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Our Climb to the Top of Mt. Whitney


"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” –Ursula K. LeGuin

Ted at the Base of Mt. Whitney

Ted at the Base of Mt. Whitney

It's The Journey That Counts

A few years ago we climbed to the top of Mt.Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States. For a few minutes, we were the tallest people in the United States. It was beautiful, exhilarating, exciting to be standing there after a very difficult hike. We all put our names in the register to mark our achievement and we each wrote our own message in the register. When I signed in, I was thinking about what to write as a message. Would it be about how difficult the climb was, would it be about the accomplishment, what would I say? All of a sudden I wrote, O.K. What's Next. Yes we had accomplished something we set out to do, yes we struggled along the way but it wasn't the end. There were other things to accomplish. As I thought back on the hike, and everything that went into reaching the top, I remembered back to a sermon that Dr. Jim Mahin had given many years before, that he titled " It's the Journey That Counts." The exhilaration of reaching our goal was great. We were able to stand on the top of Mt. Whitney and look at the beauty below us and realize that we had reached this one destination.

As I look back on the experience, the planning, the trek up the mountain, I also realize that yes it really was the Journey that counted, that this was not a final destination but just one more experience along the way. The thing I will most remember will be the journey, the friends I shared this with, and all the obstacles we had overcome along the way. As I was walking the 11 miles back to where we started, I was struck by how similar the experience, this journey, was to the profession I had chosen over 20 years ago. I thought about the financial goals my clients choose and the journey's we have taken together to reach those goals.

We plan for retirement, we plan for our children's education, we plan for so many goals but when we reach them, we realize that the journey continues, we haven't reached the finish line, there is more to be done, to accomplish. We couldn't have hiked Mt. Whitney without prior planning. We had to set our goal. Starting when the thought first came into our head, we had to figure out what it would take to reach the top. At first we had to figure out where Mt. Whitney was, how high was it, how long would it take us, how strenuous would it be, what would we need to bring, who would go with us, what would stand in our way, where were we starting from (i.e.), what was our physical conditioning, would we have to train, build up our stamina. Again, this is exactly what we do everyday when we work with clients to reach their financial goals. Lets look at the goal of retirement and being financially independent. How do we plan for this goal? Do we realize that retirement isn't a stopping point, not the finish line? To reach our goal we have to start by defining what the goal really is. Is it actually retirement? What does that look like, will we totally stop working, what will we be doing at that time, where will we live, who will our friends be, how much money or assets will we need? Often times, as we examine our goals such as retirement, we realize that retirement doesn't mean we are going to stop working, that we won't continue to pursue a career or some other types of fulfilling endeavors such as volunteering, a new career, something we have always wanted to do. What it may mean is having reached financial independence where we can do what we want, when we want without financial concerns.

So how is reaching the goal of financial independence similar to climbing Mt. Whitney? We have to develop a plan. Where are we starting from, what is the goal, what actions will we need to take, what obstacles may get in our way, who are we going to take with us on our journey? The first step is to figure out where we are starting from.

Since we are talking abut financial independence, what assets do we have now, how many assets will we need to reach our goal, what is our income now, how much can we save, what is our earning potential along the way, what if we lose a job, how will we plan for and overcome that obstacle, what else could slow us down, how will we work through these road blocks? At times it won't be easy but with the goal clearly in mind, with prior planning, with the help of the team members, we can reach any goal we set for ourselves.

Hiking to the top of Mt. Whitney and reaching financial independence is really quite the same process. Find the dream, set the goal, take the actions, plan for obstacles, do the work. Remember, "It's The Journey That Counts." It's not just the destination, it's not just about the money. It's about family, friends, adventure, achievement, health, integrity, service, personal growth, wisdom, knowledge, and much more along the way. It's The Journey That Counts.

"The dream is not the destination but the journey.” –Diane Sawyer

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