It’s Lonely at the Top

by | May 19, 2009 | Lonliness

I recently went to a self improvement workshop in Los Angeles, California, which was one of the most insightful and enlightening experiences that I’ve ever had.

On the very first day I was partnered with a 50 year old woman named Diana. Our challenge was to climb a 60-foot tall rope ladder, working as a pair. We were connected at the hip with a four-foot long rope and each fitted with a body harness to catch us if we fell off the ladder during the climb.

At first glance I thought that I would be able to make the climb on my own, seeing that I’m pretty active and physically fit. When I realized that I would be partnered with Diana, the voice in my head started to buzz with disempowering thoughts like: ‘How the hell are we going to do this?’ And ‘I hope Diana doesn’t have a heart attack!’

Well, seeing that the whole point here was for us to learn something about our own limitations as people, I made a choice to turn things around and take on this challenge head on and began to ask myself more supportive questions like: ‘How can I motivate and inspire Diana? What are our strengths as a team?’

Before we started our climb I looked Diana in the eye and I said: ‘I believe in you, just give me your 100%.’ At the beginning of the climb, things went pretty well and we eventually reached the first rung on the ladder. Then it started to get tougher. I was up on the second rung and Diana was still on the first rung and our connecting rope was stretched to full length. I heard someone yell to me from down below, ‘You’ve got to go down and help her up!’

That was the first time I realized that even though I knew I could do the climb on my own, it wasn’t just about me. It was about both of us making it to the top as a team. So I climbed back down to the first rung and bent down on my knees to support Diana and using all my strength, pushed her up to the second rung. The whole time we were doing this, the ladder was swinging back and forth with a 40-foot drop below us.

As soon as Diana got settled on the second rung I screamed up to her in support of this massive accomplishment. We were making the impossible possible. Diana and I continued this way up the rope ladder until we reached the top and we gave each other a big hug – we were both exhausted but hugely delighted.

After we got back down to the ground, Diana said to me: ‘I didn’t think we were going to make it to the top.’ I thought to myself, I didn’t think we would do it either. It was at this moment I really understood what I learned from the exercise – that in fact this was not about climbing at all. I realized that in my entire life I had always done things for myself in order to feel that sense of achievement and purpose.

When I heard Diana say those words to me it created an entire paradigm shift in me and I realized that it’s very lonely at the top when you do things only for yourself. I learned that life is a lot more fulfilling when you take other people along for the climb. I now know I will never again feel lonely at the top.

Steve Martile

Stephen Martile is a full time Project Engineer and writes part time for Confidence Bound Magazine. Stephen also writes his own personal development blog called, ‘Personal Development Made Simple.’ His personal blog is filled with insights on personal growth and his purpose is to inspire others to achieve their own dreams and desires by learning from example.


It’s Lonely at the Top