There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb
– Miley Cyrus
Some of you may recall this powerful song performed by Miley Cyrus, which was popular in 2009. The song celebrates the struggle of the journey rather than the destination and reminds us that there is so much to learn from effort itself.
In the book, Mastery, by George Leonard, he refers to the space between when one reaches one accomplishment and the next as a “plateau.” He writes: “The achievement of goals is important. But the real juice of life, whether it be sweet or bitter, is to be found not nearly so much in the products of our efforts as in the process of living itself, in how it feels to be alive…If our life is a good one, a life of mastery, most of it will be spent on the plateau. If not, a large part of it may well be spent in restless, distracted ultimately self-destructive attempts to escape the plateau.”
The references to “the climb” and “the plateau” are rather counter-cultural in a society that wants the quick fix. We’ve become addicted to get rich quick schemes, quick weight loss diets, and other ideas that capture one’s imagination to side-step the hard work that it takes to get to a new peak or sometimes to even maintain our current level of achievement.
I remember when I was in school, so much emphasis was placed on getting to the next grade so I could go to middle school, then completing middle school so I could go to high school, and high school so I could go to college, then on to graduate school. There was a strong belief that once one had their Bachelors, Masters, or Doctoral degree, they were “there.” But most of us now know, there is no “there” there. There is no finish line to learning. If there ever were one, it has disappeared. In its place is a need to upskill in order to remain relevant. We must find the joy in the journey of learning for the learning and growing itself, or prepare ourselves for constant disappointment when facing the next challenge.
What plateau are you or your children on currently and how might you embrace the potentially normal, mundane moments of this plateau? Again, from George Leonard: “To love the plateau is to love the eternal now, to enjoy the inevitable spurs of progress and the fruits of accomplishment, then serenely to accept the new plateau that waits just beyond them. To love the plateau is to love what is most essential and enduring in your life.”