When You Become The Mountain

When you think that your only option is to continue the climb up the mountain, there is another choice…

Do you ever look at accepted models that most people use to evaluate improvement and wonder why does it have to be THAT way?

In our efforts to progress just a little bit more, there is no shortage of visual models to insert into your headspace. There are pie charts, pyramid shapes, comparison diagrams…

And then there is the graph that looks like a series of mountains. Ascent is the goal.

Push further up the big hill. Become grittier to go higher. The promise of higher signifies the possibility of better views. And yet, we never are content at the view we find when we get to our altitude goal. We face the urge to climb even further.

At its core, the spirit of this idea works. But, you know what critical part of the climb that many people never do? The practice of descent.

Let me illustrate with this story.

When I competed at the highest levels of canoeing, our team would target a “climb” towards the biggest race of the season — the World Championships, the World Cup Final, or the grandaddy of them all: the Olympic Games.

Nevertheless, when we qualified for one of those events, race the race, and get a result… a new plateau on the mountain would materialize as an immediate starting point for continuing the climb.

We didn’t even have time to catch our breath.

The climb to the big races includes multiple training camps and smaller competitions where we are exposed to many new ideas — equipment, technique, coaching, and strategies. All of these ideas need to be tested and synthesized.

The worst place to engineer strategy is stuck way up the mountain. Where you lack space. Where you lack oxygen.

This is why, once the biggest races concluded, we didn’t walk back down the mountain — we ran. Our lower altitude destination was our home river. It was far from the pinnacle moments of top flight competition. It provided lower altitude sanity.

At a lower altitude, the key ingredient of learning will appear. That ingredient is time:

to slow down
to pull things apart
to get grounded
to find stable footing for a more efficient & focused ascent the next time up the mountain.

A great example of this is the behavior of top drawer musical artists. These musicians find ways to step back from the season of nonstop touring — with its nightly stage performances — to descend the mountain and retreat to the essence of their art.

Maybe you are a business owner who is having solid success and feel forced to expand your offerings or locations? Perhaps it’s time to retreat somewhat down the mountain to revisit the idea of who you want to serve, and why, in the first place.

As you look at your goals, what does a retreat down the mountain look like to you?

What’s one way this week you can step down and return to the essence of what’s most important to you?

When this becomes the process that you repeat over and over, your lower altitude base becomes stronger and you dramatically increase the likelihood your next climb goes higher.

And then magic happens: that mountain you were climbing? Well, you become the mountain itself.

Therein lies more advanced acknowledgement of the journey up and down mountain. Rather than the journey to the destination, focus on the journey of who you become in the process.

With gratitude,


PS — What is does it mean to “retreat back down the mountain” when you’re learning to skateboard?

I teach my clients the advanced techniques necessary to reveal talents which have been set to idle due to external and internal distractions.

I, then, transfer my Olympic Gold Medal performance strategies that streamline decision making and actions when engaged in complicated life currents with an aim towards the freedom of playing your own game.