Thursday, May 28, 2009


When people typically talk about being inspired, it's often in the context of a powerful vision and about the rewards of reaching a lofty goal. Well, along the journey, singularly looking forward and pursuing the goal, regardless of how appealing, is not always going to be enough to get you there. Sometimes you have to look behind you for inspiration. Let me share a story with you.

Several years ago, my two teenage daughters asked me about climbing a peak in Crested Butte, Colorado. My wife and I took them to Mt. Baldy. We left the house by 6:00 am to begin what would be about a three hour climb. (The reason for the early departure is about adhering to a rule of thumb that you want to be off the mountain by noon in the event of a summer afternoon thunderstorm. The last place you want to be during such a weather event is on a big rock!)

As we began the climb, the girls were very enthusiastic. After about an hour, I started hearing comments like, "the view looks pretty good from here" and "should we be concerned about those clouds coming in?" You could see the exhaustion on their faces. I suggested, let's give it another 20 minutes and see how you feel. (In fairness, the climb was not easy by any means). Twenty minutes later, the summit looked no closer and the climb was getting even tougher.

I thought I was fighting a losing battle in terms of leading them to the top. Then I had an idea; I asked them to take note of where they are and climb for 20 more minutes. They reluctantly agreed. After the 20 minutes, the summit didn't look any more attainable, but when I asked them to find the spot we just came from, they were astonished at their progress. It sparked a sudden surge in their march to the summit. We never heard another complaint.

When we all reached the top of the 12,000+ ft. peak, there was a collective euphoria. The lessons are several fold:
  1. The importance of trust. I may have had an advantage being their father and all, but in the end, they had to trust that the goal was attainable and that the rewards were worth the effort.
  2. It helped that my wife and I were with them every step of the way.
  3. They learned that looking back can be as important as looking ahead.
  4. Since that day, they understand that fighting through adversity can reap amazing rewards.
  5. Finally, they learned firsthand that there's nothing quite like the view from the summit.
Overall, a very good day! Next time you become discouraged during your personal/professional journey, look behind you for inspiration!


  1. I've always thought inspiring others is a sign of leadership. Never thought of the exercise of showing someone how far they had come, by looking back after a "20 minutes." May have to use that one.

  2. I suppose the timeframe depends on the task. Checking in on an art director every 20 minutes to check on his progress may be less than "inspirational" ;-)



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