Success Redefined: It's Not All About the Summit

Image by Carl Nenzen Loven - view of Zion Canyon

Hey Readers, it's Ixi here!

Ted and I just got back this week from an incredible trip to southwest Utah. From the hoodoos in Bryce to the peaks of Zion, it was one majestic, breathtaking view after another, each more stunning than the one before. We glamped in outdoor safari-like tents at a fantastic outfitter called Under Canvas, and planned the next days' excursions by the fire.

One of the most well-known hikes we went on was Angel's Landing, a 1500-ft dolphin-fin-like ridge situated at the north end of Zion Canyon. You need a permit to ascend, and while we missed the application deadline, won a spot in the 'day-before' lottery! So we headed up, knowing that it's famous for sheer drop-offs on either side of the trail that climbers hike holding on to 2 long sections of chains.

The picture I had in mind was this:

photo from Under Canvas

Doesn't look too scary to me. What's all the fuss about? Let's do it!

We got up very early the morning of, got to the park, took the shuttle into the canyon, and set off. A very steep climb, a set of long switchbacks, and another set of 21 smaller switchbacks later, we reached the spiny ridge called Scouts Lookout.


So a funny thing about perspective…

It plays tricks on you. The drone photo is not terribly accurate, because the people look quite large compared to how they are in reality. See below for MY photo, and zoom in if you can, to see the teeny, tiny people.

My photo

This ridge is ginormous. And the trail is very, very narrow. Verrrrry narrow. Here are the chains you grab onto. See the canyon floor waaaaay down below?

Photo by

I remembered the advice: don't look down. Keep your eyes on your shoes. Three points of contact at all times. We did one section of chains. Then there were some sections with no chains. It was crowded.

​Annnddd… so we tapped out.

Almost simultaneously we decided we went far enough. Did we chicken out? We didn't get to the top, so did we fail? We didn't get that view at the top, so did we… not make it?

But, we did the hike, we loved the views, had a great time and felt accomplished. Not going to the tippy top doesn't mean our experience was diminished in any way. Fighting for chain space with a crowd of strangers for a view that is questionably not the best in Zion?

That simple mindset shift made "giving up" a win. Do you have to go to Curtis or Juilliard to make it? Win principal of Cleveland? Practice 4-8 hours a day for 10 years? Be on Wikipedia?

We heard that the view isn't really 360 degrees and that there were lines of 75-100 people waiting to get back. How is that possibly any fun? Should we do it just to say we did it? Actually, the view from where we turned back was really quite splendid.


So ask yourself the important questions.

What is your definition of success or "making it"? What is the risk-to-reward ratio? When is enough enough? 

If I injure myself for some abstract goal, rather than listening to my better instincts was it worth it?

If I don't achieve the highest, "ultimate" goal, as others say it is, is all the work so far worth it?

Is success black and white? How many people realistically have ever accomplished what I'm setting up as my goal (there are literally only a dozen principal players in The Cleveland Orchestra in the whole world)?

Is there just one, ultimate goal?
What is it about what I'm trying to do that makes me happy? (Hint: if it's about accolades and opinions of others, it will probably never make you happy…)

Is the view from the top actually the best view?

And zooming out to a bigger picture: How do I want to show up in this life? What do I want to contribute to the world? 

While it can be hard to know if you're making the right choice, knowing these answers will help you know when to quit and when to push through.



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