Greetings from San Francisco! I’m out here speaking at a national conference – one of the few times each year where I congregate with “my people” to discuss tax topics that make the rest of my lawyer brethren either glaze over or jump out a window. Whenever I’ve had a break in my conference activities, I’ve headed out on adventures to explore the city.
One of my adventures involved a 2.5 mile hike up and down and up and down and up and down hills across the city to reach this brunch place everyone had been raving about, which then turned out to be closed because the alarms in their building were being tested and said alarm testing somehow cut off the electricity to their kitchen. (Spoiler alert: the alarms worked and they were indeed obnoxiously loud…) Anyway, upon discovering this, I asked one of the waitstaff congregated outside in the street if he had recommendations for a less noisy venue, and he directed me to another restaurant about a mile away.
Unfortunately, while it was only a mile away, the vast majority of that mile turned out to be uphill. The type of uphill where every time you reach the top of one hill and Apple Maps tells you to turn right or left, you immediately discover yet another hill (which is typically steeper than the one you just climbed). As you can imagine, this got old real fast…
So, why am I telling you any of this?
Because, regardless of where you are in your career or general professional or personal development, there will always be another hill. While that hill may take a variety of forms (growing into a promotion, taking on a leadership role, or literally climbing a hill even though you’re tired, your legs hurt, and all you want to do is punch the person behind the Apple Maps voice telling you to proceed in that direction), achieving true growth requires you to shift your attention from the hill you’ve previously mastered to the next, more challenging climb.
Type As have the drive to push through the literal or figurative aching legs and shortness of breath in pursuit of their goals, even when others decide they’re content calling it a day because they’d rather stay in their comfort zone. However, Type As also have a very special type of Achilles’ heel: instead of solely focusing on the goal, our brains also devote a great deal of time and energy to (1) ruminating over the injustice of the entire situation, (2) identifying every possible reason we may be unable to be successful in accomplishing the goal, and (3) berating ourselves for not being able to accomplish the goal more easily. Unchecked, these thoughts will eventually go from an infinite loop to a death spiral leading either to self-sabotage or accomplishment of the goal in the most agonizing way possible (i.e. “I’ll suck it up and be a trooper but this will be TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, PAINFUL, and I’m going to actively hate every second of it”).
Why is this an Achilles’ heel? First, because it depletes us of precious energy that we will need in order to accomplish our desired goal. Secondly, because it does absolutely nothing to lessen the difficulty of the goal ahead of us.
Returning to my climb to brunch – if I had turned, looked at each hill, and immediately started berating the City of San Francisco for being hilly and myself for not being in better shape, would it have changed the pitch of the hill? Would it have changed the humidity in the air that day? Would it have enabled me to climb the hill faster? No, no, and no. The only difference it would have made is a difference in my condition upon reaching the top – instead of simply being a sweaty mess, this line of thinking would have also rendered me an emotional/spiritual/metaphysical mess.
Moral of the story: there will always be another hill. And the difficulty of climbing that hill will only be increased if we tear ourselves to shreds for our perceived inadequacies. So, let’s do ourselves a favor by taking a deep breath, telling ourselves we’ve got this, and carefully continuing our respective climbs.