What’s the toughest thing you’ve had to endure? When I say tough, I mean grueling. Physically, emotionally, mentally. What’s happened that required inner strength you didn’t know you even had? It was so heavy you felt like you were being asked to bench press a house.
In July of this year, one sticky, sweltering mid-Missouri Friday afternoon, I drove to St. Louis to catch a plane to Denver. A good friend had just married a girl that he met on Facebook (yes, social media works for that too), and he moved to Colorado. I hadn’t seen him since the wedding.
I was hungry for the opportunity to get out of town for a weekend and hit my internal reset button. This year I’ve had to traverse the greatest personal challenge of my life. It’s been grueling. A thick, heavy cloud of grief and uncertainty. I’ve never experienced anything that has required such internal strength, and yet at the same time provided such opportunity for growth and positive transformation.
And just like a personal challenge can transform your mental, spiritual, and emotional state, so can a physical one. There’s nothing like crisp mountain air and a challenging hike to clear your mind and ‘right the ship’ so to speak.
My hike up to SandBeach Lake, Colorado was no walk in the park. Five and a half miles nearly all of which was on an incline, 40 pounds on my back, thin air, and blisters from my boots just one mile in. It was a physical test during which the time to think was remarkably life changing.
So, I want to share with you seven fresh insights I took away from my mountaineering that July weekend. I believe they hold true in relationships, in business, and in all of life.
Seven Life Lessons from SandBeach Lake, Colorado
Taken July 24th, 2011. From right to left: Mt. Meeker, Long’s Peak, Pagoda, Chief’s Head, and Mt. Alice
1. Sometimes you have to ascend, descend, and ascend again (repeatedly) to reach your peak.
Success is not a straight path. This is especially true when the path has been lightly traveled, as is often the case of many entrepreneurs. We go places where others dare not even consider.
Going back down the mountain is sometimes required to find a better way to the top. To conserve energy. To avoid adversity. Maybe even to avoid fatality. It may cost you more time, but it’s better to arrive at your goal a little later than expected than to not arrive at all. So enjoy the scenery on the winding road.
2. Hardship in the ascension doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path.
I can’t recall anything of great value I’ve achieved that didn’t cause me to sweat. Life is strenuous. There’s a war on. Opposites are in conflict. Ignore the weeds in the garden too long and they end up taking over. Evil on one side. Good on the other. Prosperity on one side. Poverty on the other.
You can’t outsource your push-ups. Self-discipline is the key. Cooperate with the positive side.
3. There are infinite streams of abundance. Leaving one behind doesn’t mean you won’t quickly find another.
Just like melting snow creates seemingly infinite streams of water filling every channel on a mountain’s face, infinite streams of opportunity and wealth exist in life. If one stream or path isn’t suiting you well, you can climb up, down, or over and there’s another one flowing with abundance. Sometimes you have to cut bait and move on, and that’s ok.
We do have choices, but it’s easy to bury our head and put blinders on and miss them. We are all standing in a river of abundant opportunity in this country. Some of us have our backs to the flow of them, and by the time we see them and reach out they’re already floating by. We miss them. Others of us have turned around, looked upstream, and have our hands out before the opportunity reaches us…standing prepared…and we catch it.
Same stream, different approach, different outcomes.
Along the entire journey of life infinite streams exist. There is no need to fear a lack of flow. Leave one behind and there are plenty of others to drink from.
4. Finding is reserved for the searchers.
Robert Ringer said “nothing happens until something moves”. Jesus said “knock and the door will be opened to you.” I’ve also heard it said that “action breeds inspiration”. Three clever ways to say “Get up, and get busy!” if you want new opportunities.
Our best hiking discovery that weekend happened the first evening when we acted on our curiosity of “I wonder what’s up there?”. We were flat exhausted. Getting up and taking that first step was the hardest.
Most people don’t finish because they never start. Procrastination is a dream stealer.
Overcoming the inertia of starting something, particularly if we predict that it may be difficult is one life’s greatest challenges. Here’s a secret path to overcoming procrastination. It’s called the “10-minute Technique”.
Truthfully, can’t you do just about anything for 10 minutes? Once we start we’re more likely to discover that it wasn’t as bad as we thought, and we experience relief because we’re finally doing the avoided task.
5. Fill your soul full of sunshine
Sunshine is different for different people. For me, it’s music. It’s fresh mountain air. It’s strenuous physical activity. It’s slowing life down for thirty minutes and taking inventory of everything I’m thankful for, that I’m excited about. Small doses of any of these can be an instant reset button for negative emotions.
Einstein says “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Similarly, I don’t believe you can solve problems, find new insights, or find clarity without escaping your routine environment and changing your state. Once you change your state, positive feelings and motivation often follow. Rarely does it work the other way around.
The good thing about feelings is that they are easily manipulated. Equally, the bad thing about feelings is that they are easily manipulated. They can be a shot of adrenaline for taking positive action, or they can be fuel for destruction. I’ve had the most intense ‘mountain top’ feelings and the most destructive, despairing feelings of my life in the EXACT same circumstances. The only thing that changed was how much sunshine I was letting into my soul. It’s all perspective.
6. Never empty your reserve tank
Never, ever, ever fail to plan and keep your survival essentials in good supply. You can survive weeks without food, but you can only survive a few days without water.
In my first business I drained every cash asset I had to keep it going. In hindsight, this was a big mistake. I should have cut bait, held on to my reserves, and found another stream of abundance. This was a hard lesson to learn. Truthfully, I was so young and hungry to hit a home run with that business that I don’t know if I would have listened to my older, wiser self.
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22
Seek out others that have been down the road. Find a mastermind group. If you can’t find one, start one. It’s more appealing to seek out the ’successful’ and learn from them, but don’t overlook those that have failed. Learning what not to do can be just as valuable. Interview someone that’s experienced business failure or bankruptcy. Talk to someone that’s been divorced. Don’t make their same mistakes. Plus, there’s a trail of failure behind every successful person. It’s how we learn.
7. Travel light for faster ascension
There’s a reason that [insert here your desired camping gear that's really lightweight] costs [high ticket price]. Because it’s worth it. There’s always a cost to freedom. The greater the freedom, the greater the cost. Freeing your backpack of unnecessary weight is no different. When you’re climbing the mountain, every pound of weight you can shed counts. And it counts more with every step in the ascension.
I mentioned procrastination already. One of the reasons people fail to start, in addition to predicting that starting is too hard, is that they are overloaded with unnecessary stuff.
Key Question: What are you loaded down with that’s holding you back?
I have a friend that decided after living in Missouri for eight years that he wanted to move to San Diego, and then to Australia. So he inventoried everything he owned (over 2,700 items). Within 3 months he had either sold or given away all but 100 items, packed up his car, and drove to San Diego. While you don’t have to go to that extreme, I assure you that we are all being held back by stuff. Material things, toxic relationships, email lists we’re on but never read anymore, poor eating habits. You name it. It’s all a pull in the wrong direction.
Here are two questions to help you shed some gear and get to hiking up your mountain of dreams.
1. What do you currently believe to be impossible to achieve, but if you did achieve it your life would be as you desire most?
2. Now, what would make this impossibility become possible?
Lighten your load and shed the impossibilities. Believe you can do it. Then get started doing it (even for just 10 minutes). And when the time calls for it, hit your reset button and let some sunlight in your soul.
Peace & Wealth,