DITCH THE RUNGS
Where am I climbing?
Here’s the secret. This is real. Not clickbait. This little trick will smooth out all that inner turmoil that catches us off guard at the strangest moments.
- Get a million dollars.
- Invest in pork bellies
- Never starve a day in your life.
Okay, for real now:
When you hear the phrase “Climb the ladder to success” what goes through your mind?
One rung at a time, buddy.
There were days when climbing the ladder was the mental construct supporting everything I was doing. Then, through the advanced technology of daydreaming, my inner eye had a vision — part enlightenment, part exhaustion — that changed everything.
If words don’t fail me (odds are they will), my hope is to amplify this bolt of cerebral lightning so that you too can jump off the maddening ladder.
Setting the scene:
There used to be days when all the anxiety and stress came from wanting to climb, one rung or more, upward toward something better than the rung I was currently occupying.
Wherever you are in life, it’s human nature to be thinking of where you want to go next.
If you do work for clients who are a certain size, you want bigger clients.
If you produce independent movies, you want to produce a studio film.
If you write essays, maybe you want to write a book.
Whatever your situation, whatever your ladder, it’s still a flipp’n ladder. We have this ingrained as a framework in our minds.
And, all of these aspirations are great motivational drivers.
If your ambitions aren’t lofty, they aren’t really ambitions are they?
This isn’t a screed on anti-striving. (I do have problems with the concept of ambition though, a topic for another day.)
Here’s the issue:
If you’ve ever been on a real-world ladder you know that you can go up or down. I was recently on one, perched on top of a kitchen island, using the ladder to extend further up in order to change a smoke alarm battery. By the way, who designed these things to chirp in the middle of the night when the battery is dying? I nearly killed myself not because of a fire, not because of smoke, but because of climbing a ladder to swap out a 9 volt battery with my arms over my head, barely able to reach, not sure how to pull the dying one out and clamp the new one in…
Where was I?
Oh yeah. Just like real world ladders, this success ladder…
Sorry to interrupt again, but did you know there are over 1 million images for power point prezos for “Ladder to Success” on Google? Just scrolling them made me realize how we have been brainwashed into this really inept and restrictive view of what constitutes success.
Which brings me to my point.
What if you stop imagining a ladder and start imaging parallel bars?
When you were one step lower (on your mental ladder) — e.g. servicing the clients who were a bit smaller, making the independent films, publishing essays — you wanted to be one rung higher, where you are now. And maybe now you are having a challenging time (mentally, physically, reaching your threshold for other people and their BS) going higher, or bigger.
Challenges are amazing. Not to be avoided. That’s not where this is headed.
But, what if…
…you simply took one step down? Wouldn’t this make you breathe easier?
It’s not about letting go of ambition. It’s about removing the damage being done to yourself through the self-imposed pressure of having to keep climbing.
It’s about aligning your mental acrobatics with your purpose, not an imposed metaphor leading you into the sky.
You were a master of your domain one rung down.
Why not use the leverage you have where you are now, one rung higher, to do MORE OF WHAT YOU DID ONE RUNG DOWN?
The Mental Gymnastics of Rung Math:
There are people two rungs below you who would kill to be one rung higher, which is still one rung lower than where you are now. You can turn around and look down and crush that rung below you but which is still out of reach for many.
It’s like what if Michael Jackson wanted to become a Karaoke Champion? (I mean, when he was alive). Or if some billionaire wanted to open the most amazing Lemonade Stand in the world? Or some International Space Station Astronaut wanted to enter hot air balloon races? All of these might seem like steps down, but are they? In each case, the person would absolutely dominate. The common thing going on here? They stop climbing and start having fun with their passions in ways that aren’t hierarchical, in ways that are expressive.
Who says we have to ascend? Ascend where? Where does it end?
If you reconfigure the framework for your life’s trajectory and swap out the ladder for parallel bars, watch what happens.
Take whatever level you are at and don’t look up or down, but look sideways. Now move sideways, in either direction.
Isn’t that easier?
Isn’t this more fun?
You kick butt at this level.
This is your domain. Swing free, twirl, take flight and play like you’re back in PE class. Don’t worry, there’s a 1-inch mat made out of concrete that’ll catch you.
The freedom and joy you’ll experience from hopping off the ladder and applying yourself laterally will burst forth into the world, your passion will be noticed, your accomplishments celebrated as you go from school gym to world stage.
In conclusion: Go sideways to success:
4. Fold the ladder and put it in the garage.
5. Get out the parallel bars.
6. Tuck, forward roll, kip, uprise, basket weave (not a real move).