Climb The Rough [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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It’s an odd quirk but Kerri likes to watch mountain climbing documentaries before she goes to sleep each night. We’ve seen most of the world’s catalogue of climbing videos, Everest and K-2. I feel as if I’ve been to base camp. I sometimes shout at the screen, “NO! Don’t you know that the weather can turn on a dime!”

We’ve watched the story of the team that discovered George Mallory’s body. He fell and broke an ankle. Fatal on Everest. We’ve watched footage of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their summit bid.  We’ve watched documentaries about the Sherpa people, the dangers of the ice fall, and the emergency doctors at base camp.

I tease Kerri and tell our friends that she needs to watch someone fall off a mountain before she can get to sleep. She protests, “I don’t need to see them fall!” The life and death struggle is soothing enough, a gentle entry into slumber.

The message from the climbers is as beautiful as it is simple: if you fear failure you shouldn’t climb mountains. You will fail far more than you succeed. You will attempt. You learn. You choose to be wise and live rather than push to the summit and then lose your life. It is the ultimate reminder that a healthy process is much preferable to the achievement of the goal. They remind us that most climbers die after the summit. They die coming down because they forget that the goal is not to summit, the goal is to summit safely and come back alive. The goal is life. The summit need not happen today. Live and take your chance tomorrow. The only failure on the mountain is to die when you didn’t need to.

It’s a great metaphor. Life is like that. No one does this life without more than a few rough patches, more than a few falls. When you recognize that everyone has a mountain to climb and, regardless of the mountain, it is all about learning, all about the experiences that may someday bring you either to the summit or to the recognition that the summit was actually never the goal. It’s about the appreciation of the experiences.

There will always be another goal. Another summit. However, the experiences you remember and appreciate will be the struggles. The easy stuff is easily forgotten. The hard stuff, facing the doubt, finding a new edge, makes for a great life story and helps us understand that we are far more capable than we at first realize. Everyone is far more capable than they imagine and would never go beyond the limits of their imagination without the rough patches on the way up the mountain.


read Kerri’s blog post about ROUGH TIMES



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A painting from the distant past. For some reason I wanted to reach deep into the archives for this post.

A painting from the distant past. For some reason I wanted to reach deep into the archives for this post.

The theme for the workshop in Holland is “team.” I’ve never been linear about how I think about anything and this time of planning has been exceptionally circular. I complimented Alan the other day; he has a genius for immediately reducing complex concepts into easily graspable models. I, on the other hand, have to circle and circle in an ever-tightening spiral in order to articulate what I see to others. I generally live in the stratosphere and have to grab ahold of a stone in order to touch the ground.

It’s been over a year since I gave much thought to the corporate world or any form of facilitation. I left it when I went on my pilgrimage. Walking away affords space and perspective. I wrote my book, The Seer, during the first months of my walk-about. It served as a shorthand story for all the things I’ve so far learned. It also served as a “letting go,” a release of all the things I thought I knew. All of my previously held sacred assumptions dissipated. What was known is now unknown. I am certain that I know nothing at all so it is the perfect time to begin a discovery process with a group of people. My worth to any group has been my perspective, my capacity to say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out together.” I need to be an outlier to be able to see. I need to stand on the margin to serve.

I’ve come to recognize that my pilgrimage is not over. It entered a different phase. It is not a path to a cathedral or holy land, it is the ascension of a summit. My lengthy walk took me to base camp merely. For many months I’ve been acclimating to the altitude and now it is time to travel toward the summit. For the first time in my life I am asking myself a better set of questions about my unique pursuit. I can see how my unique K2 is distinct from all of the other peaks. I’ve climbed other people’s mountains. I’ve helped carry lots of other people’s stuff. This peak, this summit is mine.

As I spiral in tighter and tighter, coming to understand what is so allusive about this simple word, “team,” I am amused to realize that what was once charted territory is now the outland. The wilderness into which I step is the very field I left behind. What was known is now unknown. I am certain of two things and recognizing both lets me know I am ready to move forward: 1) I know nothing at all. 2) No one summits alone.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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