The Fall Doesn’t Hurt. It’s the Landing.

Person balancing on top of telephone pole

The journey to the ground was rather exhilarating! The wind was blowing in my face. People were yelling. I saw tree branches flashing in and out of my vision. But, in a matter of only a few seconds, my fast fall to the ground was redirected upward in an arc by the safety line on my harness. I had just leapt, Superman style, off the top of a 25-foot pole I had climbed. Of course, there was no danger of hitting the ground and I knew that before making the climb up the pole. I knew that when I reached the top as I gingerly transferred my weight from hands to feet to stand. I knew, before I jumped, that I was wearing a harness attached to a rope controlled by a certified high-ropes course guide. In life, though, we don’t often have safety lines and harnesses.

“Falling” in real life takes many forms.

  • Making a presentation to the board of directors.
  • Asking that special someone out for the first date…or for their hand in marriage.
  • Proposing a radical reconfiguration of the manufacturing processes in a “Hail Mary” attempt to save the company.
  • A new cancer treatment, because the standard protocols haven’t worked.

These are all mountains to climb—mountains whose paths have steep and long drops to the valley below. Think back a few months, maybe a year or two, and you’ll be able to identify your own mountain that you’ve recently had to scale.

These are the risks in mountain climbing. We get tired. We get hurt. We even fail.

But mountains are worth climbing. Whether we succeed or fail, we get stronger. We also learn new skills. Whether we succeed or fail, we may be able to bring others along on the next trek. They will get stronger. They will learn new skills.

When we do fall, though, we need to take advantage of the descent. Too much attention is given to the landing and what happens afterward. During the descent we think too hard about the coming impact.

It’s during the fall that we are best able to reflect on the thinking, decisions, and actions that produced the fall. Deep reflection triggers the kind of growth necessary for greater success on the next climb.

The next time you find yourself falling, before you hit bottom:

  1. Take stock of the journey by assessing your own thinking, decisions, and actions the put you on this journey.
  2. Ask people close to you for honest input on how you got to this place.
  3. Start creating a strategy for a more successful climb the next time.

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at] with your questions.

Photo by Ryan Tauss. Photo available at Unsplash under CC0 license. Image modified for size and space.

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