At 9100 feet, Crowsnest Mountain dominates the valley which bears it’s name. Three times I’ve proudly stood on it’s summit; the last being 30 years ago. August 22, 2014 was to be the fourth, but I failed!
It is a deceptive mountain: it’s imposing 3000 foot cliffs give it an almost impenetrable appearance, but with the correct route it is just a strenuous hike, with only two 100 foot sections that require any basic climbing skills. Six months before the climb I had taking up running to build cardio-vascular endurance, plus embarking on a summer of weekend hikes to re-build some of the stamina of my youth. Mentally I knew it would be harder and longer than it was 30 years ago. I was prepared physically and mentally for the climb, but not the failure!
At the beginning think what may be the end. tweet
The day was perfect for a climb: neither too hot nor too cold, just the right mix of sun, cloud & wind. I was joined by my wife, sister-in-law, niece and her partner. We made good time, yet within 300 feet of the summit, completely spent and holding up the rest of the group, it was painfully obvious that I was not going to make the summit, at least not without jeopardizing the safety of the descent. Therefore, while the others proceeded to the summit, my sister-in-law chose to stay with me, sacrificially giving up her opportunity to summit, because on a mountain you don’t leave anyone alone. While we sat and rested, I felt fatigue, embarrassed and angry at myself, at my failure.
On the descent, I kept wondering why? Why could I not finish the climb? Why had my energy complete drained? I KNEW I was strong enough to make the climb. I knew I had the skill and energy…yet I didn’t!
The others all tried to reassure me: to point out that at 52 years of age, I shouldn’t expect to do what I did at 20, although they chose not to remind me that 2 years earlier my 80 year old father-in-law had made summit. It was nice thought, but they were beguiling: I KNEW I failed, I just couldn’t understand why!
A couple of weeks later when I was putting my pack away for the season, I found the answer. Two weeks before the climb I had taken a couple of friends up to Stanley Glacier: a beautiful, but modest, hike about 1/4 the climb of Crowsnest. On the way down, I had packed out 3 “souvenir” rocks, (together weighing about 30 pounds) for our water pond at home. I found those rocks still in the bottom of my pack after the Crowsnest climb.
I was prepared for the climb…just not the added 30 pound burden. It was that unseen burden that stole my plans, vanquished my strength and defeated me. And worse, robbed another of the opportunity to fulfill their dream.
Failure is never planned for; it hides deep in our hopes and dreams, coiled like a cobra waiting for the right moment to spring forth and strike down our plans.
Success on my climb would have been assured had I not been carrying that burden. Failure is most often the result of some burden we’re carrying. We start out pursuing our dream with vigour and confidence and all that we need to succeed. Yet deep in our lives is an unseen burden, something from our past, that weighs us down; that we won’t let go. It can even be something good some past success, that we hold onto and measure ourselves against. This burden is almost imperceivable at first, but over time its weight drains our energy, our enthusiasm or confidence. And even though we push on, we determine not to give into the fatigue we fight failure with all we got, sooner or later we realize we have nothing left. We’re spent and failure won the day…all because of the burden we carry.
So how DO we climb mountains? How DO we fulfil our plans and dreams?
The unknown writer of an ancient book gave us the key when they wrote: “...throw off everything that hinders and so easily entangles…and run with perseverance the race marked out for [you]…”
We need plans, preparation and perseverance to fulfil our dreams, but all of that is for naught, if we don’t also purge ourselves of that which can bring defeat: Fear of past failures, Over-confidence fuelled by past successes, etc.
To be successful, plan for failure! tweet
For success to happen we need to plan for failure.
By this I mean, before setting out on your dream, give honest consideration to those burdens you have that can trip you up or rob your strength.
Planning includes self-assessment and dealing with those burdens. It may be as simple as identifying a burden that can’t be dealt with right now. But by identifying it ahead of time, you adjust your preparations to include it. Had I known that I was carrying an extra 30 pounds I would have packed more food for energy; I would have prepared for the extra weight. It’s the unseen burden that kills. Self-assessment is a healthy practice that frees us to move forward.
Purge these burdens; Lay aside that which can hinder, distract or entangle you and then step out with perseverance toward your dream.
What holds you back from your dreams? What are you carrying that will drain your energy and focus? What dreams or plans do you want to pursue?