Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lessons From the Ledge - Friday Reflections (Not on Friday) Vol. 9

The mood was somber.  It was a Tuesday and we were gathered in the library just as we do every Tuesday for a faculty meeting. Normally, despite our end of the day tiredness, we're a talkative bunch, but on that particular afternoon, the library was eerily silent.  We knew what was coming, we could feel it.  That was the day we learned that our school's scores on the state assessment had not increased from the previous year, but rather decreased.  This is considered a big no-no in the world of education and high stakes accountability.  It was also the day I first viewed "Lessons from the Ledge," a TED Talk by Alison Levine.

But, before the news of our plummeting test scores was officially shared with us, my principal played us a portion (approximately the first four minutes) of this TED Talk video. 

In her talk, Levine, an American climber, explorer, mountaineer, and entrepreneur who has completed the Explorers Grand Slam, discussed her experience of ascending the world's highest peak, Mt. Everest.  

During the portion of the video we saw that day, she described how the common assumption that climbers start at base camp and simply work their way up from camp to camp until they reach the summit is not true. In reality, climbers must ascend and descend the mountain, going back and forth between base camp and the higher elevation camps multiple times before finally making an attempt to reach the peak. The reason for the repeated trek down the mountain to base camp is to allow the body to hydrate, rest, and gain the necessary strength needed to continue the climb to the summit.

The message was simple.  
Progress doesn't always occur in one direction.  Sometimes it is necessary to move backwards in order to later move forward and get to the place you want to be.

That is exactly what we needed to hear that day, because our spirits were down and we honestly felt like failures.  The previous year, our school had made tremendous gains on the state assessment.  But, that year, as I mentioned before, our scores had gone down. My principal likened this decline to the downhill return trip to base camp after having made it up to camp number one. She stressed that our descent was not a failure, but rather a vital and necessary part of our overall journey.

After returning home that evening, I thought about the simple message conveyed in the first four minutes of "Lessons from the Ledge" and how it could apply to so many aspects of life. My quest to complete a half marathon several years earlier required similar "downward treks" in order to rest and recoup from injuries, but I eventually crossed that finish line. Curious about what lessons remained in the portion of Levine's talk that I had not yet seen, I found the video online and watched it.

In the remaining 14 minutes, Levine continued chronicling her Mt. Everest experience, peppering it with lessons she learned along the way.  She hit on themes such as "digging deep," the importance of being adaptable in an ever-changing environment, and knowing when to cut your losses. The most important message is, in my opinion, that the process and the lessons learned along the way are more important than the end result.  

It's not about the destination, but rather the journey.

I haven't watched many TED Talks, but of the ones I have viewed, this one is by far my favorite.  Although Levine's experience is about Mt. Everest, the lessons she learned while climbing that mountain can be applied to everyone.  Sure, not everyone will make the attempt to climb Mt. Everest, nor does everyone want to - I sure don't.  But, the point is that we all have mountains in our lives.  We all have obstacles.  We are all on some sort of quest.  

Everyone has a Mt. Everest in their life.

"Lessons from the Ledge" is a mere 18 minutes long, so viewing it doesn't require a large time commitment.  I strongly recommend it.  Watch it and let me know what you think.

As always, thanks for stopping by!  

Linking up with Mackenzie @ Reflections from Me 
and Janine @ Reflections from a Redhead. 


  1. I really love this a lot. Great insight.

  2. I've never watched a TED talk but I'm inspired to watch this one because of you! Loved your message on this one . . . and bummer about the scores.

    1. Yeah, it was a bummer, but such is life, ya know? Honestly, our educational system tests kids WAY TOO MUCH and I personally believe that there is more to the education of a child than is measured in test scores. I tell kids this all the time - you are more than the number or progress level on a test.

      It is a very inspiring video and it's not too long. Let me know what you think of it after you view it. Have a good one!


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