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Which Ladder Are You Climbing?

Ladder 5“People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”

– Thomas Merton

Everybody is climbing a ladder. It is a figurative ladder of course …unless you’re a painter or roofer. But we are all moving one direction in life, whether it be up or down.

Most of these ladders we scale intentionally, like education or developing a talent, running a marathon, working our way up in a company, writing a book, etc.

Some ladders we climb just because we never chose another one. These could include addictions, laziness, or complacency.

No matter what, you are climbing a “ladder” in some direction.

Ladder 4But what would happen if you get to the top of your ladder, looked over the wall and realized that it wasn’t what you thought it would be? How would you feel if you realized that you had spent years building a wonderful ladder only to realize you had placed it against the wrong wall?

It may sound like an abstract idea but it happens every day. People come out of college and get jobs at companies where they can advance. They spend years climbing the ladder in order to make more money, have more power, or just to say the reached the top. Unfortunately, many find that once they have reached the top, it hasn’t made them feel happy or fulfilled. The newspapers are full of stories of CEO’s and “successful” people who have been arrested on drug charges, gone through a terrible divorce, or committed suicide.

Why is it that the people we consider so successful are often times miserable?

They built their ladder against the wrong wall.

They spent so much time climbing their ladder just for the sake of getting to the top that they never stopped to ask if it was really the ladder they should be climbing.

Which are the right ladders to climb?

Everybody is motivated and finds fulfillment in different ways so there is no blanket answer as far as which ladder people should be on. But I think a good way to assess your ladder is to ask these questions:

  1. Ladder 2Would you still be on this ladder, or in this profession, if your pay was cut in half?
  2. Would you still develop this talent if nobody but yourself would ever see it?
  3. As you move farther along this ladder, does it come with more free time and enjoyment or does it add stress?
  4. Is this ladder something you chose for yourself, or someone else picked for you?
  5. Do you feel happy as you climb this ladder?

Your answers to these questions will determine if you are climbing a ladder that is placed against the right wall. If you find that it isn’t, have the courage to stop and change course. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life climbing a ladder that you know is headed to a disappointing view at the top. Either way you will be climbing a ladder so you may as well be climbing the right one.

It is never too late to choose a new ladder. Make the choice and go for it!

Kris

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5 comments

  1. Kris, as always, your blog posts help make sense and help me in my own life. Thank you. You truly are my e-mentor. I look forward to new posts.

  2. I am impressed….i feel that i received right thing at right time…..thank Kris and mail-ed to me…..

  3. Thank you for echoing a sentiment that I have felt in my bones for a long time.
    From a man who is currently running his family on less than half a salary and is the happiest I have been in my life.
    The link below is to a 3 minute animation I made ten years ago way before I had children. I hope you enjoy 🙂

  4. Thank you for your writing. Would you know in which book the quote Thomas Merton gave about the “ladder of success”? Thank you.

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