Monday, April 06, 2009

Switchbacks


Defined by Merriam-Webster, a switchback is a zigzag road, trail, or section of railroad tracks for climbing a steep hill. On Grouse Mountain, in Vancouver BC, there is a trail called The BCMC. Those who have hiked it know that it can be more pleasant of a trail than its neighbor, The Grouse Grind. The ‘Grind’ as people call it, is an almost vertical hike up 853 meters that makes one feel like they are climbing stairs up the CN tower except some of these steps are high as ones waist. I often hear people enjoying the BCMC because it has switchbacks going back and forth, slowly ascending the same distance as the ‘Grind’. Switchbacks allow for one to enjoy the journey by taking small breaks and seeing more along the way. Life is like a steep climb (March 9th Swimupstream titled Facing Adversity) with constant switchbacks that parallel life’s detours and provide experience and lessons to learn. What interests me is that we have a choice to take the switchbacks or ‘Grind’ it all the way to the top.

Today’s blog combines perspective with a personal account of switchbacks that I have experienced or sometimes that I have chosen not to. I have always been a goal-oriented person, So much so that at times I would skip out on social events or steer clear of unnecessary conversations just to get closer to my goals and avoid wasting valuable time. There was always the feeling of urgency over me and sometimes when I was with others I felt extremely bored just wanting to get back to the ‘Grind’ of an unfinished project. I remember many times when I was young leaving a party early so that I could go home and practice drawing letters. I wanted to be one of the best graffiti artists in the city! And so I became… In recent years I found myself to remain similar in some ways in that I was still so focused on achievement that I did not allow myself to be sensitive to other things and people around me. When bumping into someone I would often be curt when asked; “how are you doing?” just so that I could stay on task. Often when asked to come to a party I would say “not tonight” and stay home to work in effort to get ahead with my career. And so I am…

It was never because I was socially inept for wanting to get back to my desk, nor was it that a million ideas were in my head waiting to be written down, but it was more due to my impatience - always just wanting to get better and better as soon as possible and reach goal after goal. After all, I had never found anything to come naturally to me without a lot of hard work and discipline. So it was accepted that time is of the essence and I must not sit around if I am to accomplish something. Somewhere along the way I realized that I was missing some valuable insight from not allowing great conversations to develop and not appreciating some of life’s simplest things while taking the long way home. I am trying to change that…

I have decided to embrace encounters with others and observe details on the way to and from home or towards goals. The other night I went out to have dinner with a friend who brought someone who I know casually. I usually will not go to many dinners in effort to stay with my financial goals but decided to go for it and as many friends have told me “live a little”. The late afternoon and evening were great! We talked about relationships, marriage, shared ideas on how to become successful, the law of attraction with personal examples we have all experienced as well as some philanthropy work that they do overseas which was both inspiring and encouraging. It was a successful evening that was well worth going out for and probably benefiting me in the long run. I got some great ideas during the night that are without a doubt going to help me towards my goals. It turns out that it is not just about knocking off goal after goal (and then die) without a few pauses and detours along the way to learn and observe.

On the path to each goal there are switchbacks disguised as conversations with others or roads less traveled. And it is these unexpected experiences that provide us with greater understanding, insight, perspective, wisdom and even skill to better our overall characters. This does not mean that every night you should go party or that you should take an extra 30 minutes each night to get home because at the end of the day, we do need to create some action after each thought. Once in a while, take the time to ride the switchbacks of life and know that you are not coming off task but simply gathering some great ideas for the bigger picture. Live and learn all while being able to go wide but staying centered. Have fun with life!

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