other programs or organizations, I do believe that they all serve a purpose, but too often that purpose is not clearly defined and left open-ended. I am not here to comment on other organizations – only to focus on the creation of a process that makes a measurable impact on this problem. I did, however, take a look at what these other organizations were doing, and thought ‘what would happen if we shattered the model?’. Instead of creating another veteran organization that takes individuals on fishing vacations, or leisurely bike rides along the beach (again, this is not a criticism of those organizations – this was just not the direction I wanted to go in), I had a vision of creating an organization that did the exact opposite – a 180 out. I wanted to create an experience that was far from a vacation – hence our hashtag #NOTAVACATION. The Heroes and Horses program can be challenging, stress-inducing, and uncomfortable. Sounds far from a vacation, right? That’s the point. I believe that true, sustainable change and growth only happens through a combination of pressure and time. Struggle give things in life value – shifting focus from outside to in, and, in my opinion, this is exactly what these veterans need. It’s the million or billions of choices we make in our life that have lead us to where we are right now. There is always a choice. The only way to overcome external circumstances is purpose. Pressure, struggles and obstacles allow us to peel back the layers to discover who we are and define our individual purpose.
What I love about #NOTAVACATION is that it’s not just about veterans with PTSD, it’s about a human condition. It’s about every single person reading this, and here’s why: You need to take control of this moment, and the billions of moments in your life. We make decisions based on feelings and others people’s ideas about our obstacles rather than using the obstacle to learn. Success and failure does not happen in a moment but in a series of moments.
We are all bombarded daily with messaging and images that encourage us to find the easiest path to accomplish our goals. It’s “Work part time from home, and make a Full-time salary!”, it’s “Lose 20 pounds in 20 days!”, it’s “Take this drug to fix your high blood pressure”, and it’s “Work smarter, not harder” (in the words of entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk, "Smart work will never replace hard work, it only supplements it"). I think this is a problem. This is not how you create long-lasting and impactful change in your life, or anyone else’s. We need to stop bypassing the “hard path”, and we need to be able to start weeding out the “noise” that tells us otherwise.
So, I will leave you with this – where in your life are you choosing to take the “easy path”, and what would happen if you challenged this model in your own life? What would happen if you did things differently? Trauma will come. Hardships will exist, but they are our most potent teacher. Lean in. Don’t run, don’t mask, but open your mind and learn, and there you will find your original purpose. Struggle gives value, and pressure is a key component of growth. Look at your life and ask yourself “Do I accept this, or do I not accept this?”. It’s your choice.