In our minds, we’d all love some sustained, peaceful happiness. Coasting downhill on a bicycle feels pretty good. We like that feeling, especially when it’s contrasted against struggling to painfully pedal uphill. But, what good is the coast without the climb?
“When I was your age we walked fifteen miles uphill to school! Barefoot! In the snow! Both ways!” Not because the person stating the trope enjoyed it at the time, but because they’re enjoying lecturing it at you now. There are benefits to doing the work. Newton had it right with “what goes up must come down” (and so did Seth Godin). Some people just want to fantasize about the “down,” or the coasting, and that’s a mistake. We’ll never get there without climbing up first. It’s an important perspective to remember.
For our clients and our own careers, it helps to recall the different aspects of the climb that we take back down the hill with us later. We can look for the common element – the bike or our bare feet – which become badges of honor on the other side. For example, we might build up a healthy retirement account only to keep working and using it for supplemental income, and still look back with pride on all of those years of diligent saving. We might build our businesses only to turn towards consulting later in our careers to continue paying our experience forward. The effort of the climb can help determine the quality of the coast, so we should really focus on the effort.
What goes up does come back down, and it happens in all sorts of distinct ways. We can take pride in the bikes, the pedaling, the bare feet, the snow, and remember them no matter which side of the mountain we’re on. There’s no really great coast without a proper climb first, so dig in on that next step. It’s not just where we are and where we’re going, but where we’ve been. We want to share in those memories with others and recognize the effort. Enjoy the climb. And if you exaggerate it just a bit on the way back down, that’s OK too.