Updated: May 9, 2019
This morning, I decided to hike one of the Kennesaw Mountains trails with my 20-month old daughter. It wasn't long before what was supposed to be a regular climb soon became a journey full of lessons. Here are 7 observations I made on the way up to the peak.
On the Way to the Top:
The road/trail to the top is long and winding. Literally! Experience: The trail looped around the mountain so that it was difficult to see the top. And because of the loops, it was also difficult to see what was ahead until you came to the bend. It was almost as if the "reward" was being revealed loop by loop. At one point I wanted to ask those descending how much further we had to go, but I didn't because not knowing added to the excitement. Lesson: The journey to the top was a reminder that the attainment of anything worth having is never easy. It is a journey full of twists and turns, wondering, sweating, doubt, toiling, and staying the course. Those who stay the course, win the race!
The journey is lonely at times. Have you ever heard the saying, it is lonely at the top? At no time was this as evident as it was during the climb today. Experience: There were points in the journey where all I could hear were the songs of nature. It was just me and my baby (who was quiet for the most part) in a stroller I was struggling to push up the mountain. Whenever a human-being appeared behind me or up ahead, I breathed a sigh of relief. At times, I was scared, especially when there was no one else around but the person behind me or up ahead. I think I prayed for safety and made eye-contact today, more than I ever have. Lesson: The journey to the top/success can get lonely sometimes, especially if you're a trailblazer. Don't turn back because it is lonely and scary on the way to the top. If you keep at it, eventually someone will show up ahead of you or behind you. Some might even stop to offer you company.
At times, you will feel like you don't belong. It's all in your head. Experience: At one point during the climb, little miss decided to suddenly scream her lungs out because I forgot to bring some snacks. I kept smiling apologetically at the few people we encountered - that apologetic smile mothers give when their children are misbehaving in public. After I was able to calm her down, I began to feel calmer too. And only then did I question my discomfort. After all, we were outdoors, in nature. If she couldn't scream her head off here, then where else is she allowed to do that? On the way down, she had another melt down and I let her have a "bawl" with it. No guilt! Lesson: On your way to the top, you will question, many times, whether you belong on this journey. Am I smart enough? Do I have the right tools, the personality, the talent, etc. to be successful at this? You will feel judged when no one is judging you. You will feel small when no one is asking you to do so. And most of all, you will feel like an imposter, apologizing for having the audacity to think you (with your screaming baby) can climb up the mountain. Don't be! You deserve to get up there too! It is free for all, not just a chosen few. You just have to want it enough to tune out the negative forces.
Many people are welcoming and friendly, some are not. It's not about you. Experience: I noticed both on the way up and on the way down, not everyone I greeted or smiled at returned the kind gesture. Some kept a straight face while others simply looked away. But I did not allow that to affect my disposition, nor my goal to make it to the top. Lesson: This one is quite straightforward. On your journey to the top, you will encounter those who will return favors, smiles and greetings, as well as those who will act like you don't exist. Take what you can from the positive people and don't allow the negative ones to slow you down with self-doubt or because of a need to be liked or noticed.
There will be obstacles, many of them. Such as crying babies who want their snacks. Experience: When my daughter first started screaming because she couldn't have a snack, I considered turning around. However, I was also determined to make it to the top and not even her tantrums were going to stop me. So I stopped the stroller, looked her in her eye and made it clear that "we are making it up this mountain, snack or no snack. It's not like you're starving, you'll be okay. Now hush and let's do this!" It worked! A few seconds later, we were singing the ABC song and slowing keeping the pace. Lesson: Don't let the obstacles stop you! They may slow you down, on several occasions, but NEVER allow the obstacles to stop you or make you turn around. I can't tell you the number of times I've considered going back to a corporate 9-5 job, but I keep on keeping on, and you can too.
There will be distractions too. Oh, the views were breathtaking! Experience: Several times, I stopped to take pictures of the landscape. The view of the city of Atlanta in the distance was a beautiful sight. We stopped for a few minutes to listen to the sounds coming from a miniature waterfall. We also stopped to watch red baby squirrels chase each other up and down the trees. We observed beautiful rock formations and canon balls and people walking in the woods on different trails. It made the journey longer, but enjoyable. Lesson: Such is the experience on the journey to the top. Oh the distractions these days. You open your laptop to work on your business plan or book or to update your portfolio, and, two hours later, you realize you've spent an hour and thirty minutes watching "Hey Steve" videos on Facebook. It happens to me all the time. And then we wonder why someone has made it to the top of the mountain before us. Focus is the name of the game! If you tune out the distractions, you'll get there too - eventually.
It feels good at the top. Oh yes, it does!!! Experience: When we made it to the peak, oh the feeling of victory was immense. We stopped to take pictures and properly enjoy the view - no rush or guilt. We could finally relax and take it all in. Lesson: We are all striving to make it to the top. To winning. To finally feeling victorious. But we will never get there if we don't stay the course up the long and winding road, endure the pain and sacrifices, get rid of doubt and fear, overcome the obstacles and avoid all distractions.
My hope is that everyone reading this will be encouraged to keep the pace and make it to the peak of your mountain (whatever that vision is). The journey down the mountain was an entirely different experience. Share your thoughts on what lessons you have learned on your journey so far. Can you relate to some of my experiences? If so, which ones?