When I couldn’t mount the simplest of boulders without their help, I was ready to tell Kyle, Jim, DiMee and Rodney, “Please go on without me.” After all, I had just met them and didn’t want to slow them down or hold them back.
There are many types of boulders and mountains in life aren’t there? Many, like Mt. George which our group had set out to climb, are actual mountains.
Countless more are metaphorical. And a metaphorical mountain can look every bit as impossibly steep and treacherous as Mt. George did to me.
Is there a metaphorical mountain in your life that, at least at this moment, seems impossibly steep? Is it a career mountain? A relationship mountain? A financial mountain? Some other type?
One of my new hiking buddies, Kyle, immediately interrupted my defeatist thought process by saying, “You can make it up Mt. George. We will help you.”
At this moment, I had a very important decision to make. I had to determine if the group seemed like it could make good on their offer of help.
If none of them had ever climbed a mountain before or if they were super afraid of heights, it would have been important for their safety, and my own, to politely decline their offer.
I quickly assessed multiple factors and determined that this group could in fact deliver on their offer to assist me up the mountain.
BUT, next, I had to decide if I was actually going to take them up on it.
On many occasions when someone has said, “I will help you,” I have immediately told myself something like, “they are just being nice” or, “I SHOULD be able to do this MYSELF,” and issued a polite, “No, Thank You.”
When faced with an offer of help I could truly use, however, I wonder how many times I’ve also given a polite “No, Thank You”?
Once I found the courage and humility to take my new friends up on their offer of help, help me they did. They were all so patient. Kyle lent a hand more times than I can count. Jim climbed behind me in case I got into trouble. DiMee and Rodney encouraged me to keep going.
Never once did any them say, “You don’t have the skills to do this, so just wait here for us to get back.”
Never once did any of them echo my fears that said, “Jason, you can’t do this.”
How many times do we tell ourselves, “I can’t,” when the people around us are saying, “You can”?
In this environment of practical help and abundant encouragement, I found the strength not to play my “my umbilical cord got kinked at birth so my coordination just isn’t up to task” card. A card which I’ve used countless times to excuse myself from attempting to climb many mountains that lay before me.
Do you have a similar card you often play?
If I hadn’t been willing to graciously accept help, I would not have made it to the summit of Mt. George. Worse, I could have fallen and seriously injured myself.
It’s important to acknowledge that I did my absolute Imperfect Best to work with my friends as they assisted me, doing as much as I could on my own. My attitude was not “There’s no way I can do this, so please carry me up the mountain.”
Said another way, I did not exhaust the generous people helping me by saying, or thinking, “Since you’re already helping me, can you go ahead and do all the work for me?”
Carrying me up the mountain without my help would have likely been a perilous expectation they may not have been able to fulfill.
Reaching the top of Mt. George was a wonderful feeling!
Well, I should say almost to the top. We were maybe a hundred feet from the summit when Kyle advised that I would have to jump between two rocks to climb further. He thought it might be beyond my capacity and I was more than happy to heed his advice. I made it infinitely further than I could have alone and beheld a view I would have missed otherwise. In that moment, I realized that part of the art of climbing is being honest about your upper limit on any given day, that is, the actual limit of your abilities or the furtherest point within your capacity to reach. In my case it was a hundred feet below the summit. For some of you it may be short of sprouting wings and taking flight.
Mountains, both real and metaphorical, are meant to be climbed step by step. Some steps require more help than others. Since that day on Mt. George, my aim has been to apply the lessons I learned to steps I could use to climb my metaphorical mountains. I invite you do the same with yours:
1 – Identify a metaphorical mountain in your life that, at least at this moment, seems impossibly steep.
2 – Have you received offers, or could there be help available, to aide you in climbing this mountain? Offers might come from friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, or even people you just met for the first time. Keep in mind, you can also seek help on a nifty little tool called the internet.
3 – Whether seeking help or accepting an offer of help, determine if your source has the necessary skills to actually be of assistance.
4 – If they are qualified, notice any voices in your head that are afraid to ask or wish to decline out of habit or pride. Would you be saying “no” to help you could truly use?
5 – Upon acceptance, graciously contribute to the help you are receiving by doing whatever you can do.
6 – Be honest about your upper limit on any given day.
7 – Once you get to the top, remember to savor the view.
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JASON FREEMAN is a Professional Speaker and the proud owner of a Speech Impediment. He is also the author of “Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing My Imperfect Best” and a Perseverance Coach.
He excites and encourages his audience to break through the barriers of their own limitations using a method he created, called “doing your Imperfect Best ™”.
His Imperfect TEDx Talk can be viewed here.