“Mountaintops inspire leaders but valleys mature them.” (J. Philip Everson)
The image of a mountain peak soaring high above is one that has inspired men and women throughout the ages. Wonderful, magical, mystical things happen on mountains. The very idea of being at the top of a mountain inspires people to risk life and limb just to be able to say they have been there.
In my life I have climbed only one mountain. While on a Boy Scout trip to Camp Daniel Boone in 2002, I climbed Cold Mountain in North Carolina. The summit of Cold Mountain is at 6,030 feet above sea level. From where we started the hike we climbed about 1,200 feet. I was in pretty good shape at the time, I wasn’t far above my lowest weight from my 2000-2001 weight loss. Of all the many miles I have hiked in my life, by far that was the most difficult hike of my life. It was grueling and difficult to get to that summit. The feeling of exhilaration to look out over the valley, and be above some low-hanging clouds, was incredible.
Whether I am talking about reaching that literal summit, or the figurative summits of accomplishment, the feelings are similar. It feels great to be on top of the peak, and know that I have reached a significant goal.
The fact is that seldom does anyone stay at the summit for very long. It is a momentary experience. Soon after being at the top of Cold Mountain we started our descent back to camp. At the end, it was a long and hard day, and I was sore for a few days to come.
We spend a lot more time working in the valley than we do ascending or being on the mountain. As a Project Manager, the summit of the mountain is the celebration after a successful delivery. That celebration might last an hour or two. In between those celebrations is where the hard work happens.
As a leader I learn, grow and mature by working in the valley. In the valley is where the hard work happens. It is here that the daily struggles occur, hardships are endured, and progress is made.
Today my reflection is about all the time I am spending working in the valley. I know that the work here is hard, but I also know that it is from this hard work that I grow and mature as a person, and as a leader. The actions I take, and the decisions I make here are what define me. Today I am embracing some good valley work. Soon enough we will climb to the peak, but for now I must work here.