By Dr Rajan Philips -
To have a ‘ladder leaning against the wrong wall’ is a saying that vividly captures the predicaments and crossroads in life that leave us wondering what went wrong despite setting apparently lofty goals and zealously pursuing them.
In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People the motivational speaker and educator Steven Covey warns us against the inherent danger of a mismatch between goal setting and ultimate outcome. He says: “It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover that it’s leaning against the wrong wall.”
We need to periodically ask ourselves questions that may yield disconcerting answers in order to determine the direction of our progress and avoid major heartbreaks and disappointments.
For instance, are we slogging most of our life to achieve someone else’s goals at the cost of our own dreams? However, some are so intent on climbing the ladder of success that they take no note of where it leads. Such success is illusory and only when they reach the top do they realise the shocking truth. I know of a few colleagues who spent years to get trained as teachers and a carried on for many more years in the profession before realising they had made the wrong choice.
Such crucial errors can occur while setting our educational goals, career choices, personal relationships, and even in our spiritual pursuits.
Faced with such a situation most of us give up meekly and carry on the climb even when we realise with regret that we are headed in a totally wrong direction.
When we discover our mistake after ascending many rungs of the ladder, it calls for extraordinary determination and strength of character to ‘climb down’ and start all over again.
However, we have inspiring examples of personalities who have shown such courage and steadfastness to register outstanding accomplishments in the field they were destined for. Sylvester Stallone had a stint as a deli counter attendant and as a movie theatre usher before coming up with the screenplay of the movie Rocky that won him an Oscar award and launched his remarkable film career. Mao Tse-Tung, the great leader and demi-god of Communist China began as an elementary school principal. James Joyce, the renowned Irish writer made a living for years as a singer before he made his mark as a very successful writer.
Colonel Sanders had to take up several blue collar jobs like steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, farmer and railroad fireman before embarking on the globally popular KFC enterprise at the age of 65! Harrison Ford worked for years as a carpenter before becoming a glittering Hollywood superstar. Finally, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes), W Somerset Maugham, Robin Cook, Michael Crichton and Anton Chekhov were all successful medical doctors before becoming writers of unquestioned repute.
Anyway, at some point in life, most all of us arrive at a crucial point in our climb up the ladder when we pause briefly to take stock of our position like adventurous mountaineers do. If we are convinced we are moving in the right direction we must carry on with renewed zeal.
However, if we are certain that we have made an error of judgement we must have the courage and tenacity to turn back and strike new trails We must then redefine our goals and face new challenges with unwavering perseverance.
Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. — Anon.