I’m not afraid of heights…

The real question isn’t about fear of heights or fear of ladders.  It’s about your definition of the higher ground…

…but I am afraid of ladders.

When I heard someone at the gym saying this to his workout buddy, he was referring to the reason he doesn’t put up Christmas lights.  He hates climbing on ladders.

For the record, I’m not too keen on climbing ladders either.

My immediate thought was how easy it is to dream of and visualize reaching the heights of our chosen field.  The hard part is the ladder.

Choosing the right ladder, or series of ladders.

Our ladder needs to be sturdy enough to take our weight and the weight of everyone else making the same climb.

It’s easy to pick the nearest ladder or the one where we can see the top.  But that’s not always the right one.

And, once we choose, how long should we climb before jumping to another ladder?

The real question isn’t about fear of heights or fear of ladders.  It’s about your definition of the higher ground.  Your definition of success.  The “why” for your climb.

Are these easy questions to answer?  Definitely, not.

Here’s the tricky part:  your answers to these fundamental questions of why will morph over time.  Something you thought was important in high school isn’t important when you’re 25, or 30.  Similarly, something that’s important when you’re 30 isn’t so important when you’re 50, or 65.

Our answers also adapt to our surroundings, to the people we see the most.  It’s human nature.  We adapt to survive.  We compromise to fit with those around us.  Our perceptions are shaped by what’s closest.

The good news is that with the internet, blog sites, news sites, books, videos, and podcasts, the definition of “closest” has changed.  While it’s true that we still work closely with the ten people that are near us, we have access to a universe of ideas and perspectives far beyond our “local” reach.  All we have to do is choose to look.

What about heights and climbing ladders?  They matter.  But not as much as why you’re climbing in the first place.

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”  –Stephen Covey

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Finding the Next Higher Gear

That’s when I noticed my habit of shifting to a lower gear as the trail gets steeper ahead…


If you haven’t tried mountain biking, you don’t know what you’re missing.  It combines many of the best things in life:

Being outdoors, hard work, freedom, speed, some risk, and fun.

Like many sports, it’s also a great way to find your limits, and extend them a bit.

Mountain bike trails are either climbing or descending.  They may be smooth, rough, tight, rocky, rutted, or any combination of these.

Steep downhills have always scared me.  Way too fast for my taste.  That impossible battle with gravity, choosing the safest line, avoiding rocks, and leaning far enough back to avoid being pitched over the handlebars, make most steep downhills a game of survival for me.  Definitely outside my comfort zone.

I prefer climbing.  Give me a long, steep climb and I’m happy.  Tired, but happy.  Sure, gravity’s against me, but it’s not trying to throw me over the handlebars, or off the mountain side.  I get to focus on my pedaling rhythm, staying within myself, and seeing how fast I can climb the next steep hill.  It puts my mind in a quiet place.

Until someone goes around, gives a wave, and climbs out of sight!  He may be half my age, but that’s no excuse.  He’s found a way to put both himself and his bike in the next higher gear (or maybe a few higher gears).

That’s when I noticed my habit of shifting to a lower gear as the trail gets steeper ahead.  I haven’t reached the steeper section, and yet I’m already downshifting.  One could call this good preparation.

Or, fear.  Fear of being caught off-guard by the steeper trail.  Fear of actually finding my limits.  Fear that I can’t handle the next higher gear.  Fear that I’ll blow-up and have to stop, gasping for air.

Napolean Hill was right when he said, “the only limitation is that which one sets up in one’s own mind.”

As I watched that guy climb out of sight, I decided to experiment with the next higher gear.  Catching him wasn’t my goal.  That wasn’t going to happen.  Finding my limit became my new goal.  Whenever my habit said I should downshift, I purposely clicked to the next higher gear and left it there.  Suffice it to say, I found my limit a few times.

More often than not, I merely climbed faster, and clicked to even higher gears.

Since I was climbing, I had time to think.  The question that kept rolling around my head was whether I have the same habit of preemptively downshifting in other areas of my life.

Time to find out.



Photo Credit


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