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  • Writer's pictureLaura Burke - Coach

The Ladder

Have you ever climbed a ladder? Maybe that’s a silly question. Probably most people have climbed a ladder at some point. Even if was only like 3 rungs on a kiddie slide. The tallest ladder I think I’ve climbed is to the top of a 10 meter diving tower where we used to do drills for springboard diving. (I dove in college and we got to train at the Hall of Fame pool in Ft. Lauderdale over winter break!) It was at this time I realized I’m slightly afraid of heights.

The basics of climbing a ladder are simple, hands and feet go up the rungs successively and you move from the bottom to the top. You can move one limb at a time. You can move one hand and one foot at the same time. I move opposite hand and foot at the same time. Kinda feels closest to walking. Is that common? Or do just as many people go up same sided? [I may have just made up that term, to mean left hand and left foot go up together, then right hand and right foot, etc. I started to look up terms for moving same vs. opposite side limbs and quickly realized gait and movement are far more complex than I want to dig into for sake of a reference. So you’re stuck with my simple descriptions.] Anyway, I’ve tried same-sided climbing & it feels a bit awkward to me. Do some people go up 2 hands together and 2 feet together? Or all hands and feet together like a flying squirrel? The Ninja Warriors among us probably do!!

The crux to climbing the ladder is that we have to take our hands and feet off their current, safe rungs if we want to climb higher. This can feel scary. Getting “ahead” in life is the same as the ladder: we have to let go to climb. So if there is somewhere in your life you feel stuck… this analogy may help you take action. When we think of something we need to ‘let go’ of, it is natural to think of something physical. But “rungs” come in many different forms, each presenting unique challenges and opportunities. As you read on, think about that place you’re stuck and see if any new thoughts come up as to something you may be clinging to… Something that, if you were to let go, would free you to get to that next rung. And then the next, and the next… Even if you don’t feel stuck per se… you may just find ways to accelerate the trajectory you’re on!


Sometimes, the thing we need to let go of is not a What… it’s a Who.

Have you ever caught yourself swearing like a sailor when you’re with that one particular friend? Or naturally choose a salad when you have lunch with another? We are naturally influenced by the people we are around. So much so that it is widely believed we are the “average” of the 5 people we spend the most time with. I first heard this from Jim Rohn (in The Art of Exceptional Living – which is gold!!) and it’s worth digging into if you’re not familiar with this concept. This doesn’t mean to cut people out of your life completely, but if you identify someone as a barrier to your advancement it’s worth being thoughtful, particular, and possibly limited in the amount of time you spend with them. There are two types of people to look out for:

First, notice those who influence you away from, rather than towards, your goals. For example, if you have health and wellness goal and do well all week but then Friday rolls around and your good buddies like wings and beer, lots of wings and beer … ask yourself if you would benefit from skipping a Friday from time to time?

Second, pay attention for people who are strongly negative or positive in an unhelpful way. For negative, think of people that hear your goals and dreams and (figuratively) spit on them. You can replace that p with an h for perhaps a more accurate description 😉 They tell you that you won’t succeed, you can’t do it, you’re too young or too old or too (fill in the blank). Now for some people this is highly motivating (as in those people that have said “Oh yeah? I’ll show them!” and go off to massive success…). For the majority of us, this can be demoralizing. On the other hand, being surrounded only by cheerleaders may be stopping you from the important process of recognizing shortcomings, pushing yourself to your boundaries. Celebrating our achievements is absolutely important but we can’t stay there if we want to do more. Either way, it may be worthwhile to take a look at the amount of time you spend with any particular person or people.


Sometimes the thing we need to let go of is not a What… it’s a Where.

Our surroundings and environments play a huge part in how we feel, which directly impacts what we do. Think of being at a sporting event or concert. The exhilaration and excitement that has you screaming, cheering, high-fiving strangers in ways you would never, ever do elsewhere. If there are places you spend considerable time – start noticing if you tend to feel a certain way (“good” or “bad”) when you are there, or when you leave. As an example here, maybe you love taking your laptop and going to work at your local coffee shop. But you also love people watching. And, coincidentally… you’re not making much progress on your work. It’s worth asking yourself if you’re choosing the best location to do your work. This can be a simple one to address.


Sometimes the thing we need to let go of is not a What… it’s a When.

We all have slightly different rhythms and tendencies. If you are a night owl but are trying to start an early morning workout habit because you think you’re “supposed to” work out in the morning, and then get frustrated because you’re not getting any traction it may have nothing to do with the workout, the gym, your will power or anything other than when you’re trying to do it! Or if you’re leaving your list of ‘sales calls that are scary’ until late in the afternoon (when you’ve used up all kinds of energy stores…) and wondering why it’s a struggle that often ends in justifying pushing them until the next day… try switching it up and making those calls at the time of day you’re most energetic and confident!


Sometimes the thing we need to let go of is not a What… it’s a Why.

Beliefs and assumptions can hold us back the most. They can be invisible, insidious. Whenever that voice of doubt, discouragement and derailment chirps in your head, take notice. Ask “What could happen if I thought I could do abc?” or “What could happen if I didn’t believe xyz?” The trick here is: don’t try to answer! Just ask and see what happens. It’s not easy but it’s simple.

Often, many elements play a part

There are an infinite number of ways to climb a ladder: one or two limbs at a time in any number of combinations; you can climb fast or slow; you can skip rungs if they’re too close together; the ladder may be horizontal (flat – which presents its own challenges) to vertical (like a fire escape) or anything in between; it can be long, or short, or a series of shorts (like a fire escape!).

You know those ladders at a carnival or amusement park connected by ropes at each end that you can pay to try to climb and win a prize? There can be real-life ladders like that. Ones that are rickety, and require concentration, and if you fall you have to start all over again! (for another fee…) But most are run of the mill, regular old ladders. And some are even like that 3 rung kiddie slide.

It all depends what the purpose of the ladder is – that is, where it is intended to get you from, and where it is intended to get you to. Different journeys in life warrant different ladders. By having the courage to let go, we have the opportunity to go higher! As Todd Stottlemyre always says… Let’s CLIMB!

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