By: Joe Delaney
I recently had the opportunity to celebrate a dear friend’s milestone birthday. She is a unique cat and didn’t want this to be just some ho-hum affair. She wanted an experience to remember.
Early on there was discussion of going to Jazz Fest in New Orleans but later it turned to climbing a mountain – Mt. Hood, located 75 miles due east of Portland. It stands 11,239 feet above sea level and is clearly visible from most points around Portland and the surrounding areas.
As the date approached, there was uneasy email chatter about physical conditioning, equipment, who was going and who wanted nothing to do with it. Later, the discussion turned to the goal. People had different ideas about what they wanted to accomplish. Some wanted to summit, others just wanted to make the birthday memorable, and some only wanted to survive. The tension was palpable.
I realized we needed to agree on what the goal was or we weren’t going to get anywhere. So I took the opportunity to engage the group on the subject, and after much discussion we settled on making a safe trip and an uber-memorable birthday for our friend. If we were to summit, that would just be icing on her cake.
Fast forward to the evening of April 30th. We set off from the Timberline Lodge at 11 pm and hiked into the night. We were blessed with great weather and wonderful guides. By 5:30 am, dawn was approaching and we were at the Hogsback, a long, narrow ridge that was the final stop before pushing through to the summit. The snow condition was very good and the weather was still in check. We opted to take the more challenging route to the summit via the Pearly Gates, a steep, narrow chute of ice-encrusted rock. Spirits were high and breathing was heavy as the summit grew near. We pushed through the Pearly Gates and made it to the summit by 7 am. The group was ecstatic. We shared high fives and birthday hugs all around.
In any major endeavor, it’s good to be ready, know where you’re going and be prepared for potential setbacks or detours. It’s easy to get lost on the way up a mountain. A little bit of preparation goes a long way.
The Pearly Gates
When helping my clients prepare for the future I always ask the same thing I asked the climbing group: what’s the goal? It does as little good to say you want to be “financially healthy” as it does to say you might go climb a mountain one day. How high do you want to go, and by when? What preparations do we need to make for the journey?
That’s how we begin to climb. As we go along, we remain flexible and adapt to the conditions around us. It’s never as simple as charting a course from point A to point B. Sometimes the weather is favorable and sometimes it isn’t. We may need to take additional steps or adjust our expectations to stay safe.
We never take our eyes off the goal, though, because sometimes we accomplish even more than we expect. It was the simple act of setting a reasonable goal to be safe and uniquely celebrate a milestone birthday that started us on our journey up Mt. Hood. Without a goal in place, the right tools and open hearts, we never would have had the chance to surpass our own expectations and see the breathtaking 360-degree view from the mountaintop.
That’s the experience I want for my clients. What’s your goal? Let’s set it, set out, and surpass it together.
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