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Leadership Thought #223 – What Goes Up Must Come Down

October 3, 2011

Free Cable Car  Near Snow Covered Mountain Stock Photo

The Laws of Gravity apply in all aspects of life: what goes up must come down.  No one lives at the peak for too long.  I’ve always believed that it’s not just what happens when you are on top that matters, but also the grace with how you manage the inevitable changes and decline.  Life is about cycles and reinvention. It is not a continuous upward sloping straight line.

You can tell a lot about a person after they have scaled the mountain of their professional life.  What do you they next?  How do they reinvent themselves?  Is there another mountain? Do they stick around for the long-term or were they just a “flash in the pan?”  Do they cling to power and position or realize when it’s time to move on?  Do they try and create and replicate a formula or attempt something new and different?  Do they step outside their comfort zone or hide within it?  Do they help others grow and succeed or do they resent their accomplishments and criticize their successes?  Do they give back or just focus on getting more?

Some of the most interesting work done by artists, authors, athletes, musicians, public officials, and business leaders has been done well after their perceived prime.  It’s as if once they were unshackled from the constraints of their power and position, they could better reflect on their life experience and be truer to themselves.  They become free to do what they want to do rather than fulfilling professional responsibilities and living up to the expectations of others.   The smart ones live in the present and create their future rather than yearning for their past.

We will all hit our professional peaks at some point and then must decide what to do next.   The good news is that we can always continue to learn and grow through personal experience.  We can also strive to remain a vital presence that makes a positive difference in our own small corner of the world regardless of our station in life.  The other side of the mountain isn’t about decline and descent; it is also about reinvention, creation, generosity of spirit, and self-fulfillment.