The Mountain Metaphor

Mountains, my friends, are a challenge. They also are the perfect metaphor for life. Anything you do whether it be:

  • learning a new skill
  • making something
  • taking a business to the next level
  • developing your body
  • rewriting a core piece of code
  • relationships
  • marriage
  • running a marathon

is a mountain of some sort. The most important part of climbing a mountain is getting to the top, and the best way to do that: pace.

Sprinting is Bad

Here is the thing, I love to sprint. I love

  • the wind on my face
  • the speed
  • coding until four in the morning
  • the feeling of hauling ass up the side of mountain.
  • seeing the pieces of a project come into play.

Every sprint, almost by definition, comes with a crash. The danger of sprinting is that the pain at the crash peaks and will be painful. At this critical pain point, you risk quitting. I'm not going to say that quitting is bad because quitting can be wonderful, but it seems that if you are climbing a mountain and you can finish it at a slower pace, then you should do that.

Going too slow?

There are two things that you can do when you realize that your slow pace sucks. You can optimize your pace or learn to manage the crash.

Optimize the pace

This is heavily dependent on the task at hand, but the general principal is to use science. Simply

  1. Measure what you are doing
  2. Think
  3. Tweak
  4. Go To Step 1

Ask the important questions like

  • how do I go faster?
  • how can I leverage existing code?
  • can I live with some technical tebt?
  • am I eating the right foods?
  • am I sleeping enough?
  • why do I keep messing up my joint work?
  • is my breathing right?

Managing the crash

One thing I like about actual mountain climbing is that I will sprint up the mountain and book it. It puts me at the crash moment. The nice thing about climbing an actual mountain is that if I decide to quit, then no harm and no foul. The crash moment is a very frantic confluence of emotions, and I believe that one should learn to find calm. What I mean by this is to be able to relax and let the ebb and flow of emotion pass. I am thankful to have read Dune because the litany against fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

is very appropriate. In essence, emotion is very temporary. When I climb an actual mountain, I'll look around at the trees. I'll appreciate the wonder of nature around me. This calms me, and I start back up again and keep on trekking.