Stories have been a human tradition since the spoken word was first uttered. They are how we have shared experiences, traditions, and history long before any of them were put to paper. They have the ability to capture the minds and imagination of young and old alike and they hold the power to mold, shape, and share knowledge. Yet one type of story, passed on from generation to generation, has fallen on hard times.
“When I was your age we used to walk to school… uphill… both ways.”
Naturally our brain’s logic discredits the whole statement based on the phrase “uphill both ways”. We don’t even seem to care about the “I used to walk to school” part because “uphill both ways” is so illogical. A road can’t be uphill in both directions. Logic screams, “That phrase is wrong and, by association, your whole statement is wrong.”
Sorry logic, you’re wrong.
Let’s imagine a “stereotypical grandpa trying to be cool”. He is headed off to school so make sure you picture a backpack, sideways hat, a mismatched shirt and shorts combo, and definitely saying “I’ve got all my swag, yolo!” Oh “stereotypical grandpa trying to be cool”, you’re so funny!
Now imagine his school, on the opposite side of a hill. “Stereotypical grandpa” starts off heading uphill and then downhill before making it to school. On the way home he goes back up the hill and then down it again. I don’t mean to blow your mind here, but he went uphill in both directions. That means… shudder… grandparents have been getting that story right all these years.
“Aha!” you say, because you think you caught a mistake, and because “Aha!” is apparently a thing you say. “My grandparents never said anything about going downhill.” You’re right. No one ever tells the part about going downhill. Why?
Because going downhill is easy. Even inanimate objects can go downhill.
Now uphill, that’s the trick. Going uphill you get to duel with gravity face-to-face. Gravity is like a universal Goliath that affects even the largest of celestial bodies. Here you are, just a mere earthly David, spitting in gravity’s face. Each step up the slope signifies your defiance of gravity’s whims. When you reach the pinnacle of your ascent, you can stand with hands on hips and proclaim “Man has taken on gravity, and today, man won.”
Taking on a challenge, win or lose, is where good stories live.
Think about Mighty Casey and his baseball career playing for the Mudville Nine. As the story tells us, in the bottom of the ninth, he has an opportunity to win the game. He proceeds to take two called strikes first. Mighty Casey had a flair for the dramatic. He bashes his bat against home plate. He tightens ever muscle in his body as he stares into the sould of the trembling pitcher. Sawdust begins to swirl in the air because he is gripping the bat so tightly. The pitcher winds up, tosses the ball with his eyes closed in fear. Mighty Casey swings with the might of a thousand men…
Yet there would be no joy in Mudville, because Might Casey strikes out. Even though he loses, it is still a captivating story. We’re still drawn in because of the challenge of taking those two strikes first. Had Mighty Casey strode to the plate, swung at the first pitch, and hit a lazy flyball to centerfield for a routine third out, no one would tell his story.
Facing a challenge is the best thing we can do. It gives us a chance to grow, to be better, to learn more. No one got smarter by answering questions they already knew the answers to.
Challenges are where Awesome is forged.
At various points in our lives, we will stand at the base of a hill. Looking up, the top sure looks far away and the path can even look a little scary. However we must tackle that climb with willpower and confidence. It wont always be easy, but we’ll learn, adapt, and keep pushing.
No matter if we make it to the top or not, we will at least have a story to tell.
What uphill challenge are you facing?
How will you know when you’ve made it to the top?
What are opportunities to learn / get better along the way?
Write an encouraging message to future you that will keep you climbing!