I’ve been climbing mountains since my first trip up Rabbit Peak in the Anza Borrego Desert as a Boy Scout, where I learned that a summit view is worth miles of discomfort and sweat. There have been many peaks since including Mt. Whitney several times, which at 14,494 feet is the tallest summit in the contiguous 48 states. Every summit trek follows essentially the same routine: 1) First decide on a destination, a particular summit that you hope to attack, 2) Plan your route and map the trail, 3) Train in preparation, 4) Execute the plan, 5) Don’t let aches, pains, bears or thin air stop you, 6) Enjoy the view from the top! Well prepared with plan in hand, most trips start with enthusiasm in the parking lot, looking up a long trail with the summit far out of sight. They often end in a struggle for breath, lifting one aching leg after another in slow plod toward the peak. The last hour of a climb is as much a mental effort as a physical one, demanding determination and commitment to succeed. A very small percentage of the population gets to experience the reward of “bagging a peak” and the exhilaration that comes with reaching a lofty goal.
For me, the process and adventure of climbing to the top of a mountain reflects the journey of life, compressed into the time it takes to get up and down the hill. Set a goal, plan, train, execute, persist, celebrate! Do it again next month. Life is much the same, with little peaks and big peaks; school assignments, band competitions, Scouting achievements, college, work, family, church, or personal fitness. Above average performance in any of these areas requires setting goals, figuring out how to fill the gap between where you are today and the final objective, learning the skills necessary, consistently working the plan every day, never giving up regardless of how difficult the effort, and building on lessons learned from prior successes and failures.
Sadly, few people live deliberately, perhaps as few as stand on top of mountains. As playwright Oscar Wilde said: “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” My challenge to you kids, is to choose to live with purpose and intent, rather than merely exist and consume space.