“The difference between shame and guilt is the difference between ‘I am bad’ and ‘I did something bad.’”
I recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend with the Mitchell Scholars, a group of fabulously, impressive college kids. During the weekend, there was time for getting to know each other, a couple of workshops and some community service work. One of our other activities was the chance to climb Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine. This climb has been on my bucket list for some time, and I decided to join a group where they were all nearly 30 years younger than me!
Our group was just going to the summit (a 10-11 hour hike). Other groups were not only going to the summit, they were doing a portion of the mountain called, Knife’s Edge-which is a thin strip of rock with drop offs on both sides of about 200 feet.
I will admit, it was a very challenging hike for me and I was, more often than not, bringing up the rear of our group of 11. Joining me was a young woman in her mid-twenties, in very good shape and an experienced hiker. In fact, she had climbed Katahdin earlier in the summer. However, she recently had had an appendectomy several weeks before, so felt a slower pace was in her best interest.
After three or four hours on our climb, this young woman started to feel pain in her abdomen and we fell significantly behind our group. She said to me, she thought she would tell our guide she would wait on the side of the trail, while we went ahead to the summit and she would wait until we came down and she would join us on the descent.
The guide said that was not possible. We all either go up together, or we call the hike and start our descent together. I could see the pain on her face, and having to make that decision, which impacted us all, was the worst for her.
I looked at her and said, “We have to call the hike.” She didn’t answer me. Then the guide said, “You know, there’s no shame in not finishing the hike. The mountain will always be here, it’s been a great hike, even though we won’t get to the summit. But there is no shame in not completing this hike.”
We called the hike.
I had the next five hours (yes, it took us five hours to get off the mountain) to think about this. I was disappointed in not being able to continue to the summit, but I thought a lot about what the guide said about “there’s no shame in not completing the hike.”
So many times I talk to entrepreneurs who will say, “Oh, I really screwed up that opportunity” or “Geez, I really dropped the ball during the summer in not following up with several people who wanted to work with me”.
Or, “I can’t believe how I really botched that sales call; it was my one opportunity to get the business.”
No. This isn’t true and there should be NO shame in not completing or finishing something. Because I just don’t believe an opportunity only comes around once, or there’s only one opportunity to follow up with a prospect, or one chance to make the sale. The opportunity is still there and it’s our job to regroup, reorganize, reprioritize and reposition ourselves to go after those opportunities again.
Where have you dropped the ball? Where are you feeling shame for not completing something, or taken advantage of an opportunity? It’s not too late.
Because as my guide said up there on the mountain: “The mountain will always be here.” Meaning-there’s always another chance. So get climbing.
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