The first mountain
The first mountain we climb in our lives typically involves things like achieving career success, status, financial and material things, perhaps raising a family. It’s about using our talents, establishing our identity, making our mark in the world.
These are the normal goals of our prevailing culture and society.
But what happens if you are lucky enough to get there? If you’ve ‘made it’? If you’ve reached the top of that mountain?
Ready for the second mountain?
Some people continue to pursue more. A bigger job. A bigger company. Making more money. Having more things.
But for others, this doesn’t feel like enough. When you get to the top of the mountain and have achieved all you set out to achieve, perhaps the view isn’t quite as good as you thought it would be. You can begin to feel a lack of purpose, meaning or direction. Maybe the journey here was more stimulating and rewarding than the ‘being’ here. The drive that had always been so much of who you are might not be being fulfilled any more.
This is when you are ready for and often start to look for the second mountain.
In his book ‘The Second Mountain’, New York Times columnist David Brooks describes that “The world tells us that we should pursue our self-interest: career wins, high status, nice things. These are the goals of our first mountain. But at some point in our lives we might find that we’re not interested in what other people tell us to want. We want the things that are truly worth wanting. This is the second mountain”.
Meaning & fulfillment
The second mountain is usually about something deeper – more fulfilling, more meaningful. It’s about more than just money and outer success (although it can involve that too). It isn’t the opposite of the first mountain – it’s not about rejecting what’s been achieved already – it’s simply the next phase, the next stage in the journey.
The people I work with – very successful entrepreneurs, business founders and CEOs who have already achieved significant outer success – remain extremely driven and motivated people who want to bounce out of bed every day energised about what they do. Just because you’ve achieved great things doesn’t mean this drive goes way.
But herein lies the challenge. Will investing in more companies or building another business or being on more boards give that sense of purpose? Provide that meaning? Make you feel fulfilled? Will it be challenging, interesting and rewarding enough for you?
While having ‘made it’ – to have money, success, status – looks to many people like an enviable position to be in, and of course in many ways it is, it can also be a challenging time as it throws up questions about identity and status and meaning. If you don’t have to get out of bed every day to pay the mortgage, pay the bills and put your kids through college – why do you get out of bed?
It can lead to questioning how do I want to live this next part of my life? What REALLY matters to me? What else could I do? What would other people think if I did something different?
At this stage it’s very easy to keep re-climbing the same mountain – doing more of the same. It’s what you are known for. It validates you and your worth.
But the deeper question is what will make you truly happy and fulfilled? How do you want to live the rest of your life?
What will your second mountain be?