Ever since I saw his ad for the Mercedes-Benz CLA about three years ago, I was hooked on filmmaker Casey Neistat.
His film-making style was dynamic, snappy, and clever. And better yet, fewer things are cooler than riding behind a late-model Merc on a skateboard while holding a giant American flag in New York City without city permission.
Casey is a filmmaker dedicated to reaching his artistic pinnacle, and his favorite metaphor is that of Tarzan swinging on a vine trying to get to the other side of the jungle. To do so, he has to time his swings perfectly to let go of one vine at the apex of its swing to grab onto another one. Doing this over and over again ad nauseam is the fastest way for him to get to his destination.
Something he described in his latest video, where he announced the end of the vlog that made him famous:
And the trouble with success is that is makes you very comfortable…but that means holding on to that one vine in the jungle and not reaching for what’s next.
Sports figures, rappers and military leaders all have the same thing in common in that they don’t just stop when they’ve reached a pinnacle.
In August of 2015, I wrote about never wanting to peak, and basically described a peak as “the start of the end.”
So, then, why would I or anyone want to reach that point? In a world that’s ever-changing, we are in command of our own destinies. Our decisions are some of our strongest assets. And just like our time and money lead to consequences–good or bad.
So what do I plan to do to avoid peak?
Simple enough: stretch myself. With discomfort comes growth and learning. That growth and learning is what we stop doing once we peak. The moment when we over-rest on our laurels is the moment that we begin to get ever-closer to never being able to climb again. On the flip side, the moment when we work past our rut and manage to finally step out of it–that’s the moment of highest growth.
I stand firmly behind that. Comfort in success deters growth, it leads to a mindset of wanting to maintain the status quo and to never alter the formula that brought big success. This is a lesson that Kodak learned the hard way in the advent of consumer photography.
Kodak used to be the number one film manufacturer in the world, but refused to change with the times when Fujifilm came along with the disposable camera and even less so when digital photography came into existence. Instead, they decided to rest with their tried-and-true formula of selling just film. They remained steadfast and dismissive and it resulted in the destruction of everything that Kodak was.
Today, Kodak still exists but only as a shadow of its former self.
Success is undeniably comfortable.It’s that beautiful island that all of mankind strives to reach. But it has a hidden secret. Despite all of its beauty and temptation, it’s an island full of sirens waiting for a complacent sailor to run aground.
Kodak fell into that trap, as did Microsoft and IBM and countless other companies–and billions upon billions of people.
Always keep climbing. It’s one of my main mottos in life and one of the ones that has kept me in constant motion–learning and climbing to new heights.
It’s those moments of discomfort: when we’re faced with a situation that we’ve never seen before and that requires the acquisition of new skills and mindsets that keeps us from peaking.
It’s that adaptability in the face of overwhelming steadiness that marks the difference between stardom and mediocrity. With that in mind, it’s up to us to ensure that everything we do helps grow rather than rest on our laurels.
Stagnation is not pretty but a pinnacle is, at least until you see the next one.
Feature photo by Florian Bernhardt
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