Like a soft, stretched-out sweater you’ve had for decades or a faded, well-worn jean jacket, I have a favorite pair of slacks. They earned my esteem not because of a fantastic fit, a comfortable fabric or a trendy style. I like them mostly because of a small label that’s sewn onto a flap of material behind the zippered fly. On the tag are the words: “Everyone is an architect of their own future.”
Despite the bad grammar (the phrase should read “Everyone is an architect of his or her own future,” even if it is a bit long-winded for today’s popular aesthetics), I like these pants the best because when I’m wearing them, I know those words are there. On the days when I pull them on, I somehow feel like I can take on any challenge.
What is it about certain expressions that give them the ability to move us and speak to us in ways that a short story or a whole book cannot? And when it comes to adventure slogans, they can be even more powerful, pushing us across the line from thinking about doing something to actually doing it.
A few words about action heroes
Subway sandwiches counsels us to “Eat Fresh,” and, of course, “For Everything Else, There’s MasterCard.” Good slogans work because their rhyme, rhythm, brevity or pith makes them easy to remember.
If I asked you, I’m sure you could tell me that it’s the outdoor clothing company North Face that advises us to “Never Stop Exploring,” and that it’s the sportswear-maker Nike that tells us to “Just Do It.” Such adventure slogans up the ante even more because they allow us to envision ourselves as “action heroes,” a profession, I suspect, we all secretly wish we had.
The word slogan itself was born from the bustle of activity. It’s believed that the first incarnation of the term came from Scotland, where the Highlanders’ call to battle was named a sluagh-gairm, the Gaelic words for host and cry. Translated into English, the word became slogorne, which over time evolved into variants such as sluggorne, slughorn, slogurn and, eventually, slogen.
So while the spelling has gone through slight shifts throughout history, the meaning of slogan remains almost the same as it did for those long-ago Scots: a few words that have the power to tug at our emotions and psyches in a way that convinces us to climb, conquer, divide, fight, hike, kayak, unite or even vote—in short, to act.
Several sentences about adventurers
In 1923, when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, English mountaineer George Mallory replied, “Because it’s there.” Scottish missionary and African explorer David Livingstone said in 1862, “I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.” Early 20th-century American aviator Amelia Earhart is attributed with saying “Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done”; and New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary, who, in 1953, was one of the two known climbers to first summit Mount Everest, stated, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” Ernest Shackleton, an Anglo-Irish South Pole searcher of the early 1900s, pronounced, “Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.” Diana Nyad, who, in 2013, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage, said, “The spirit is larger than the body. The body is pathetic compared to what we have inside us.”
Then there is the catchphrase that I’m most fond of, which comes from trailblazer and American adventure hero Daniel Boone. It goes, “I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.”
It’s clear that the field of exploration has produced some of the most unforgettable sentences and slogans that the world has ever known—words that have inspired generations of impressive firsts and feats. These statements embody the true spirit of the word slogan: a cry for adventure.
You might look at the outside of my favorite pair of pants and think that there’s nothing special about them. But inside, they remind me that I’m the builder of my own tomorrow, every time I wear them.
And that makes me feel as if I’m somehow kin to Earhart, Hillary, Livingstone, Mallory, Nyad and Shackleton—cut from the same cloth, you might say.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,