If You Want Perspective, You’ve Got to Climb Mountains

Randy Pang Echo Peak

Randy Pang, my cofounder at Ridejoy, on the summit of Echo Peaks in Yosemite.

Having perspective is powerful.

When you ask for advice from a mentor or advisor, you are reaping the benefits of their perspective. They have a different (often higher) vantage point from which to see the situation and offer suggestions. But how do you get that perspective?

I recently ran two trail races that had a lot of uphill climbs. Trudging up those steep hills was no fun. We were sweating and grinding forward on a path that seemed to go up indefinitely.

When we finally reached the top, we were rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding area. You could see out for miles, across enormous swaths of of the Bay Area.

We got to enjoy this beautiful vantage point for most of the race and it was glorious.

It has occurred to me that to get great perspective, to get sound judgement and a better sense of what you ought to do in a given situation, you need to climb mountains.

These mountains can be literal, like the ones in my trail race, or metaphorical ones: dealing with tough challenges, making progress and pushing ahead:

  • Working on a startup
  • Raising a child
  • Launching a new product
  • Shooting a documentary
  • Recovering from an addiction
  • Traveling to foreign lands.

These things are hard, scary and sometimes dangerous. But it’s the struggle (and eventual success) that gives you wisdom.

A parent, a veteran entrepreneur, a seasoned traveler – these people have hard-earned perspective that came from their facing the steep hills of their lives and forging ahead. Sometimes they slipped back a little or had to stop and rest. But they always kept their eyes on the path, rallied and continued onward. Because that’s what it takes.

So remember:

If you want perspective, you’ve got to climb mountains.


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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and talent expert. He is CEO of a performance hiring platform called Headlight, a Fast Company contributor, and an advocate for Asian American men. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonshen and subscribe to his private newsletter.

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  1. I’d argue that it’s not only perspective that they offer, but also experience. Having climbed a bunch of tall mountains, you get the experience of dealing with many of the problems along the way. This can be invaluable to someone who’s still at the bottom of the mountain, in terms of helping them prepare for eventual problems, in terms of helping them avoid problems altogether by taking a different route, or in terms of helping them deal with actual problems when they arise.

    •  @swombat You’re right. I think experience and perspective are closely related. Experience is what you have to draw from and perspective is how you use the data to make decisions.

  2. Great advice, Jason. Also, it’s beneficial to not take the well-worn trail up the mountain, but to carve your own path if necessary. Might be a slightly tired cliché, but I think it’s still pretty relevant for a lot of people! 

  3. Great stuff. I am still in search of a mentor, because there really isn’t anyone nearby that is where I want to go. I either have to go with someone who is close to where I want to go or someone who I’d have little contact with because they live far away.

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