How to Learn to Lead While Sliding Down a Mountain

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in ALL Posts, Blog, Finding Courage, Fitness and Nutrition, Inspiration, Interviews, Reach Your Goals | 12 comments

How to Learn to Lead While Sliding Down a Mountain

A few weeks ago I embarked on my first LA county hike. It was a spectacular 12 miles of physical and mental strengthening.
What I didn’t quite expect was all the leadership building lessons I learned along the way.


Today I’ll share some fun stories from the hike, a few beautiful photos, and the lessons I brought back that will help us to be better leaders.

Grab your mental hiking poles and join me for a little trek up
and a slide down the mountain.

I received 4 lessons. Here’s the first.



1) Your recent accomplishment is really just a step


So I started off on my hike with my handy maps expecting to work my way around the loop in order to reach the summit early on and then enjoy the remainder of the hike. Well the tricky part is that the left turn onto the loop was a “little” hidden.


Yep!  See that little unmarked turn up the mountain to the left?

That’s the trail I missed.

But hey – we leaders don’t blame. We take responsibility. Next time I’ll know.


Anyway… I didn’t know I had missed that little left turn.

Every time I saw a mountain peak – I thought I was at the summit since I was supposed to summit early.
Here are four examples of misleading summit hopes.

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It occurred to me while I kept seeing each summit that was not actually THE summit that this relates very much to life in general and our leadership.

Every major accomplishment in our lives is really just a step.

The acceptance of a new job
The successful completion of a project
The final push before we hear our baby’s cry
Watching our kids walk across the graduation stage
Exiting this world

No matter what it is, big or small, everything is simply a step towards our next stage.

As I learned on the mountain:

Every accomplishment is really just a step.
Keep looking and moving forward. You’re not done yet!!

I’m grateful to say I did eventually reach the correct ascent to the summit and took a long awaited break while enjoying some incredible views.

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2) Sometimes our path looks a little different than the ones others take

Ok – this is a very interesting story.
There’s a place in the path on the way down that features an old plane wreck that just never got cleaned up. (God rest the souls of those who lost their lives here.)

The wreck has apparently caught the attention of many folks.

The path goes right to all the sights where the pieces of the plane lay.

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As I was hiking I thought – I bet they have the path going to these wreckage sites on purpose.
Pilots can be forewarned to not fly here.

Then a stroke of genius came upon me:

What if these paths aren’t really the hiking path but rather a mere distraction?

Yes, indeed, that stroke was genius.
I looked up and had NO IDEA how to connect with the real path!!!

DSCN5009This photo is NOT showing the path. Instead it is another illusion – like the appearance of water in the desert.

Initially I decided to continue in the way I ‘thought’ was right.


I wised up and pulled out my compass and map.  I  was a good solid 90 degrees off track!

I figured I had no option but to use the compass and simply work my way towards where I thought I might find the path again.

The Challenge DSCN5002Hiking horizontally ACROSS a Cali moutain is LIFE THREATENING!!

Dirt in California slides! (A true slippery slope!)

I had to use a very creative strategy to find big solid rocks, shrub branches, and sheer prayer to make my way back to where the trail was supposed to be.

It was fun – in a twisted sort of way.

I only wished Bear Grylls had been there to join in the fun!
I’ve got to get on one of those adventures someday!

I digress…..

As I scrambled and fought to not slide down the mountain.
As I also looked out for snakes with every step in brush.

I was thought:

Sometimes leaders have to be very creative in order to blaze a path that’s different from the ones others follow. Wonder what new path is next. hmmmmm  :=)

Are you blazing forth a path that’s new to those around you? Keep at it!

Just use your compass, your common sense, and keep your eyes on the goal.
You’re gonna LOVE where you end up!!!


3) Insignificant sightings can be life-changing

I eventually made my way horizontally across the side of the mountain and got to a place where I thought I was seeing evidence of being back on the path.  I was cautious, however. I had been deceived before!

Suddenly as I was testing a possible path I looked down and saw something insignificant and yet life-changing (well at least hike-changing).

I saw a footprint!!






When I saw this simple yet profound sign, I knew I had made my way back to the path.

Now I would have LOVED to have seen a spray painted rectangle on a tree or rock!!

That’s not what I was given.

I was given a simple footprint.

I took a moment to reflect:

How many times do we pass by seemingly insignificant sightings in our lives and our leadership that have the power to profoundly change our direction?
We miss these signs because we are off looking for something that screams louder to us than the mere presence of a footprint.

Keep your eyes open. There may be a simple sign right under your feet.


I knew the rest of the hike would be easy…. or so I thought…..


4) Short-cuts are rarely worth the expense

The remainder of the hike was beautiful in so many ways:
The mountains
The tiny trickle of a stream
The beauty of God’s creatures
The fun and interestingly shaped vegetation that was all new to me

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After a while I came to a place in the map that was very near the end of the trail.

The path made a little curve and then came back horizontally on a lower part of the mountain.

DSCN5035The map I had showed a little short-cut from one part of the road to the other. The short-cut was to “simply” go down the side of the mountain.

The road is simply straight down.

Easy, right?   haha NO!!!!


In SoCal, the top layer of dirt is about 5 inches deep.

As you inch down the mountain the top layer of soil simply goes with you!!
This eliminates your clear foot holding.
It also makes a large visible dust pile that follows your dissent.

As I started to scooch on my buttocks I realized this was not going to be as easy as I thought.

The rocks I expected to hold me back just flowed right along with me.

I planned strategic little jaunts from one big rock to one little tree branch.
Then I let gravity take me until I could grab something else on the way down.
I can surely say – that short-cut was not short at all.

At least I amused the little crowd that gathered to watch my creative hiking techniques.
The paramedic in the group reminded me that I could have broken a lot of bones and caused internal damage had I lost my control and tumbled.

Ahhh – well… we live and learn.
I was grateful to make it down to the bottom alive.

I learned in an unforgettable way:  Short-cuts are rarely worth the expense


In Closing:







As I relaxed by my campfire that night and gazed up at the moon I reminded myself of the four leadership lessons my 12 mile hike ingrained in my spirit.

1) Your recent accomplishment is really just a step

2) Sometimes our path looks a little different than the ones others take

3) Insignificant sightings can be life-changing

4) Short-cuts are rarely worth the expense


Can you think of a practical application for any of these lessons?

Have you learned a few lessons along the way on your own hikes?

Tell us about it in the comments section.

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Always remember – each and every day:

Be Inspired! Be Inspirational! Be a Leader!

You’re changing lives simply by being you.




© All photos are property of Inspirational Leading (LouAnn Stropoli)

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  1. I love thinking about how things are steps- that “we aren’t done yet!”
    What an incredible experience you had! Gorgeous pics too!
    Thanks for sharing your insights and views from the hike!

    • Hi Kate,
      Thanks for taking time out of your incredibly busy schedule to read the post and share your insight.
      Wow – I can just imagine all the fun you have coming in future stages of your life!! So many adventures yet to live and enjoy.
      Can’t wait to watch and celebrate with you along the way!!
      Thanks again for reading and commenting. Glad you liked the photos. It’s different out on the West coast and yet just as beautiful.
      Have a wonderfully inspired night!

  2. Great points, LouAnn. Life would be pretty boring with only one peak for which to strive. It’s such a gift that our life is made up of many steps along the journey, with many peaks upon which to gaze out at new destinations. Your comment about everyone’s paths being different struck a chord with me, as well. As a homeschooling mom who does not work outside the home right now, I am at once amused and dismayed by the assumptions that some people make, namely that I couldn’t possibly be content, and that naturally I would much rather be living lives like theirs. Or what a shame it is that my kids couldn’t hack it in real school. Nonsense like that. If I allowed myself, I’m sure I could come up with a list of things I could be doing. Nothing, however, that would give me more contentment or pleasure than being home with my boys right now, educating them and living life with them. It’s a blessing and a privilege, and one which I choose. Frankly, I am usually thinking that they have no idea what they’re missing.

    • Tesa,
      Wow! What an insightful insights and applications! You’re so right about how life would get boring. Next time I hike an unexpected way up to many false summits, I’ll remind myself that. :=) Awesome insight.

      I love the application to your calling as a homeschooling mom. I can imagine the comments you sometimes receive. Sometimes people are not so kind and accepting of those who choose paths that are different. Good for you for doing what is right for you and your boys and for enjoying it each step of the way. Your boys have a strong mom and that will strengthen them as they grow into men.
      I’m inspired and encouraged by your comment. I’m sure many of our readers are too.

      Have a wonderfully inspired and inspiring day!

  3. Thank you again for the pictures and lessons. I agree and have learned from these. We have to go one step at a time and sometimes things turn out to be very different than what we expected. We have to stop along the road of our journey and appreciate everything around us in the moment. Everything has a lesson to learn and God speaking to us if we only stop and listen. We might miss something really meaningful that could change our lives. By taking short cuts we miss the whole picture. Love the pictures and hills of CA. Different scenery so glad you are enjoying!!!

    • HI Laurie,
      Thanks so much for taking time to read the post and for sharing your very wise perspective.
      and yes… very different scenery! Beautiful in a different sort of way. Sometimes I miss the lush greenery of the East but on the other hand – I don’t miss the cold and snow that makes it so lush. 🙂
      Hope your day and weekend are incredibly joyous and inspired.

  4. great post, I love the pictures too! Thanks as always for your amazing insights!

    • Thanks for reading and responding. We love having your insight in our Inspirational Leading community! I’m glad the photos were fun for you!

  5. Great article, and four great reminders for us as we each travel our individual paths. I would offer a fifth recommendation: be sure to time along the way to enjoy our individual journeys; they are shorter than we realize and over before we know it. Enjoy the sights and stop to admire the little things along the way. 🙂

    • Greetings, Jan.
      Wow! Great insight and so very true!
      Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us! You gave us an important reminder!
      Have a wonderfully inspired day as you enjoy all the beauty around you.

  6. What a blessing this morning! You spoke right to my needs. I am on a panel on alternative career paths in a few weeks and would love to share these insights. “Sometimes our path looks a little different from the ones others take”–indeed! Short cuts are rarely shortcuts. So true! You are a gift Louann!

    • Karin,
      Thanks for sharing your perspective and wisdom with us. I suspect your work on the panel is VERY interesting. In today’s climate we desperately need people like you to help us think outside the box. You are a great gift to many!
      Thanks again for joining us.
      Enjoy your creative and inspirational path today. 🙂

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