“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
— Sir Edmund Hillary, First Person to Summit Mount Everest
Nestled inside the high peaks of the Adirondack mountains, my producing partners and I recently taped a television pilot called A Climb to the TOP. When editing is complete, we will present this 45 minute episode to the networks and streaming services given our dogged determination to produce it into a docuseries.
Directed by Dominic DiMaria, the cast features Kenny Golde, Rose Aviles, Soundarya Balasubramani, and Ben Markham. The common thread among the cast members: A burning desire to confront career challenges and use them as a catalyst for personal transformation. To join the project, each committed to leave their old story behind and plot a course for their new career chapter. We filmed the episode in a rustic mountain lodge, and on a trail to the summit of Algonquin Peak near Lake Placid, NY. One of the state’s highest mountains, it was an 8 hour ascent to reach the top at 5,115 feet above sea level.
Helping me guide them and the wonderful crew was my friend Grace Vandecruze, a financial services executive and fellow mountaineer. Throughout the episode, we discussed with each cast member their fears, goals, and aspirations; helping them gain clarity as they considered a new story on a path to their next career mountain. As their coach and mountain guide, I sought to capture transformational moments on the mountain as a catalyst to help them make bold career moves despite the perils associated with colossal change.
During the climb, it was clear this project began on May 28, 1953. On that fateful day, newspapers around the globe communicated the same story, “Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay stood on top of the world and did what eleven prior expeditions failed to do. They achieved what had been considered the unachievable.” Nearly seventy years later, thousands of mountaineers have followed their lead and confidently scaled their way to the earth’s highest peak.
From humble roots as a beekeeper to inspiring hero, Hillary left the old story of “unattainable” behind, and immediately started writing his new story of limitless potential. Filled with courage, optimism, and hope, this momentous event ignited a change in mindset for all of us to believe in ourselves and achieve beyond any self-imposed limits.
Whether a proverbial mountain or the world’s tallest peak, your career ascent is a gigantic, fluid conversation you have with yourself. With each step, self-talk is either positive and productive, or negative and destructive. Either way, the story you tell yourself along the path can lift you to the top or drag you to the bottom.
Throughout the career journey, I hope you find the courage to face your fears and embrace the ambiguity and hardship that comes with stories of personal discovery. However, whatever and whoever you face, the most treacherous struggles you are likely to encounter are with yourself. You may also be conditioned to believe you cannot change. But, once you see change as a story to tell, the world begins to see you differently. By incinerating the old story, you free yourself to write the new one as you strive to exceed a different set of expectations.
I am blessed to have learned so many coaching principles taught by my friend Bob Litwin. As he writes in his extraordinary book, LIVE THE BEST STORY OF YOUR LIFE: A WORLD CHAMPION’S GUIDE TO LASTING CHANGE, my coaching techniques for the pilot episode let the power of each cast member’s story take the spotlight. The goal was to challenge them to think differently about the mountain ahead and provide a climate to feel empowered about their new direction. Then, to go out and live it.
With each step toward your new story, it is impossible not to change. Whether through visualization, blind faith, or embracing pain as fuel for change, there is potential for transformation in everyone. All I ask…open your heart to a world of endless possibilities and believe you can climb to new heights.
How will you put your old story behind you? What is the new story you start telling yourself? No matter your response to each question, you don’t have to climb this mountain alone. I am here to help.
Our dream is to bring A Climb to the TOP to television. As you watch it and relate to the cast member’s unique circumstances, write your new story. If you are uncertain that change is in you, consider the call to action by psychologist Carl Jung, “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
What will you choose to become? I hope you will tune in to A Climb to the TOP and internalize these lessons from the mountain. Then, become the person you write about in the new story. Not sure where to begin? Take that first step and adjust along the way. One day soon you will look back and joyfully say to yourself, “Look how far I have climbed.”