Getting to the Top

The other day as I was meditating, I had a vision of myself standing on top of a mountain.  I’ve never done any serious climbing or any rugged hiking for that matter, so the image of being on top of a mountain peak was a little out of left field for me.  But as I started to think about that picture in my mind, what I was able to relate to was a personal sense of accomplishment and well-being.  The feelings that you have when you finally reach a big goal:  elation, excitement, fulfillment, relief, satisfaction and peace.

Illini Mountain Scene Chicago Copywriters and Designers

Thinking about goals and accomplishments, my recent trip out West to attend the Bend Design Conference (BDC) in Oregon reminded me of what it takes to keep going to reach the top.  The presenters and workshop leaders who spoke had all achieved career success, and in listening to them I felt admiration and healthy envy for their professional contributions.  Most described obstacles they faced, but what was apparent was their ability to absorb the setbacks in a way that propelled them to climb higher and further.


These design superstars stood out not only for their accomplishments, but also for their dedication and leadership in designing solutions for institutional change.  The 360° thinking offered up by the speakers was game-changing, life-affirming and, without exception, a full-on team pursuit.  They emphasized that they’re not out there doing the work alone.  A constellation of talent gets involved, and often colleagues from outside of the design community are brought on board to augment the designers’ plans with additional expertise as a part of the overall change process.

Scaling the Heights … Together

My takeaway is we all have mountains in our lives to scale, but we won’t — and don’t have to — do it alone. Fortifying the quest with a support network if the climb is particularly arduous is laudable and necessary.  Whether the mountain is a personal challenge or a professional ambition, whether it’s a mission, calling or commission, bringing along trusted companions may not make the steep ascent any less daunting, but it will make the endeavor a humbling experience of shared connections who will provide positive, motivational support for you to reach your summit.

The View at the Top

While we can’t circumvent what’s unknown and outside of our control, our commitments force us to dig deep for the empowerment to keep moving upwards.

My own career goals have changed over the years, and I’ve hit rough patches where I’ve zigged and zagged.  These were plateaus that gave me time to rethink things — interludes that offered up new vantage points from which to see out and do a gut check, “Am I on the right path here?”  And even though it hurt in the short term, I can feel gratitude for the people with whom I’ve worked who activated me to tack in a different direction.

So, you ask, “How’s the view?”  In my mind, the view at the top is phenomenal — I see the sun is shining, there are a few, fluffy clouds and the air is brisk.  I’m winded, but not exhausted. And just outside of the frame are my cohorts — family, friends and colleagues – who’ve joined me for stretches of the distance. I stand in appreciation of them for their willing support.

— Mary


“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”

― David McCullough Jr. 

We must dare to dream extravagant, improbable dreams if we intend to find a new direction, and the steps necessary to it. … We must imagine first, and then we conceive the execution of a plan.  Our minds prepare us for success.

― Karen Casey, PhD