By Jill Koenig
I recently spent some time in Door County, Wisconsin on a little
relaxing weekend getaway.
On my last day there, I set out with a girlfriend to explore
Peninsula State Park, a beautiful nature preserve located on a
bluff high above the waters of Green Bay.
As we went through the park, we stumbled upon Eagle Tower. Eagle
Tower is a 75 foot wooden tower built in 1914 that sits on a
cliff above Green Bay, exactly 250 feet above the water.
For whatever reason, I was attracted to the tower. I quickly
assessed it and decided to climb it. I figured if it’s been here
since 1914 and it’s open to the public, it must be relatively
safe, right? So I grabbed my video camera and began my ascent.
Upon first glance it seems like it would be a breeze to climb to
the top, that is, until you get started, then you realize the
tower is one big wobbly staircase.
Now I’m from the city so this is not the first staircase I have
conquered. My home is three levels and I climb those stairs every
single day. The art school I attended was 14 stories high and I
loved using the stairs. It is however quite daunting when you
realize that the individual stairs of Eagle Tower go straight up
and have no backing, no walls. So this means you get to feel the
wind in your face, you cannot avoid seeing the height you are
climbing to while the landmarks below you shrink with each step
I was so happy to be climbing Eagle Tower and was especially
excited to be sharing the experience with my dear friend. After
all, we are stronger together… that is until I lost her, and
then I had to be strong by myself. She turned back after about 20
feet up. She didn’t just turn back, she got a little cranky with
me, told me climbing this thing just wasn’t important to her and
just like that, she was gone. She was back on the ground. Little
did I know that climbing this pile of wood would become a deeply
moving spiritual experience that I could draw from for the rest
of my life…
The Ten Lessons I Learned While Climbing to the Top
1. There will be times you will have to go on without your
support system. The people you want to be there with you will not
always be there with you. Be willing to go forward anyway.
It occurred to me at that moment that I had a choice. I could
turn back to keep her company or I could just keep going.Â Since
she was already cranky, I might risk her being mad at me for
going without her. Or I could just go forward and do what I said
I was going to do. I would have truly preferred to climb it with
her and share the experience, but I decided to continue climbing
even if it meant I was alone. After all, the tower wasn’t going
anywhere and I could tell her all about it when I came down and
perhaps she would want to climb it later after watching me do it.
I am an optimist.
But that didn’t happen. She totally disengaged from me and the
experience. What’s important to note is that no matter how much I
truly believe she would have benefited from this experience, my
journey is not her journey. Each person chooses their own path
and sometimes you have to let them go and do what you need to do
Which taught me this:
2. The higher you climb, the scarier it gets and the less
company you will have.
Sometimes people turn on you and project THEIR fear onto you
through anger, disassociation, abandonment and so on. Sometimes
they even attack you because you are doing something they want,
but are afraid to do. I wanted her to have this experience.Â But
the truth is, this climb was not about her or anyone else and I
shouldn’t make it about her. It was about me wanting to feel the
fear and do it anyway. I wanted this experience. There were
people already at the top and that was comforting to know that I
would meet them when I got there.
And so I kept climbing.
The higher I climbed, the stronger and colder the wind was. In
fact,when I reached the second level, the wind was so strong, it
blew my hat off my head. Oh, and the higher you go, the more the
tower sways in the wind. You can hear the wood making creaky
sounds and the ‘perception’ of danger and intensity becomes
greater with each step.
The wind is loud as it howls around you. There is no protection
from it as the tower is essentially 4 pillars, a floating
staircase and a railing to hold onto as you climb. That’s it.
So why was I here, why was I climbing this tower?Â Why was this
so important to me?
3. How you do anything is how you do everything.
The very thought of that statement is what kept me from turning
back. I wondered if I turned back here, in a controlled situation
that would be done and over with in about 4 minutes, what else in
life do I avoid, turn back and retreat from? Not that this issue
is a pattern in my life, but the mere possibility was enough to
make me forge ahead.
This experience was symbolic to me, a step in the direction of
expanding my personal development and spiritual growth.
4. Once you make the decision to go, do not sit around talking
about how afraid you are.Â That only causes the fear to become
bigger and you will increase your chances of turning around like
my friend did. It’s okay that she turned back, as she had her
reasons for not doing it, but I could not turn back for I had my
reasons for following through and I was 100% committed to make it
to the top. She saw the tower as a meaningless pile of wood. I
saw it as a metaphor for life and conquering fear. Instead of
focusing on the fear, I focused on the feeling of accomplishment
I would feel with each progressive step and the view I would get
to enjoy when I reached the highest point.
â€œWhat you dwell upon long enough and strong enough becomes
your reality. â€ -Jill Koenig
5. The only way to grow your courage muscle is to use it.
Sometimes when you are afraid to do something that you know you
are capable of, it means you MUST do it. I could spend my entire
life avoiding things that scare me but then I would never grow. I
would miss out on so many delicious experiences. When muscles and
skills are not used, they atrophy, the fade, they shrink. You
increase and grow your capacity whenever you pursue your
6. The higher you climb, the more temptation there is to turn
back.Â The climate is different at the top. There is often more
risk, and the conditions are more extreme. Fewer people are
willing to take those risks and battle those conditions. This
applies to business, love, spirituality and any component of
life. The greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity, but
also the greater the challenge, the more opportunities for your
limiting beliefs to sneak up on you and bit you in the rear. You
must consciously choose to overcome the perception of your
7. When you get to the top, or reach a new level, take time to
celebrate and reflect. Capture the lessons from the experience.
Who knew that climbing a wooden tower would have brought so much
insight to my life and give me the opportunity to share it with
you? And some of you are going to comment back and share your
insights with me and that’s pretty awesome if you ask me.
8. After you stretch yourself and have done something a few
times, it becomes much easier to accomplish more. In fact, you
will find yourself looking for bigger challenges to tackle.
Challenging yourself makes you feel alive and accomplished. Even
if you don’t make it to the top, if you stretch yourself, you
will be in a better position for the future.
9. The view from the top is spectacular. There are things you
can only experience and see from up high. I climbed the tower
three times that day. Each time was easier than the one before.
The third time I climbed the tower, I saw a bald eagle flying
just above me. Have you ever seen a free bald eagle in front of
your face in the wild? It’s a treasure to behold. I would have
totally missed that remarkable sight if I were standing on the
10. Sometimes coming downÂ just as frightening as going up.
After I celebrated at the top, and took in the spectacular view,
it was time to come down and it was just as scary coming down as
it was going up and I think the same is true of life. Life is a
series of peaks and valleys, summers and winters. There are
cycles we must all experience. I don’t know anyone whose life is
a constant ride at the top. But it is still worth the effort to
go for it and get back to the top, to seek new heights, if for no
other reason than what you will learn and who you will become in
the process. The lessons are yours to keep forever.
For my friend this tower was a meaningless pile of wood. For me
it was a metaphor for life. What towers or mountains have you
climbed lately? What challenges have you embraced, what fears
have you conquered? How have you stretched yourself today?
You want to seek new heights in every area of your life. It’s
worth doing whatever it takes to get there.
See you at the top.
Live Your Dreams