Climb every mountain

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

I'm obsessed by mountains, particularly the ones I'm staring at right now in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. Marvelous, epic monoliths of rock and ice, they dominate and intimidate. “Look up here, you tiny, transient human writing your little long-term care articles,” they're taunting. “We've been here forever. You want a piece of us?”

Well no, actually I don't. I'm not interested in confrontation. I just want to be friends. So to prove honorable intent, I've hiked dozens of miles over the past few days and my feet are now mostly blisters and moleskin. Sometimes the pain makes a bear attack seem preferable to taking another step. But it's a small price to pay if I can get these mountains to like me.

As a wee Canadian boy, I was transfixed by a television series dramatizing the building of our transcontinental railroad. Laying that thread of iron across the prairies was a relative cakewalk compared to the potentially insurmountable challenge presented by the Rockies. In an epic TV moment, railway titan Sir William Cornelius Van Horne stands at track's end staring them down. “Those mountains,” he says defiantly, “they're in my way.”

That's how we tend to see big personal or professional challenges — as either obstacles to be forcibly blasted from our path or impossible situations that defy solutions. Van Horne didn't shrink from the test, but nor was he able to intimidate his mountains into surrender. His railway succeeded only by finding a path through, under and around.

Whether dealing with that lying coworker or trying to solve all of long-term care's problems, it can help to realize that the mountains we face aren't impossible, or even bad — they just are. Like these towering Tetons, they're not going anywhere, so let's be fearlessly friendly with them. Explore alternate strategies with an open mind. Consider paths to success that don't involve direct confrontation. And carry bear spray, in case an angry surveyor attacks. 


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