To climb the summits, first spend time in the valleys

IanSanders
3 min readMay 24, 2022
A mountain and lake

It’s a long way up

Getting to the summit can be arduous, but the feeling you get when you achieve your aim, and it’s all gone to plan, makes it all worth it.

Whatever your highly-demanding, high-risk project — whether that’s a product launch, a big conference, setting up a new operation — success depends on the preparation. It’s all in the organisation: the attention to detail, the down-to-the-second planning, the run-through, the triple-checking, taking nothing for granted, the constant liaising with key players. And more.

Major projects are the summits. They take all your energy. And the results really matter: because your personal or business reputation is at stake. There is no room for slacking or winging it.

Rules to keep on track

Last September 2021 I delivered 16 online leadership workshops in the space of a few weeks. Each workshop was a summit to be reached.

As September came closer those 16 peaks on the horizon loomed larger. I approached each climb knowing the steps I needed to take to be fit enough.

Like any good explorer who wanted to return intact — health and reputation — my preparation started early. Participant and workshop details were collated and filed; times were plotted; photos and props assembled; checklists sent out; running orders re-ordered and tweaked. Time and again I ran through the details and checked everything before each session.

I set myself rules to ensure I’d have the necessary energy. No alcohol the night before a workshop. An early night. And then every morning I’d start the day with a 6am seafront run, giving myself a pep talk as darkness faded to light.

The preparation paid off. I stuck to my rules. And the summit was achieved every time, with no hiccups or deviations or unexpected hurdles. Everything went well.

Rest in the valley

Of course, it wouldn’t be practical for every month to be like September. That’s just not sustainable. So afterwards, when the workshops were all completed, there was time to regroup, to take stock at base camp. To recharge and renew.

These are the valleys. The calm and the rest that the valleys bring is vitally important. They afford the chance to take a breather before the next adventure.

The valleys too are a chance for blank space in the calendar. To pour over your ‘maps’ (ideas, slide decks, artefacts, documents), to prepare and plan. To check your kit and make sure you’re fit, not only for the next summit, but for life.

Are you doing enough to stay strong?

We all have our summits around the corner; events and projects that will take all our courage, resolve and energies. I love the challenge of the summits — yes sometimes they’re nerve wracking — but because I’ve spent time in the valleys, preparing and preparing some more, I know deep down I can do it.

So, when there’s the quiet, resilience-building time in the valleys — how do you use your time to get ready?

Are you doing enough to make sure you’re strong and supple for the next adventure?

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IanSanders

Sparking change through story. Energising people at work. Author of 365 Ways to Have a Good Day (out Nov 2021). Fuelled by coffee, curiosity, walking.