You’re Not Climbing a Mountain. It’s a Mountain Range.

The ups and downs of building a company

(featuring terrible original art by yours truly)

For me, the hardest thing about starting a company is perspective. For months this year, I couldn’t see where I had come from or where I was headed — I could only see the obstacle directly in front of me. I couldn’t ride the wave as people talk about; all I could do was fight it. In the moment, it seems like this endless fight is all you CAN do. The problem with pushing forward without perspective is that you’re living like you’re climbing a mountain, when you’re really hiking a mountain range. Let me explain.

You start any project with a goal — a mountain to climb. You will put everything you have into it. Every day. Every hour. You will push your project up the hill.

You see the top of the mountain. You set your course. You begin your journey.

Tunnel Vision

The whole time you’re climbing the mountain, you can’t see anything but the peak. Your perspective is so small. Your goal is so specific. So obvious.

Nothing matters but getting to the top.

Even though you’re climbing a mountain (they’re gigantic!), you’re suffering from tunnel vision. You can only see the peak you’ve set as your goal.

You Didn’t Know What You Didn’t Know

You’ve finally done it. You got to the peak of that huge mountain everyone doubted you could summit. Maybe this means your product works; maybe this means you raised your first round. But now that you’re on top of the mountain, you realize it’s only base camp. There’s a much higher peak in the distance.

The top of the mountain only reveals a second, much higher peak

The Valley of Death

You then realize that to get to the next peak, you must travel back down the first mountain and into a valley. A valley where it’s raining and there are probably hungry bears.

This is the hard part. You can’t see where you’ve come from. You can’t see where you’re going. You can only see the inevitable battle with a bear.

After each peak, there is a valley. And it’s rough.

This is a moment we all go through. You want to quit. You’re miserable, but deep in your heart, you know that if you could only get to that next peak…you’d be comfortable. Happy. You’d be a success.

Rinse and Repeat

You trudge on and get to the top of the following mountain, only to realize for the first time that you’re not climbing mountains — you’re hiking a mountain range. The process never ends.

Every peak brings you a new perspective.

Maintaining Perspective

Wherever we are on this journey of ups and downs, we must always fight for perspective above all else. As deep as the valleys are and as high as the peaks are, they will all pass. The cycle will continue. You can’t always remember where you came from, and neither can you always see where you’re headed. But remember that your lone perspective doesn’t tell the whole story.

No Matter Where You Are on the Journey, Your Perspective is Limited and Flawed

Your current perspective never tells the full story.

Is the Journey Enough?

Unending ups and downs are only compelling if the journey is enough. Those valleys are harsh and cold. The peaks are fleeting moments of joy.

I’m reminded of a quote I read in a Medium post by Ryan Hoover the other week. In it, he quotes his friend Nathan Bashaw:

“When you look back at yourself six months from today and don’t feel embarrassed by your naiveté, there’s a problem. That means you’re not learning, growing.”

This quote has stuck with me. I think it sums up the idea of climbing a mountain range instead of a mountain. We can only see the next obstacle in our path, but if we truly want to forever grow and develop, we need to be comfortable with the fact that climbing the next mountain simply reveals the following peak.

Why This Topic?

I had the awesome opportunity to attend LAUNCH Scale this week. Though there were many amazing speakers, my favorite part was reconnecting with old friends and fellow co-founders including Jason Demant, Sonny Mayugba and Brian Alvey. We are all, regardless of our current success/failure, going through the exact same peaks and valleys as one another — we just can’t see it when we’re in our own Trough of Sorrow. We could all use a reminder about perspective.

This too shall pass.

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