Imagine a landscape. It has a forest on one side and a mountain range on the other. The two are separated by some water.
The forest is made up of luscious shades of green, so dense it’s almost a jungle. This sea of green is punctuated by snaps of red, blue, orange and yellow from wonderful flowers and fruits.
Out on the mountain range, the peaks start small before sprawling back into epic heights. The mountains’ sandy grey facade appear barren and desolate, but we often hear stories of magnificent castles up in those rarified airs where the clouds start to touch the rocks.
In the forest there is everything you’d expect of a healthy, prosperous woodland. Wise old trees mix with rapidly extended creepers; colourful shrubs sprout alongside exotic flowers and bountiful berries.
For the experienced visitor, the forest is plentiful – it protects from rain and sun, and as an ecosystem is long lasting, tried and true. Some visitors live in the forest itself, others travel in from local villages, and a few build their homes at the water’s edge.
However, for the novices there are pitfalls.
Not all these berries are what they seem – some are poisonous to touch or taste. The creepers become a nuisance, or even suffocating. The oldest and wisest trees are hard to find. Many go in search of them, but many more ignore them – passing over their unremarkable, gnarled appearance for something more instantly gratifying and aesthetically pleasing.
And despite all its lusciousness and hidden depths, the forest needs careful nurturing to survive and grow.
In the forest are the freelancers.
Meanwhile, in the mountains, dusk starts to arrive. As the dark blue hue of night draw its veil, a series of small basecamps become visible on the lower peaks.
They’re uncomplicated structures, nothing noteworthy at first glance. Simple tents that don’t attract attention. Some fly flags or are made of colourful fabrics, yet very few appear flamboyant or garish. Most of these small camps are open to curious visitors. They’re self-sufficient, with a small group of intrepid explorers inside. A few venture to the forest, but most are preparing themselves for the next peak to climb.
Some of their peers have made it all the way up into the castles – manning a turret, or overseeing one of the castle’s most proud and productive areas of output. A select few have even made it all the way up the peaks unguided and built their own settlements. Not many people know what it’s like up there, except those that come down to visit the base camps from time to time. Rumour has it there are other towns and cities on the other side of those mountain peaks.
From the small camps on the lowest peak to the castles way up in the sky, out on the mountain range are the entrepreneurs.
Between the forest and the mountains is a body of water. It’s strangely hard to spot between the two landscapes sitting either of it.
What’s unique about this body of water is its changing nature.
It can seem truly gargantuan – a chasm.
Or a tightly winding river, with rapids, rocks, tight bends, and exhilarating peaks and troughs.
Or it appears to simply be a gentle stream, water softly flowing as clear and smoothly as can be.
How we see the water depends on our current vantage point, our life experience, our abilities, and our perception.
Some of us never need cross the water.
Others may move back and forth every few years.
Venturing across can feel like a invigorating paddle in a stream, or a terrifying journey in unknown depths.
Recently, there’s been more traffic across the water, far more than the elders remember a few decades back.
Some people have been setting up home on the water itself; in self-built houseboats, or grouping together in rented vessels. A few even make their livelihood ferrying others back and forth or up and down the river.
For these people making the crossing or spending their time on the water, they know something of both the larger landscapes.
Whether on the river, in the forest, or up in the mountains, surviving and thriving in each environment requires different skills. Those who do best are often to be the people with a particular mindset, and a strong understanding and respect for the ecosystems in which they spend their time, and on which they rely.
The forest is plentiful, and in most times will happily provide, but it cannot be rapaciously stripped. It tends to be best to visit when not in desperate need of sustenance. The forest’s ecosystem is incredibly complex, and although no one fully understand its ways, we can approach it respectfully, with an attitude of wanting to help it sustain and grow, as well as feeding ourselves and those around us.
While from afar the mountain is incredible to behold, up close on its sheer masses of rock the rewards are far less obvious. To climb any of its demanding peaks requires teamwork, focus, grit, a degree of fearlessness, an ability to both take and mitigate risk. We may slip, fall, or never make it all the way to the top. Perhaps that’s just fine. We can find surprising and unique places to set up our camp along the way.
All these places can feel like home, or they can feel unnerving, confusing, and unfamiliar.
The good news is that wherever we are, we may surprise ourselves at the inner resources we have available to us. If we want to make a change it’s still always possible for us to head into the forest, up to the mountain, out to the river, or back to the village.
And wherever we are, there are fellow travelers out there, ready to go on the journey with us.
Note: This concept first came to me during a coaching session. I was talking with my coach about moving from freelance to entrepreneur and the challenge of crossing the water. This is the extended mix 🙂