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57. The Skill It Takes To "Go Downhill"
This is the time to show up with all you've got.
☕️ the main thing
Many active midlifers reject the phrase, “It’s all downhill from here.”
For good reason.
It stinks of ageism. It promotes the idea that our best years are behind us and that all we can look forward to is our decline.
I, too, have the same feelings about this phrase, and I’m not going to defend it.
BUT, I’d like to offer a different frame with which to take it in.
For some reason that I cannot explain, I’ve always been interested in Mt. Everest stories. I’ve watched enough movies and read enough books about climbing Mt. Everest that in my mind, I can imagine climbing it myself. 😂 (To be clear, I have NEVER had the desire to make the actual trek!)
Did you know descending from Everest’s summit is riskier and more difficult than the climb?
While both ascent and descent require mental and physical stamina, “going downhill” presents a unique set of challenges that requires a different level of resilience and strength.
Think about it.
You’re attempting this tricky feat while utterly exhausted from the climb, likely with a dwindling oxygen supply in your cylinder.
You no longer have that adrenalin supplied by the promise of reaching the summit. You may be suffering from altitude sickness or other issues.
You’re not alone in that descent; you are surrounded by other equally spent people who are likely not operating at 100% capacity. Their missteps can affect you — either because you’d want to offer help or they may cause you to make an error yourself.
And you have to get down to a safe level before the weather turns, which it usually does by a certain time of day.
Climbing up gets all the glory. But going downhill is far from easy.
This is the moment when you have to give it all you’ve got.
You have to dig deep and find that reserve because it’s literally life or death. In a sense, how you descend Mt. Everest shows what you’re really made of.
I got to thinking that the second half of our lives is akin to this scenario.
In that somewhat insulting “downhill” phrase, I don’t focus on the decline (although, let’s face it, there’s some truth to this).
Rather, I focus on how this period in life is actually the more challenging, rigorous, and therefore, the most exciting part of my journey.
This is when I must show up with everything I’ve got. When all the wisdom gained from experiences and years of real-life training can really make a difference. When I get to give it my all and be the best version of myself.
You won’t hear me saying, “It’s all downhill from here,” anytime soon.
But, when I hear that phrase, I don’t squirm or have the sudden urge to yell.
I say, “Bring it on. Let me show you how it’s done.”
🔗 building on this
There are parallels between mountain climbing and financial planning for retirement. Endeavor Wealth Management discusses why the descent is more dangerous than the climb, and applies it to financial planning.
“Optimism suffers from a bad reputation in contemporary culture. At best, it’s painted as sweetly misguided and naive. At worst, it’s seen as willfully, even immorally, oblivious to the way the world works. Which may have you wondering: is it wrong to be optimistic? […] Experts don’t think so. In fact, research has uncovered good reasons—moral, personal, and social—to pursue a sunnier outlook.” How To Keep Your Glass Half Full
“Much of the reason why we give up, fall into despair, and abandon our projects is not because things are hard per se, but because they are harder – far harder – than we had ever expected them to be.” How To Endure
📣 hear hear
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in an office or mowing the lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” —Jack Kerouac
🙃 say what?
“We should either conquer death or at least figure out why it's impossible,” says billionaire Peter Thiel, who has confirmed he will be cryogenically frozen after death, so he can be revived in the future, though he doubts the tech will work.
💬 last word
A note from behind the scenes:
This is the first issue of Midlife Cues coming from Substack 💃
If I did everything right, you’d have gotten this without a hitch. If, for some reason, you received this twice or garbled, I so apologize.
With this change, I’ve successfully optimized a portion of my work life. I think! 😊
Here’s to an easeful week ahead.
P.S. I’d love to hear from you. Hit ‘reply’ or leave a comment; let me know what you think.
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