I have been reflecting on “The ladder of St. Augustine” by Longfellow. The poem was written in the 1900s, but it is meaning is still very much current, if you have troubles, please persevere, it’s translatable.
“…The distant mountains, that up rear…” I see the use of imagery to show that each of us is at a different time in our lives, and just as the mountains are crossed by paths, so we are at different paths in our lives. But we reach upwards towards the sky as our goal.
In our lives mountains of life often are seen as great obstacles that are difficult to overcome, but each mountain offer great heights to those that meet the challenge. I never would have thought to include pyramids in that analogy, but Longfellow did. He also shared a new perspective on the mountains in the ‘Obstacles with Opportunity’ analogy, that once we’ve climbed a bit and gained a little perspective, we realize that the mountains are covered in natural pathways, that even though the mountains had seemed to be barriers, they were actually meant to be climbed. The pyramids, too, “when nearer seen, and better known,” are covered in stairs that are easy enough to climb, if you take them step by step.
In this poem, Longfellow proves wiser than many. He shows that he understands that though the Past is unchangeable and filled with faults, flaws, and failures that we would love to change, even a pile of problems gives us something we can build on. If, out of the ashes of our mistakes, we lear wisdom, and if we use that wisdom to gain great heights, then it can be said that, in the long run, those challenges that we struggle with turn out to be good for us.
We should remember that history is full of people who, in the face of failure, diversion, and distraction, stayed the course anyway, achieving their dreams regardless of the roadblocksin their path.
Like who? Before it was the children’s literary staple that it is today, Dr. Seuss and his “Green Eggs & Ham” were turned down by 27 different publishers. On his way to creating the vacuum, Sir James Dyson burned through his life savings and 5100+ prototypes. Before inspiring millions around the world, Oprah producer found her “unfit for TV,” firing her on the spot.
Taking this poem and relating it to entrepreneurship, it takes hard work (and far more of it than our peers) to reach that ‘life changing’ moment.
But these moments don’t come easy. Successful entrepreneurs have tireless work-ethics, even if their outward style (think Mark Zuckerberg in his shorts and flip flops) suggests otherwise. In the modern business world, it’s about what you can do, not how you look. You will not find a successful entrepreneur who does not have this tireless attitude to business.
“Standing on what to long we bore…” It’s easy to get discouraged, and I know when I do, I have a hard time seeing the proper perspective of my goals. As I push forward and persevere eventually I hold my head up again, and can look back and see what I have been able to accomplish in my life.