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Staying on my mountain

For those times when we find ourselves comparing – wondering “why not me?” – wishing we had that job – wanting what someone else has – feeling like in the race to our dream, we’re coming in last. For those who are constantly distracted by what others are doing. This one’s for you.

What a mountain climber taught me about success

Vertical lessons with Manley Feinberg

So I have this friend who also happens to be a rock star speaker and amazing storyteller. His name is Manley Feinburg Go check him out when you’re through reading this post. He has had an amazing life with incredible adventures climbing mountains. We’re talking BIG mountains – like the kind it takes days and days to just climb up. The kind of mountains that you strap a cot to the side to sleep in and hope you don’t roll over. I am fascinated and terrified as I listen to his stories about having a hobby that is so life-threatening.

Creating a plan isn’t as important as dedicated daily FOCUS on that plan.

In every journey that Manley takes us on, there is a common consistent theme – FOCUS. As a mountain climber, your success (and even your life) depends on staying focused on where you are going. There is no place for distractions. Time spent looking around you at others is wasted time unless they fit specifically into your plan.

When you’re a mountain climber, nothing matters except the mountain that you are on. You don’t look at who has a bigger mountain. You don’t look at who is higher up than you. In fact, all other mountains are irrelevant. One misstep and you will fall. Same goes for business. I know, because every time I take my eye off my mountain, I stumble.

Kelly Swanson

When I lose focus, I lose business

If I had a theme for this year, and last year, actually, it’s this:

Stay On My Mountain

You might think these words are soft and elusive, holding only enough value to make a great kitchen magnet. But these words to me have a very real business application. One misstep costs me money. I’ll show you how.

For years I had lusted over a certain speaking opportunity. Many of my friends had gotten the honor of speaking at this XYZ event. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason I wanted it. The money was impressive, but not more impressive than other opportunities. The gig was a “feather in your cap” among speakers, but not necessarily that admired outside our little group. And some of my friends who did this gig even claimed that it wasn’t a fun job to do, and maybe not even worth it. But fear of missing out struck me hard, and I had put it on my radar as one of those jobs worth pursuing.

I spent years and too many hours figuring out how to get this job. I was pitched and rejected. Pitched and rejected. Pitched and rejected. So I wrote the story in my head that said, “I must not be good enough for them.”

XYZ gig was another mountain in the landscape of my career. I was fine before – climbing my own mountain – creating my own path. And then I stopped and looked over at that big mountain off in the distance, and all the cool people climbing that one. I took my eye off my path. And every moment that followed was wasted energy – was a moment taken away from my business – from the clients who were already being attracted to me. I took my eye off the ball. And we all know what happens in sports when you take your eye off the ball. It kills your game.


Focus on what you want to happen in your business, not what is happening in someone else’s

I went on about my business, getting clarity, understanding the gifts I bring, paying attention to who was receiving those gifts. I was climbing my mountain and growing stronger every year. Occasionally I would stop and look over at that XYZ mountain and gaze longingly at it. But I stopped trying to figure out how to get there. I began to focus on the seeds I had planted. And then out of nowhere, it happened. Okay, so maybe not that dramatic. But still.

I was hosting a workshop – doing what I do – teaching what I love – climbing my mountain – in the zone. Weeks after the workshop I receive an email. The attendee had just gone to his own industry’s conference, and had sent an email to the people in charge of education telling them that they need to book Kelly Swanson to come teach their people her Story Formula. Ready for the cool part?

It was the XYZ company!

Want to know something even more interesting?

It was NOT for the same job all my friends had done.

At first I had a moment – a negative moment – where I allowed myself to feel less than because it wasn’t that mountain I could see in the distance all those years. It was a different job. Nobody would even know I did it. No feather in the cap. It felt like a smaller mountain.

But this one fit MY mountain.

That other job was one I could do, but THIS one was a job I was born to do.

Once I was able to climb down from my high horse and take a humble pill, I realized something very important. THIS mountain had the chance to bring me WAY more money than the other mountain, and possibly a sustained relationship that would last for years and provide more value than I could put a number on. While the mountain looked smaller, it was actually bigger. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that it synced with MY mountain.


I learned a very valuable lesson: There is far more money in my own mountain than in the quest to climb someone else’s.

Now let’s get a little bit spiritual…just for a minute

I believe that each of us is given a set of gifts – skills, talents, wisdom, relationships, and opportunities. These gifts will be used to create our own unique mountain. Our legacy. Our footprint on the world.

We decide what that mountain will look like and how it will serve the world and the people in it. It doesn’t matter how big it is, because there are no other mountains to compare it to. It’s ours. It’s the mountain that takes us to the life we want to create. Our only standard of measure is whether we are where we want to be. The other mountains are irrelevant. Even when seen from above, our Maker sees countless mountains as far as the eye can see – and there is no value in one being the highest.

To take your focus off your mountain is to spend time and energy focusing on someone else’s mountain. It robs you of your joy, and it robs the world of the mountain that only YOU can create. And I think it actually makes you less money.

Maybe, like me, you’ll go into 2019 with laser focus – knowing what mountain you need to climb – looking around only to see what is necessary to move you forward on your own path. Deciding for yourself how high to climb, and who to take on the journey with you. And I hope that when the temptation hits to see that XYZ opportunity out there, that you’ll smile, wish that climber well on his journey, and whisper the words, “Today I’ll stay on my mountain.”

Now I have to go. I’ve got a fun climb ahead.

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