“Maybe somebody should’ve labeled the future: some assembly required.” -Michael Garibaldi, Babylon 5: Hunter, Prey

While traveling through Wyoming, I stopped at the first US National Monument, the Devil’s Tower, and gained some insight into goal setting.

Some of you may remember this artifact from Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind with Richard Dreyfuss.

There are a number of trails in the area, one of them encircling the base of the Tower.

While hiking around this trail, I came across several climbers scaling the side of the Tower.

As I looked up, an old worn phrase came to mind: “It’s lonely at the top.”

In the past, I thought this meant  you had to sacrifice your relationships in order to get to the top. You had to be ruthless, stepping on the bodies of anyone blocking your way in your quest for success.

In short, no lasting friendships. Only shallow relationships and business acquaintances.

After looking at these climbers, I had a different view of this phrase, reframing it to mean something new.

These climbers weren’t mavericks or cowboys. They didn’t try to do it on their own or step on each other on the way up.

They helped each other.

At any given time, the climber had someone at the bottom giving encouragement and feeding a line. They also had someone at the top, giving encouragement and holding the line. Both ends were giving support in every sense of the word.

The climb to the top requires a personal vision and commitment, something that only you can provide.But the climber had to make the climb themselves.

No one was going to pull them up. Nor was anyone going to get under the climber and push them up. Their team could provide assistance, support and encouragement. But ultimately, the individual had to make the effort.

I doubt any of them said, “Well, I really wanna get to the top, but I’m tired and out of shape. Why don’t you guys pull me up?” And I seriously doubt that any one of them got halfway up and said, “OK. I’m kind of tired now. I want to go home.”

Reaching the top and being successful has less to do with stepping on bodies and destroying relationships. It has more to do with a personal vision and a strong commitment to reaching your goal. Those climbers were reaching the top because they wanted it. They owned it.

Yet, on any given night, you can find at least 10 infomercials on TV promoting systems for getting rich quick or losing weight fast. Just follow these steps, do what everyone else has done and you can be richer than Trump with a body like Schwarzenegger.

Man, this sounds easy enough. And that is why many people buy these programs. They are looking for a quick fix or a magic bullet to make success easy. They will go through the motions of the program with no passion or commitment. And when they fail to produce the desired results using the program, they shelve the DVDs, use the exercise equipment to hold clothes, and state that the system is nothing but a gimmick.

Why is it lonely at the top? It is lonely at the top because many people haven’t taken the time to decide what they want. They haven’t created a vision for their life, and haven’t devised a plan on how to get it.

If you really want to be successful, sit down one Saturday morning and write down all of the things that are really important in your life. Then, a vision for your life that encompasses those things.

Many people can make suggestions and offer their help. And some will even try to tell you what you should be doing with your life and what you need to do to be successful.

But the only person who can decide what you want for your life, is you.

Might as well get started. It’s gonna be a long climb.