The Blessing & Curse of the Mountain Climbing “What’s Next” Mentality
Back in episode 56, my brother Tony Diaz of Industry Print Shop shared his inspiring story of how he went from being a punk rocker in a band on the Warped Tour to starting one of the most successful print shops in the U.S.
He talked about his mentality of “climbing mountains.” Whenever he accomplished his main mission, he immediately set his sights on an even bigger target.
Ya, it was cool that he accomplished something like being on the Warped Tour, but what’s next?
You know the phrase, “There are two sides to every coin?” To me, to be able to climb mountains and relentlessly pursue the next big accomplishment is no doubt a blessing. At the same time, it’s a curse.
The mountain-climbing business is a blessing as it enables you to:
- Tap into your potential.
- Cultivate a killer work ethic.
Not gonna lie, I naturally gravitate towards people who operate in this fashion and love to observe them.
I’ve learned that these mountain climbers never settle—they’re hungry, focused, inspired, and always pursuing the next peak to tame.
They see the world through a different lens.
Their pupils are glued straight ahead and upward. There’s no time to break their gaze by looking down or behind them.
Like a kid driven to dig out the prize buried in the bottom of a 90’s cereal box, nothing will distract them from getting that prize.
Does this sound like you or anyone you know?
How to Know if You’re a Mountain Climber Checklist
You’re a mountain climber if you:
- realize that life is short and you have to take matters into your own hands.
- have accepted that no one is going to deliver your dream to your front door like a fresh and hot pizza from your favorite local joint.
- welcome adversity and use failure as your fuel.
- aren’t afraid to kick your own ass and show up when it’s not convenient.
Doesn’t this sound like a fucking glorious modern-day creative Chuck Norris lifestyle?
How could this mindset be any other than a blessing?
If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m a mountain climber.
Trust me when I say this roundhouse kick approach to your creative grind comes with a cost.
Seduced by “Success” & Blinded by Comparison
I transformed into a mountain climber when I got a little taste of what I thought was “success” back around 2013/2014.
I became tunnel-visioned and borderline-obsessed with my side hustle when:
- My artwork started gaining traction on Instagram.
- Internet people started following my art and sending me praise.
- People started to pay me for my work.
- I’d get asked to speak or teach at big creative conferences.
While cool shit was happening in my life, the comparison trap made it impossible to appreciate any progress I made during my climb.
I was convinced that I had gotten such a late start to the game compared to my creative peers and idols.
This eliminated my need to live in the moment and soak up wins, whether big or small.
What was the point when someone else had more followers, bigger clients, or bigger keynotes on bigger stages?
I couldn’t appreciate what I had or was doing because I needed more—I was too focused on “what’s next.”
I thought being obsessive about climbing bigger and better mountains was the key to surpassing all these people.
The “Hustle Culture” Syndrome
Another downside to this “what’s next” mentality is becoming jaded by the “Hustle Culture.” You begin to believe that you have burn the candle at both ends to advance.
To ascend and dominate the next mountain, you sign your permission slip to lose sleep by working early and grinding hard late into the night.
You tell yourself it’s okay to eat shitty for convenience, skip the gym, and blow off people (even loved ones) because you begin to think these things are distractions.
Next thing you know: you’re burnt out, feeling like shit, have zero energy, and have no support.
Working Smarter + Self-Awareness = Smart Hustle
By all means, work your ass off. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t climb a mountain, as I’m all about going against the grain and making shit happen for yourself.
However, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. I’ve gone through burnout, ruined relationships, and hating the way I felt when looking in the mirror.
Five years into my side hustle, I’m still a constant work-in-progress.
My failures have taught me that there can be a beautiful balance of working hard and not working at all.
“Cool” vs. “Not Cool”
To find this beautiful balance, I think it’s important to establish “cool” vs. “not cool” scenarios.
Hitting a big milestone is “cool”, but’s it’s more “cool” to have people in your corner to celebrate with (more on that in part two of this series).
I understand that, once in a while, you may have to do an all-nighter to hit a deadline…but accepting this as the norm is “not cool.”
Being “cool” is getting sleep, taking care of your mental, physical, and even spiritual being to have the energy to work smarter, not harder.
It’s “not cool” is digging yourself an early grave because you work non-stop with no light at the end of the tunnel.
“Cool” is learning how to take breaks, delegating the non-essential, disconnecting, and having hobbies that let you recharge and refuel your inspiration tank.
If you’re a mountain climber like me, these “cool” areas tend to be our biggest struggles.
This is why I’ve been implementing a week off from the podcast every seven weeks, so I can inject reoccurring lights at the end of the tunnel.
I’m still early into this, but it’s already helped immensely. I’m not feeling as overwhelmed, and I give myself a well-deserved day off.
Be Cooler Than Chuck Norris
Yes, Chuck Norris is cool. He has his own genre of jokes, and even though the dude is almost 80, he can still kick almost anyone’s ass.
However, what’s cooler than being a modern-day creative Chuck Norris is kicking ass on your creative grind while still being able to see the bigger picture: the importance of health and relationships.
What I’m really trying to say is, when you’re climbing mountains, don’t forget to look down and live in the in-between moments.
Don’t let life pass you by because you’re too focused on “what’s next.” You can have your cake and eat it too with some “Smart Hustle.”
Stick with me as Part 2 is all about popping bottles and learning how to celebrate all W’s, big and small.
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