Wisdom from the Mountains
What's the Formula for Success?
I’ve been pondering this question recently, and the relationship between success and failure. In the past two years, I’ve put a very focused effort into turning my dreams into reality, creating the work that aligns with my passions and values. And I thought I had finally found my soulmate. But things have not unfolded (yet) the way I’ve hoped, and they’ve proven to be exponentially more challenging than I anticipated. It’s been quite a ride, including the highs and lows of joy and fear, frustration and hope, anticipation and disappointment. It reminds me of my deeply challenging journey of concussion recovery a few years ago: For every step forward, there seemed to be a set back; for every success a failure. All the while the future remained uncertain. So the question I’m asking myself is: Have the past two years been a success or a failure?
I believe the answer depends on my perspective; on what I choose to focus on. And on what my definition of success is. If we focus on all the things that haven’t worked out, on the disappointments vis-à-vis our goals and intentions, it can look like failure. But if we choose to focus on what’s worked, what we’ve learned in the process, and what others appreciate about our efforts, the word “failure” doesn’t seem to fit. Perhaps instead of defining our efforts in black and white terms such as success and failure, we can experiment with looking at them as experiences. Experiences that afford us opportunities to learn, to grow, to contribute, to get to know ourselves better, and to connect with others.
This perspective also works for me in the mountains, where things don’t always go according to plan, where goals and summits are not always reached because of circumstances, such as poor weather. I love reaching a peak and enjoying the amazing views from the top after putting everything I have into the climb. But if the summit is not within reach, I am still glad I’ve made the trip (instead of holing up at home). Just being “out there” and enjoying the beauty of nature with like-minded people, challenging my body and quieting my mind is a highly rewarding experience. For example, on a recent cabin trip in the Adamant mountains, our hopes of getting up high and skiing long lines were dashed by stormy weather, white-outs and high avalanche risk. We could have defined the trip as a failure, measured against our initial hopes and goals. But it was a success in how we accepted the conditions and stayed safe.
Acceptance of what life throws at us is a critical condition for being able to move through the ups and downs of our careers and lives without getting bogged down, depressed or frustrated. This does not mean that we sit there passively, resigned to our fates. What it means is differentiating between what we can achieve with our actions (such as obtaining the skills and experience to scale a peak or see through a challenging project) and that which we have little influence over (such as inclement weather or other people’s actions and decisions). And then taking action where we can and choosing acceptance where we can’t.
I’ve found it to be true that once I have truly accepted a circumstance I cannot change, something shifts—and new possibilities open up. So in searching for a formula for success, I’d like to share Arthur Rubinstein's words: “Of course there is no formula for success except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”
What is your formula for success?
Moving into a New Year
Yesterday, I sat down to look back on the past year and forward to the coming one, asking myself:
- What experiences in the past year am I grateful for and proud of? This includes wonderful mountain adventures with good friends
- What are my goals and intentions that get me excited about the new year? This includes supporting people and organizations who lead positive change, and sharing my love of nature and adventure with a broader community.
- What do I have to do and, perhaps even more importantly, how do I want to be to make this happen? This includes being “out there” not only in the mountains, but in my communities and networks, and overcoming my internal barriers to stepping up and out in both offering and asking for support.
I'm curious--what do you want to do and how do you choose to be to make this your most rewarding year?
How to Stop Spinning?
Are you spinning this holiday season in a rush to get everything done? Going round and round at an ever increasing speed seems to be what most of us are doing these days, not just in December: as if on a stationary bike, we are working harder and harder at keeping up with the never-ceasing, ever increasing amount of errands, workloads and “must do’s”. It’s as if we’re on merry-go-rounds that continue to pick up speed, until they spin so fast that things blurr around us, and we lose our sense of direction. We don’t know anymore how to slow down. By the time the holidays come along, we are ready to collapse and don’t have the energy for things that re-energize us. Instead, we experience (di)stress, depression or exhaustion.
Sounds familiar? How healthy is this? How does this get us what we long for in our careers and relationships—a sense of fulfillment, achievement and well-being? The answer is: it doesn’t. Something is missing. We know it, but we don’t know how to change it, how to fill that hole we are in, or the hole that’s within us.
What might happen if we dared to slow down and do less? Answering this question is challenging for many of us....read on at https://goo.gl/vro5YO
Navigating Challenging Waters
Recently, the Squamish River reminded me what is needed to stay my course and get to where I want go…
Our adventure destination of the day was a beautiful mountain lake, situated atop a gorgeous canyon and waterfalls (see pic). In order to get there, however, we had to cross the river, several hundred meters wide with a fast flowing current. For this purpose, my friend had brought his old whitewater kayaks, which he stated were “not too tippy”. That was only half reassuring for me; I had no intention of ending up in the icy waters and being swept downstream while trying to get to the other side. I’m really comfortable on rock, ice and snow, and I sea-kayak, swim and scuba dive. But fast flowing water scares me, as I feel I have much less control than when I’m dealing with water in its solid state.
So I had a little knot in my stomach when I started paddling against the current. It went ok at first. But the further I got into the middle of the river, the faster the current became, and the more concerned I was about not making it to the other side, or being pushed downstream. So I fixated a point on the shore across, near where the trailhead to our waterfalls and lake was. I trained my eyes onto this point with fierce determination while paddling with all my might. Whenever my stroke was too hard on one side, the boat turned sharply to the other, and I lost valuable forward momentum while manoeuvering the kayak back onto my course.
There was a short time when I thought I wouldn’t make it; that the current was too strong and that I couldn’t paddle hard enough to make it to my destination; that instead, I would be pushed to some point far down stream from where I wanted to end up.
This was the time to remember who the captain of my boat was: my strong, determined, experienced and capable adventure leader. So I listened to her voice yell to me “You can do this, just keep at it! You are almost there, don’t give up, just keep paddling. Believe in yourself and your strength.” The voice also said: “Keep going evenly and steadily. Harder isn’t necessarily better. It will get easier as soon as you get closer to shore—soon!”
And sure enough, just after I had coached myself through this mini moment of crisis, the current eased, and my friend and I easily steered our boats to the trailhead. We reached the lake a couple of hours later, after gaining more than 1000 elevation meters on a steep and rugged path along the cooling mist of cascading water. The refreshing dips in the mountain lake and beautiful views paid back for all the work that had gone into reaching this amazing place.
My paddling experience encapsulates some of the ways of being and acting that are essential for successfully navigating the challenging waters of our careers, corporations, lives and relationships:
• Vision and Goals: Decide where you want to go and what you want to accomplish.
• Strategy and Action: Set the correct course to get there. Do what is necessary to stay the course (here: keep paddling, using the most efficient stroke)--or adjust if you need to.
• Focus. Keep your eyes and mind trained on your destination.
• Determination. Don’t waver in holding the course and propelling yourself forward toward your destination.
• Trust. Believe in yourself and your inner leader. You are resourceful, creative and strong. You have what it takes!
• Courage. Challenge yourself to do something that pushes your comfort zone…the rewards are worth it.
• Strength. Be aware of and access your unique experience, resources, skills and strengths.
• Support. Create support systems in case you get off course or go over (here: my experienced friend with his boat. In our careers and lives, support systems include our professional and personal networks, colleagues, mentors and coaches).
• Joy. Enjoy both the journey and the destination! :)