The Second Mountain

August 18, 2020

We all begin our adult lives climbing the first mountain. The summit, the goal, of this first mountain is the establishment of our identity. This is the premise behind David Brook’s book The Second Mountain. Good book. Good writer. It’s one of a number of books I recommend in what I call destiny literature.

Back to the first mountain…Brooks suggests that establishing our identity is all about creating and managing our reputation. Defining ourselves. Asking “am I well thought of?” and “how do I measure up?” For many, this first mountain is becoming who we think we were supposed to be. On this first mountain there is a lot of keeping score and comparing.

There is a second goal at the peak of the first mountain. A second life aim. That is to achieve the American Dream. The good life. Nice house. Nice family. Nice cars. Nice vacations. And an adequate financial supply to create the dream.

For many the climb goes well, at first, but (and there is always a but) inevitably something happens. Failure, perhaps. You blow it. Make a career mistake. Or have a moral fall. Or act stupidly. Or, it could be pain that hits you. Tragedy, heartbreak, illness or loss. Or maybe you just hit the wall. The American Dream doesn’t fulfill you. You get tired of defining yourself. You have a mid-life or quarter-life crisis and ask “is THIS all there is?”

And when the inevitable happens, you fall into the valley of bewilderment. This valley is a place of confusion, disillusionment and sometimes even panic.  It’s not unusual for a person in this bewildering place to say they feel lost or depressed or aimless.

At this point, if they can shake themselves out of their funk, a lot of folks just try to re-climb the first mountain. Try to re-invent themselves. Leave their job. Abandon their career. End a relationship. Move to another state. Buy stuff. Get religious. Which all might work…for a while…until the next tumble.

There is another choice. Brooks suggests, and I agree, that from the valley of bewilderment the best, most fulfilling, life altering decision would be to start climbing the second mountain. The mountain of destiny. Here’s how he describes the second mountain.  “The first mountain is about acquisition. The second mountain is about contribution. The first mountain is about building up ego and defining the self. The second mountain is about shedding the ego and losing the self.” Richard Rohr, in another book from my best-of destiny literature list calls this climb “a further and fantastic journey” (where I got this blog’s name). Rohr suggests that the first mountain is “merely the warmup act”. Here’s Rohr’s book Falling Upward.

I along with Rohr and Brooks would tell you that on this second mountain you are no longer interested in what other people tell you that you want or what you should be. On this second mountain…you want the things that are worth wanting. You want to matter. You want to live with a sense of purpose, with a clear calling, climbing toward your destiny.

I know that’s what you want because I do too.

But, is it possible to define that second mountain more completely than simply living with a sense of purpose? Is it possible to pinpoint the summons on your life…to define a “why to live for” that is uniquely yours?

You bet it is. If that’s what you want, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I can help you. But for now, just dream a little. Imagine climbing that second mountain where getting out of bed in the morning is full of anticipation and laying down your head at night is done with a deep sigh of satisfaction. Because you’ve spent your day doing that thing for which you were made.


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