That was was my older son, stuck halfway up a rock wall.
“Then come back down.”
That was me, on the ground below, watching him.
“But I want to get to the top!”
Me, too, son. Me, too.
It’s funny how one thing can suddenly help you see another more clearly…which brings me back to that rock wall.
In the ever-escalating competition that is elementary school birthday parties these days, my sons and I were at a rock-climbing gym. They had done a little bit of climbing before, but mostly on miniature versions of these walls.
But this wasn’t some playground wall. This was a real one. And T wanted to go all the way up. So, he put on the helmet and harness and started climbing. Hand here, hand there, guide rope hanging down behind. Find footing. Pull up.
At the halfway point, he’d wear out. “I’m tired.” “Then come back down.” “But I want to get to the top!”
And then he’d try again. “I’m tired.” “Then come back down.” “But I want to get to the top!”
You get the idea.
That’s when one of the staff stepped in: “Push with your legs! They’re stronger! Your hands aren’t built to hold you by themselves. Your hands are the guides. Your legs do the work.”
So, that’s what he did. Hand here, hand there. Find footing. Push up.
And he got to the top… which brings me back to how one thing can suddenly help you see another more clearly.
See, in our own ways, we all want to get to the proverbial “top.” Maybe it’s the top of a list, or your company, or your field. Maybe it’s some other goal you want to reach. But it’s up there, out there. And maybe you’re stuck halfway up and tired, too.
Prevailing wisdom tells us to keep reaching, keep climbing. And that’s not wrong. But that focus on the “top,” above and beyond what we’re doing to get there, can make the climb a heck of a lot harder than it has to be.
Why? Because, like my son, we’re not using what we have as much as we could be. T doesn’t rock climb. But he does walk and run a lot. So, like most humans, his legs are stronger than his arms.
And like him, we get so focused on the aspirational — going “beyond our comfort zone,” chasing the next new thing, striving for the top — we forget the actual.
The stuff you already have that can get us there. The muscles you’ve already built.
Here’s what we miss: because you’re using them all the time, those “muscles” are the strongest you have.
But the way to reach the top — without wearing out and giving up on the way — is to use what’s strong.
Keep your eyes on that goal.
Reach for new experiences that keep you on track.
But push forward from where you are. Use the muscles you’ve already built. The problems you solve. The truths that guide you. The skills you’ve developed over time.
And you’ll discover that what got you here will get you there.
In fact, that’s what the Red Thread is all about: a metaphorical guide rope for using what you already have to turn an idea (“I want to get to the top!”) into action (“I did it!”).
Now if only T’s guide rope had been red, this story would have truly perfect.
Maybe in future tellings, it will be….