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Published June 10, 2011, 12:00 AM

Val Farmer: Advice for graduates starting climb to top

How do we get to the mountaintop of success? Here are eight skills and attitudes that are essential to getting to the pinnacle of your dreams.

By: Val Farmer, INFORUM

How do we get to the mountaintop of success? Here are eight skills and attitudes that are essential to getting to the pinnacle of your dreams:

1. You were meant for the climb. It is your destiny to be on this journey. You were not meant to fail. As you climb, you will discover why. You will come to know your inner resources and talents.

Choose a tall mountain. Your greatest limitation is your own imagination. Get a vision of what you want to be, where you want to go and how to get there. If you have a goal, you’ll recognize opportunities and obstacles in your path.

You will not always end up where you originally set out to go. Keep your eyes and heart wide open. Begin the climb and you will see something that is better than what you previously imagined – maybe even a different mountain.

2. Find a mentor and a role model. There is someone who is already on the path and is willing to lend a helping hand to others, even if it is just by his or her example.

Be humble enough to learn from veterans of the climb. Successful people continue to learn from others even when they are near the top themselves.

3. Be a part of a team. Don’t try to climb the mountain alone. Men and women united by goals and organization have great creative power and resources available at their disposal. Contribute your talents and join with others in finding a way to reach the top.

This climb isn’t done without companions. They are your lifeline. Be aware of others on the trail who might need a boost or have their pack carried for a while.

4. Taking care of the base camp. The journey begins from a base camp of shared love and companionship of loved ones, with friends and family. There is nothing more important.

Happiness isn’t at the top; it is in the climb. Sharing the journey with loved ones makes the struggle worthwhile. The ever-expanding horizons take on beauty and significance when they are shared with others.

The presence and involvement with a mate is immensely satisfying. Without a companion, the journey could be too hard. This base camp has a foundation of spiritual meaning, mutual understanding and support, deep nourishment and renewal.

At the end of the day, climbers retreat to their base camp and get the rest, nourishment and encouragement they need to continue their upward journey. Without establishing and maintaining a base camp, there can be no success.

Leisure, fun and relaxation are a part of the journey, too. It can make a difference between those who wear out by pushing themselves too hard and those who pause long enough to savor the moment and gather momentum for the next ascent.

5. Be a self-starter and a finisher. It is energy, not talent that will drive you up the mountain of your dreams. Don’t be a spectator in life. Jump in and make it happen. If you aren’t enthusiastic about the climb, something is wrong.

Deadlines are important. Each day has its objectives. Dawdling on plateaus may expose you to tougher conditions and unnecessary adversity. Keep your climb on schedule. The time allotted to this climb is too short for procrastinating and wandering around.

6. Avoid distractions. The blandishments and enticements just off the trail slow you down. Don’t take detours or become engrossed in things beside the climb.

The view from the foothills can be compelling. The journey upward is arduous. The temptation is to stop and give up. With too many rests, it becomes harder to pick up and shoulder your pack.

7. Grow into success. Success isn’t standing at the pinnacle, but it is what you have become as you stretch yourself in the climb and overcome obstacles to get there. The soreness and pain of the early struggles will turn into strengths and increased capacity.

The building blocks of success are effortful small steps, made daily, that add up into an incredible journey. Mountains are climbed one step at a time. There are no short cuts up the mountain.

8. Missteps and falls are valuable. To accomplish great things, you have to take risks. You may stumble and trip. You may be temporarily lost or confused. You learn from mistakes.

It is when you encounter trial and adversity that you search for solutions that are not readily apparent. Draw on your faith and spiritual understandings when you feel like giving up. Overcoming obstacles will be key victories in your climb to even greater success.

What it is like at the top? Rewards and recognition come only after the sweat and toil of the climb. When you get to the top, you will be different. You will have grown in power and freedom. You can choose other mountains. You know you are fit for the climb. You have done it before, and you can do it again.

What’s next? Raising and preparing the next generation has a meaningful purpose of its own – a soul-satisfying purpose that will eclipse any rewards in your climb toward personal success. Watching and helping others make the same climb, especially your children, becomes the next pinnacle to climb.


Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his website, www.valfarmer.com.

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