They looked liked ants, even through the high-powered spotting scope. Two tiny dots on the 6000′ sheer, icy face of Mt. Hunter.
Then an impasse. A dead end. The route would go no further. The obstacle insurmountable. Retreat the only possibility. Back to the place of beginning. Back to start it all again.
The next effort sometimes would go better. And sometimes not. Sometimes they would advance a few pitches closer to their summit. And sometimes, every route they choose would thwart them.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
In our businesses, our creative endeavors, our athletic pursuits, our relationships, indeed, in all of life, obstacles abound. Sometimes we can muscle through them, forge the way. Sometimes not.
Sometimes it’s a dead end. Turn around we must.
And that’s ok.
To stand indecisive on an icy ledge is to invite catastrophe. The same is true in life.
We need to move. Even when we don’t know the way.
Perhaps especially when we don’t know the way.
We need to try. We need to act. We need to overcome.
We can choose to stand in indecisive terror. Or we can forge ahead.
Every way that doesn’t work is a lesson, a key to understanding a way that might.
Every way that doesn’t work is one step closer to the way that will.
The dead ends force us to face our fears and our frustrations.
Our darkest demons meet us there
Yet the dead ends make us stronger, wiser. More discerning. More tolerant and patient.
And, often, what looks like a dead end is really a doorway into an new dimension of our lives. New opportunities. New possibilities.
We are called to practice what Jim Collins in Good to Great calls “The Stockdale Paradox”: Great leaders acknowledge the current realities and don’t pull any punches. But at the same time, they have an unwavering belief that they will ultimately prevail.
It’s curious to me that in the mountains, the dead ends are often just part of the grand adventure. Gathered later ’round the fire, they glow with epic valor and gallantry in the re-telling. Desperate measures taken. Dragons slain. Challenges met and overcome. Fresh courage hewn to meet the dawn to come.
Perhaps we need the dead ends in our lives as well, even though it doesn’t really feel that way.
As we watched our comrades through the scope, we so often wanted to cry out, “No! Not there! A waste of time! Turn back now! Go the other way!”
Of course they couldn’t hear us. But even if they could, would they have listened?