It was June 9th, 2015, in Denver, Colorado.
After a two-day meeting as part of a strategic advisory board for an association, I sat down with my friend Vance Brown, co-founder and CEO of Cherwell Software, who was also attending.
In the sunshine of the Colorado mountains, we started working on ideas regarding how we could make our keynotes for his upcoming global user conference as meaningful and valuable as possible for everyone in attendance. I had presented my signature keynote for their conference the previous year, and after getting to know Vance and how simpatico our hearts and minds were, we felt we had an opportunity to completely build something from the ground up that would take our efforts to another level. Our high-level plan was for Vance to do the opening conference keynote and for me to do the closing keynote, calling back to and reinforcing his messages.
Within minutes of sitting down, Vance enthusiastically shared a theme he had been considering. “I got to see Ron Howard speak, Manley; it was incredible. He was finishing up work producing and directing his new movie, In the Heart of the Sea, a true story of epic survival based on the sinking of the whaling ship Essex, which became the inspiration for the epic novel, Moby-Dick. After his presentation, during a Q&A session, an attendee asked a pointed question. ‘Mr. Howard, how do you get Hollywood stars to endure such grueling conditions? How do you make them comfortable?’ His response was brilliant. ‘My job is not to make it comfortable; my job is to make it worth it.’ Isn’t that powerful Manley?”
“Yes! I wish I had said that, Vance!”
“So that’s what I’m thinking of for our theme—uncomfortable, but worth it.”
It was perfect! Completely aligning with my core message and Vance’s message for his customers and his company, we rolled up our sleeves and started working to develop our keynote programs.
Like anything worthwhile, we both endured many uncomfortable moments to create our vision of what we thought was possible. We both explored experiences and lessons from our past that were painfully uncomfortable to share with our audience. They would require us to show up, more vulnerable and transparent than ever, exposing some of our darkest moments and our struggles to become better humans every day.
There were several points along the way that summer where we each considered giving up on what we had envisioned. We knew it would be much easier to fall back on safer material and insights that we were comfortable sharing, but we couldn’t stop climbing, because we had a sense of what was possible. We believed that what we were developing could be very powerful and serve our audience in a deep and meaningful way. We knew that it would be worth it.
At those most difficult inflection points, when the resistance of gravity had increased to a level in our hearts and minds that we nearly abandoned our plans, we asked a powerful question. It was the same question I had asked myself when I faced tests and trials in my climbing journeys. Is it worth it?
The question is a powerful one, helping us transcend the pain of the moment to refocus on why we were committed.
Sometimes a simple reminder of what the end result will be can give us the clarity and reignite our drive to persevere. In the most trying moment, you may need to go deeper before you can climb higher. The following questions will help you reexamine, reconsider, and recommit to your efforts, ultimately helping you decide if it’s worth it. Contemplating this exercise in your mind can be effective, but be ready to write when you’re really feeling the dreadful funk of gravity in your mind.
Is It Worth It?
- My next summit is:
- When I reach the summit, I imagine the following view, feeling, and new perspective:
- Reaching my next summit will serve the following people:
- Imagine an encounter in the future with someone your courageous effort helps. What do they say to you when they thank you and share how you’ve helped them with your efforts?
- From my next summit, I will probably be able to see the following possibilities and next summits:
- My next summit will be worth it because:
This exercise is part of my Vertical Lesson One: Decide If It’s Worth It. To learn more about my 9 Vertical Lessons for Leading with Impact check out my new book Reaching Your Next Summit!
Your climb to excellence is never easy. The human drive within calls us to what is possible. The principles shared in this book will renew your commitment and inspire your quest for excellence. You will realize more of your potential as you sharpen your focus, act with courage, and generate momentum in reaching your next summit—and beyond.