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Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try | Motivation To Actually Start Your Journey

You need many things to be a researcher of the unexplained. If you’re hunting cryptids, you need camping and hiking skills, not to mention adequate freetime and transportation, just to get where the monsters are. Then you need patience and sharp observation skills to actually notice a cryptid on the off-chance that one decides to show up. If you’re looking for ghosts, on the other hand, you need to have a methodology of how to find them in the first place, and you need access to the sorts of locations at which ghosts can be found. If you’re a theorist or a folklorist in these fields, you need a strong grasp of the evidentiary process and the sciences, especially psychology, to separate the wheat from the chaff, the plausible from the implausible. And we couldn’t have this discussion without talking about the technological requirements, with things like trailcams, FLIR, and audio recording being almost essential at times.

But there’s something that’s even more important, yet very rarely discussed: motivation. Without motivation, none of this would be possible in the first place. To spend hours every week, if not every day, chasing after something the world tells you doesn’t exist? That takes a certain sort of persistence. Let’s be honest, we’re going to be called crazy more often than we actually find anything. Why would someone spend their life like that? Well, everyone in this hobby has their reasons, and, if you’re reading this blog, it’s possible you’re among them.

Finding Your Motivation

Personally, I’ve been motivated to learn more about monsters and folklore since I was very young. I was always fascinated by stories of vampires and werewolves and monsters galore, and the faint possibility that they may not be entirely fictional excited me greatly. And yes, Boggy Creek certainly left a lasting impression on me. With the addition of History Channel documentaries and monster programs (from back when they were pretty good), and Animal Planet’s speculative zoology on cryptids and other creatures, I was decidedly enthralled.

Unlike most young, impressionable viewers, I could tell which programs were mockumentaries and which were unreliable. I was well aware that the chances of these folkloric entities being truly extant was slim, but that’s a far cry from totally impossible. It turns out that my open-mindedness would pay off when I later arrived at the evidence that bigfoot was real, an actual flesh-and-blood creature. Accepting that would have been impossible if I’d settled into the rut of scientific consensus and societal dogma. So many people get discouraged from seeking the truth on account of how often the truth turns out to be mundane. Sure, most cryptids aren’t real, but it only takes one to upset the whole paradigm.

We may get the feeling that our efforts will be wasted, but I don’t think that’s really fair. I know I get that feeling. All the work involved in hunting for cryptids, digging into confusing research, or even writing this blog, it can all be a bit much. It’s not always easy. Sometimes I wonder if I can actually change anyone’s mind, or if anyone is actually going to be interested in what I have to say. At times like that, it’s important to remember that all you can do is your best. Think about it; someone had to put himself out there to teach you. If you’ve ever researched cryptids, or ghosts, or aliens, or whatever, it’s only because someone else was courageous enough, and persistent enough, to make his opinion known. If you could be that person for someone else, wouldn’t you want to be?

Do Not Be Afraid

It helps to consider what effort really is. When you think about it, it’s just directing more of your time, attention, and resources to a particular task. There are times when it can seem daunting, and the fear of failure can prevent you from ever trying in the first place. Well, let’s flip that thinking around. As Thomas Edison once remarked, he never once failed to invent the lightbulb; he merely discovered more and more ways to not invent it.

Negative data can be just as important as positive. If we don’t encounter bigfoot in a particular region, that’s not a failed expedition; it might be an indication that this population is more reclusive, or that they aren’t native to the area. When you don’t get any ghost activity, that’s not a failed investigation; it could be a vital clue about what triggers the activity, or that the ghosts are somewhere else. It’s only by learning where something is not that we understand why it is where it is. It wouldn’t be called a mountain lion if we regularly found it living in swamps and deserts.

Another possibility to consider is that your methodology might be mistaken. For example, if you never get a response from tree-knocking, but other researchers do, it might be that you’re doing it wrong. Rather than beating yourself up about having wasted so much time, you should rejoice; you’ve gotten useful information of what kinds of sounds bigfoot doesn’t respond to. Of course, you should never jump to conclusions. In the moment, it can be impossible to tell whether it’s the particulars of the investigation or your methodology itself that’s impeding results. That’s why it’s so important to be transparent about your findings, and how you got them, then other researchers can chime in and provide useful feedback. By pooling our information this way, we can learn alot more than we ever could alone. That’s how every subject develops, including science. But of course, this is all assuming we have data to compare in the first place.

So what about if we never get any credible evidence of a certain cryptid or paranormal phenomenon? Well, absence of evidence does not necessarily constitute an evidence of absence, but there comes a point where something is found so seldom that it probably doesn’t exist. We should always have some intellectual humility about our expectation of when a given phenomenon should show up, but we also need to be realistic about when there just isn’t enough evidence. For example, I think Nessie is probably not a real, extant creature. What then?

Don’t think of it as failing in your search for ghosts and goblins; think of it as a success in your search for truth. We are men of science, are we not? Skeptics may scoff, and write us off as gullible loons, and sure, there are gullible people on both sides of the argument, but I know that I believe what I do because it best explains the evidence available, and I’m willing to change my mind if new evidence comes to light. For every cryptid we rule out, for every spectre we falsify, we’re one step closer to knowing the truth. So as long as we don’t get tunnel-vision, and as long as we’re willing to second-guess our own assumptions, we literally cannot fail, because the only failed experiments are those we don’t learn from.

Putting It All Together

Whatever your motivation is, from simple curiosity, to scientific rigour, to connecting with people who share your interests, you should feel confident that an earnest pursuit of truth will seldom go unrewarded. There’s no reason to hesitate. Simply do the best you can. The future starts now.

If there’s a topic you’ve been wanting to know more about, it’s easier than ever to learn from the comfort of your own home. If you’ve been wanting to go on an expedition, start honing your skills. Gorillas, giant pandas, sleep paralysis, UFOs; we only know about these things because someone was willing to push against the paradigm of the day. If you’d like to do the same, there’s no time like the present.

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