“Resenting the Bottom Rungs…”

“As he stepped over the border, he felt no difference in the soil beneath his feet. Taking his first few steps into the unknown, he could not detect that he was now 10 yards within the boundary of a new country; a country into which he had never ventured. In fact,  since he felt no resistance; no hostility and no opposition, he became at once resentful that his journey toward great discovery was something that “any ordinary man” in his words could do. He had imagined it would at once be treacherous and adventurous, but this slow trudging across the open plain met with his disapproval and he despised that the leisurely manner of his first strides toward greatness seemed ordinary and without fanfare…”

“The Journey to Extraordinary” ©2020 Doug Pacheco All Rights Reserved.

Anything that I have attempted to do in life that still has value to me today, eventually required an incredible amount of dedication and hard work. Now, I must admit that; in the beginning,  many of the exploits that I embarked upon began with common and ordinary tasks that anyone around me could do.

In track and field, I discovered everyone could run and; at first, I wondered how hard this was going to be until a stopwatch appeared and the coach said, “The first 5 across the finish line are going to make the team and the rest can go to the showers!” It was then I realized this was not going to be a leisurely run and “racing” began a whole new challenge for me.  While the first few steps of that race seemed like everyone could do it, it was not the first few steps that made the team…even though everyone at that starting line would be required to run them. It was the resolve to endure the hardship of the race…the difficulty of the next few thousand steps that would determine the five who would finish first. Many who began with ease either walked off the track after a lap or two and headed for the showers or stopped running because what appeared easy at first, revealed that not everyone could do it. There were even some who said, as they watched the final five cross the finish line, “I thought it was going to be easy in the first lap, but…it wasn’t!”

That is the point of the struggle. As Publilius Syrus said, “Do not despise the bottom rungs in the ascent to greatness.” And as Lewis Hawes states: “Greatness is the survival of your vision across an extended timeline.”

Years ago, as a young man, a few friends of mine thought it would be a test of courage to climb an antenna tower. The challenge was thrown down that whoever could climb the ladder to the top was the real man. At first, one of my friends looked at the ladder and laughed and said “No problem” but it wasn’t until he got past the first few rungs that he suddenly realized  that the first rungs committed him to climbing to the top of a mast almost 1000 feet up! It’s easy to disrespect the climb up the first few steps on the ladder of greatness, but we need to respect them as much at the ones 10,000 feet higher up!  The crowd at the beginning of a race is thinned out after the first few steps.

In terms of your job, having respect for and climbing the lower positions of your company show those in leadership that there is no “unimportant step” to you in your journey to greater responsibility. When you show disregard for the lower positions or even contempt for them; the chances of getting through the complexities of difficult human interaction are diminished drastically…because it is always the first rungs on the ladder that teach us how to endure the next ones.

The lower rungs on any climb; either in vocation or personal calling, teach us the skills necessary for the long climb. They teach us how to pace ourselves, how to thoroughly complete small projects with excellence so that larger tasks will be possible. Without the lower rungs of a ladder, you cannot get up to the top where the few who endured the bottom rungs live.

There is a story about Columbus crossing the ocean on his voyage to the New World that King Ferdinand granted him the title: “Admiral of the Ocean Seas” and  he asked Columbus how he had found his way so clearly to the “West Indies.” Columbus commented that he used the skills he had learned as a young sailor reading the sextant and marking the distance by a method he had learned as a young man.  

It is reported that Isabella and Ferdinand then asked, “You mean the abilities learned by ANY young sailor on your ship could have found it Columbus?” Columbus smiled broadly and replied, “No my Sovereign, only ANY  young sailor able to endure 40 years of mocking and ridicule for dreaming of finding the New World would have found it!”

Perhaps in your career, you have held your lower position with contempt as you longed for the promotion to a higher rung on the ladder. But what you don’t know is, it is the hidden quality of perseverance…climbing rung by rung that shows God…YES, GOD whether or not you are ready to move up.

“For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.”

The prizes God hands out for leadership go to those who can and will endure the mocking of naysayers on the lower rungs of the ladder. They will put up with and endure those lesser positions, the first steps of the race and demonstrate excellence in the obscure jobs… because the qualities learned in those positions are pre-requisites for being able to handle the heat of the rungs higher up and closer to the sun.

If you are a middle manager, a non-partner attorney in a law firm, a talented doctor wishing to become Chief of Staff at a hospital or maybe a young apprentice working for a plumber in a hole with water up to your knees waiting your turn to become certified…God is watching you. He is waiting for the lower rungs to do their job to see what you are made of. He is waiting to see if you will throw in the towel or go out and try to make a name for yourself without paying the price of running the first two or three thousand paces of the race. How you handle the bottom rungs will determine how you will handle the top ones… DP

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