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Upwards we climb

Upwards we climb

Posted on 19. Feb, 2011 by gilly in BE, Coach's Wisdom

Out of sheer desperation and boredom from being flu-ridden this week, my daughter broke open the Richard Attenborough ‘Nature’ DVD’s, still lying in shrink-wrap since Chanukah.

Let’s see if 10 hours of animal documentaries will cure or kill me, she vaguely muttered, flopping back on the couch with duvet, hot lemon juice and Strepsils. I joined her a few hours into it, in time to discover the rock-climbing goby, a fish which I (or you, I bet) had never heard of.

This thumb-size goby swims upriver from the sea (nothing new so far) until the foot of a waterfall. Then, amazingly, as if auditioning for a far-fetched Jackie Chan film (sorry, is that a redundant statement?), hurls itself out of the water and, almost comically, attaches itself to the vertical rock face. Using its “pelvic fin” that works like a mini suction cup and its powerful lips, it proceeds to inch, ever so slowly, upwards, while the violent waterfall pounds down all around it, with Mother Nature’s fullest force.

It literally climbs… for several hundred feet.

I cannot tell you how painstaking this looks. Richard Attenborough’s pithy comments and the dramatic music make it all the more compelling. Many gobies don’t make it: they simply fly off and die. Others pause in whatever crevices they can find to rest. Your heart goes out to the little guys.

Eventually, some make it to the top where warm, shallow pools await. This is fish kingdom spa central—warm, nutrition-filled, pressure-free, peaceful. “Here the goby will feed and breed and eventually die,” emotes Attenborough, “while newly spawned fish will wash out to sea, so that the cycle may begin again.”

The poignancy of it all is the sobering parallel with us humans. I mean, truly: how many people do you know who approach their entire life this way: struggle, determination, stubbornness with only one objective in mind: to reach that nirvana, that someday place, no matter what.

And what, what is that warm, blessed pool? The day you can’t swim any more? Retirement? The day you have more than enough money? The day you buy a country house? And how hard will you work to climb that waterfall? Until Nature knocks you off?

All around me, I still see people doggedly going for it—zero fulfillment, zero joy, and less than zero awareness that they’re even fighting a waterfall upwards. It makes me want to (and sometimes, especially with  clients, I really do) grab them by the shoulders and shout: “Why are you swimming so hard upstream? Where are you going? And do you even remember why?”

Life is already so riddled with challenges, tough decisions, adversity (aka “opportunities” or “learnings” in coaching jargon) and there is always plenty to fight for and against. Do you really want a lifetime of convincing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy doing but… keep doing it anyways?

Luckily, you can think more independently than a goby, and you don’t actually have to climb waterfalls.

2 Responses to “Upwards we climb”

  1. gilly

    11. Mar, 2011

    Glad it struck a chord of truth…what’s your waterfall?

  2. Stef

    11. Mar, 2011

    So true!

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