Climb To The Top Rung And Hang On

by Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical on December 7, 2010

PersevereOver the weekend I put up our Christmas lights on the house with the help of my eldest son.  First we spent 30 minutes digging through all the crap in the garage looking for the box of lights.  Have you ever noticed how you can never find what it is you want when you want it?  Finally after digging ourselves out of an avalanche of boxes we found the treasure and began the next ordeal of untangling the lights.

This box ordeal is yet another reminder that we need to get on the ball about significantly reducing our clutter.

I don’t know what it is about Christmas lights and tangles.  I specifically remember gently coiling up the lights and placing them neatly in a box when I took them down last season and yet every year we take the lights out they are tangled up like a giant rats nest.  Untangling all those strands quickly becomes a contest to see how long it takes before I break out the swearing dictionary and find some new words.

This year my son really wanted to climb up on the roof with me and help with the lights.  He’s 7 now so I thought why not let him climb up, walk around a bit, get his kicks and then lower him back down the ladder to safety.  I wanted him to make the climb up the ladder himself though.

I made my way up the ladder and onto the roof first.  He started up the ladder gingerly taking a rung at a time.  He paused about half way up and looked down at the ground. 

Are you sure this is safe?” he asked with a questioning look in his eyes. 

Oh yeah, it’s perfectly safe.  Don’t worry, I’m holding the ladder for you.” 

He slowly kept climbing until he was able to extend his hand up and touch the lip of the gutter. 

Now what?” he asked. 

Well you’re going to have to climb up a bit more so you can get your hands on the roof and then I will pull you up the rest of the way.”  I don’t think he really liked that option because he then said…

I think I’m going to go back down” and started back down the ladder a rung at a time.

It’s OK” I said, “You were pretty brave going as far as you did.” 

I continued to string out the lights and prepare them for mounting on the gutters and along the roof line.  About 10 minutes later my son called up from below.

I think I’m ready to come up now!” 

OK, I’ll hold the ladder for you.  Give it another shot.

He started making the long climb up the ladder again, pensively looking down and then back up.  He made it a rung further this time and was about eye level with the roof. 

What do I do now?” he asked with a slight tremble in his voice. 

Well you gotta climb up a bit further until you can get your hands on the roof and then I can pull you up.”  He looked at me as if I were crazy. 

I think I’m going to go back down.” 

No worries, just be careful.  I’ll hold the ladder until you get down.”  As he reached the bottom rung an expression of relief replaced the serious look that had been on his face.

Fifteen minutes later he wanted to give it another try.  Again he climbed the ladder, made it to the top but froze, too scared to scramble onto the roof.  This repeated itself a few more times until he announced that he would wait until next year when he was 8 to get on the roof and help.  I finished the job with him directing me from below.

Later that night as the sky darkened, we all went outside into the cool night air and enjoyed our Christmas lights.  So what’s the point of this story?  It’s about perseverance.

When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.” ~Author Unknown

You see my son could have given up after that first scary climb up the ladder but he didn’t.  Sure he retreated and went back down but the key is that he came back and tried it again.  When it didn’t feel right he retreated again.  But he kept coming back again and again.  That is perseverance and is a trait that will take him far in life.

I couldn’t have been more proud to watch him conquer that fear and climb the rungs of that ladder.  I could have reached down and grabbed his arm and pulled him up but I know that letting him climb on his own and make his own decisions taught him a good lesson.  That lesson is that there is no shame in retreating if it doesn’t feel right at the time.  The secret is to keep coming back, to keep pursuing, and to never give up.

These are the lessons and the skills that are going to serve my kids well during this 1 year sabbatical.  Being able to face their fears and keep going, even if they don’t succeed in doing what it was they set out to do, will play a large role in their integration into Indonesian culture.  It’s the same idea I wrote about last week regarding failure.  When we keep moving forward, learning from mistakes and challenges we can turn what we think are failures into success stories.

So climb to that top rung and when the time is right scramble onto the roof.  You’ll appreciate the view of success.

Coming up on Thursday… First impressions of Borobudur.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

ayngelina December 7, 2010 at 9:29 am

I love this post, what a great analogy for fear. Many times I stick through the fear just because I’m too stubborn to come down off the ladder. Stubbornness isn’t necessarily a good thing but in the end it does make you realize that what you were afraid of really wasn’t so bad at all.
ayngelina recently posted..How to watch football like an Ecuadorian

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matt December 9, 2010 at 2:09 am

Hi Ayngelina! I can totally relate. Often when we look back on what at the time were scary situations we realize that they really were not that bad.

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Gillian December 7, 2010 at 10:37 am

What a great story! And a great way to teach your son about fear and overcoming it a little at a time. Sometimes I wish I had traveled when I was younger, had stepped out way sooner than this, but then I remember that I just wasn’t ready then – I must have had other things to take care of in myself – but I kept thinking about it and eventually perseverance won out. Cheers!
Gillian recently posted..Remember That Time…Creepy White Guys And Surprise Soup

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matt December 9, 2010 at 2:12 am

Hi Gillian! I’m glad perseverance won out because you’ve got some great travel stories now and incredible experiences. I think that I am the same in many ways. I didn’t take an International trip until I was in my 30’s. But all it took was that one trip to infect me with the travel bug.

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Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World December 7, 2010 at 11:44 am

Aaaw, what a cute story.
There’s this one quote about conquering fear that I really like: “Some have been taught brave because they are too afraid to run away.”

That would be me on a ladder. Too afraid to come down. Might as well keep going up.
Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..Bras and Tampons For Tricky Border Crossings — Weekly Travel Tip

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matt December 9, 2010 at 2:13 am

Hi Jill! I glad that we were able to connect recently. Love the quote! Thanks for sharing that.

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Zablon Mukuba December 8, 2010 at 3:13 am

its amazing your son was able to overcome the last rung, which is usually the hardest. this a great life lesson

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matt December 9, 2010 at 2:14 am

Hi Zablon! He almost made it to the roof but the real key is that he kept coming back despite his fear. It’s a great lesson we can all remember. Great to hear from you!

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Sarah Wu December 9, 2010 at 12:28 am

What a nice story. Father and son time spending together. I think you gave him the courage and trust to go back again ;D
Sarah Wu recently posted..Photos- Fun Printables From Disney

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matt December 9, 2010 at 2:15 am

Hi Sarah! Yes, he definitely had some comfort in the fact that I was holding the ladder from above. He really wanted to get on the roof but it just wasn’t the time for him. Maybe I’ll see if he wants to go up to take them down. 🙂

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Cole Stan December 9, 2010 at 6:46 am

Looks like your kid is really a fighter. I was inspired by this story of yours. It’s nice to have a parent like you who knows how to encourage, to support your kid. For sure, some parents won’t act the same way you acted. Looking forward to 2011 Christmas I guess.
Cole Stan recently posted..Engraved Lucky Horseshoe Money Clip for Men

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matt December 9, 2010 at 11:22 am

He definitely has a bit of “hard-headedness” in him which serves him well at times and drives us crazy at other times. Both my boys are looking forward to Indonesia in 2011.

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Barry H December 10, 2010 at 9:07 am

This is a really inspirational post. Letting your fears hold you back is one of the biggest things stopping people from achieving their potential in my experience.
Barry H recently posted..2011 Investment Outlook Uncertain

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matt December 10, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Hi Barry! I agree. I know that my own experience is that I far too often let my own personal fears and insecurities get the best of me. Trying to get over that by taking this sabbatical.

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Mike Ramsey December 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Thanks for the father-son story, it was really inspirational and nice story.

By this way you were also enjoying your fatherhood as well….. being proud of your son!

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matt December 21, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Hi Mike! Yes, these are the memory building moments of fatherhood. Thanks for your comment!

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