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How do you define success?

David Hayden Photography

Success, everyone wants it!

Drug addicts, entrepreneurs, managers, athletes, home bodies all want to succeed!


We all want it. But we all define success in different ways. To an addict, maybe success means killing the pain or escape from the world or themselves. For others, success might be defined in monetary terms, status, living comfortably without interference from telemarketers. I sincerely believe everyone wants to succeed at something, even if that is dropping out of society.

In a greeting card I have for sale at Steel City Art works I say:

“The path to our dreams is rarely a straight one.”

In some ways I lived a minor dream this past weekend. I made the journey to the summit of Mt. Evans, not too far outside Denver, Colorado. 30 years ago, when my soon to be wife and I left Colorado so I could take a job in Pennsylvania, that trip to the summit was one of the last things we did before leaving town. It was amazing and I have been longing to return.

A minor dream for sure, but a dream none-the-less. And the journey was not without its challenges, winding roads, and steep drops. My wife was busy preparing for an event and not inclined to go, so I grabbed the camera gear and set off on my little adventure.

Everything was going fine. The road was a little narrow and full of curves until I got up to the area around Summit Lake. But I’ll get to that later.

When you enter the park, you must now prove you have a reservation or they will turn you around. This is certainly different than 30 years ago. Anyway, I saw the sign and anticipated a problem. But I wanted to succeed in my quest for the summit. I stopped at the gate fully prepared to be turned around. But, the nice ranger said, “we have a couple of spots open to go to the summit, but you can’t stop anywhere else except rest areas and scenic pullovers. You can not stop at Summit Lake, even to use the restroom, that area is filled.

3 miles in I was ¼ of the way to my destination.

The 3-mile mark on the road to the summit is first an only rest stop excluding the stop at Summit Lake for which I did not have a permit. As you can see above, even at the 3-mile mark the views are outstanding. I was already starting to overcome obstacles that might have kept me from my dream. The rest area has a wonderful walking path with just the kind of distractions that could have and did slow down my journey.

I realized that is a metaphor for life. We achieve a little success, get comfortable and distracted in the glory of our accomplishments. As wonderful as it is, it is still a trap. Our sights are set on great things, but we get comfortable long before we get close to our dream.

Then things started to get a little dicey!

As I intimated before, around Summit Lake the road, and by extension, the journey got a little more challenging. At this point, the road gets more narrow, more steep, and confined by very tight turns and deep ravines. 30 years ago, I was in a little Chevy Nova and was not too concerned by the narrow road. On this trip, I was in a Ford 350. A wonderful truck under the right conditions. Tight hairpin curves, long wheelbases and a high center of gravity are not a great mix.

But I was not to be deterred. I did make another stop a couple of miles above Summit Lake. Still only halfway to my goal, but a worthy stop.

Seeing the road to come, I could have stopped here and considered my minor success as good enough. But, good enough, is not the secret to success. It is a form of resistance our minds dish up to test our resolve.

Enter the pucker factor!

Shown above is the road before it gets really challenging with tighter curves and steeper sides. Again, I could have let my fear of reaching my goal turn me away. We do that all the time don’t we? We get close to our dreams and begin to wonder: “What if we fail?”, “Is success worth the risk?” “Could trying to reach this summit be the end of us?” Or the ultimate dream killer. . . “What if we succeed?

Did I mention things get spooky as we get closer to our dreams?

“When we stay the course, our dream is there waiting, ready to guide us to a bigger, better dream.”

Dreams that inspire us are dreams worthy of achievement. Needless to say, I stayed the course and made it to the summit. At 14,260’ above sea-level the air was fresh, clean and thin. But dreams worth achieving tend to take us to places of rarified air. You know the metaphors, pinnacle of success, top of the mountain, climbing the ladder, shooting for the stars. Achieving our dreams elevates us.

At the summit, I was reminded that, just as I have achieved this dream, so to have others. Some had a much harder journey. I was in an air-conditioned vehicle, others however, built the roads that made it possible for me, some ride bicycles, and this poor guy had to climb all the way.

Another lesson learned is that the road down from our dreams can be just as, or more, perilous than the journey up. In my case, the steep grades and downward momentum, combined with narrow roads, no shoulders and steep falls brought human frailty into clear focus. The curves were wide enough for a couple of small cars but not wide enough (in some places) for anything but my little truck.

And so our journey ends, we’ve reached the summit, found gratitude for those that have blazed the trail, and now return to the normalcy of more ordinary life. But that is not the end of our story, everyday we find new dreams and new forms of success.

On that note I leave you with these images to inspire your next journey into the rarified air of those who adamantly pursue their dreams.

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