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The Climb Is the Thing

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

Polish-American sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, was commissioned to sculpt the Crazy Horse monument, which he began in 1948. Sadly, Korczak died thirty-four years after beginning his hopeful masterpiece. This sculpture was certainly monumental. When complete, it would stand 563 feet high and 641 feet long. In fact, Korczak knew he would never live to see the culmination of this epic project. However, that did not deter him from climbing that mountain each day to chisel and blast his way towards completing this dream. In the end, it took professional working crews to complete this architectural feat.

As an endurance athlete, there are literal and metaphorical mountains that are lying in wait. Regardless of its form, these mountains must be ascended or overcome to reach whatever goal I'm hoping to reach. In fact, I truly believe that it is the struggle of the climb, not the summit, where my hopes and dreams reside. Dare I say that "my climb" will never be complete. This is fine because without goals, I'm shooting at a blank target. What exactly am I aiming for?

The same goes for my life as an educator. Trust me when I say there are many challenging climbs there, as well. However, the thrill is in the climb. I know I can always be better at what I do. There's always another twist I can add to how I present and teach material. There's always another manner in which I can try to reach a difficult student. In the classroom, the students are my monuments under construction. I will never stop ascending this challenging journey, because as with racing (and in life), this "climb" will never be complete.

You see, while it is certainly fine to stop and enjoy the fruits of your labors, in my mind, if you're not climbing, you're going backwards. Sure, you can stop and stand still on an incline, but at some point, gravity will win. Without motion towards something, I am going backwards towards nothing. Maybe the secret to a fulfilling life, career, relationship, etc. is to climb even when you're unsure of the ultimate destination. Even if you don't reach the proverbial summit, you have "carved" your personal imprint on the mountain, as you ascended on your journey.

In the end, I'll let Korczak speak for me. On his deathbed, when asked if he was disappointed that he'd never see the culmination of his monument, he stated, "No. You only have to live long enough to inspire others to do great things." I'll take that as my cue to keep climbing, to keep moving forward, and as I "carve" my mountain, hopefully I'll inspire others, in some manner, along the way.


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