Life is real and it isn’t always easy? I’ve found everyone’s life is full of sidesteps and back-steps. Adrenaline junkies like mountain climbers, make it to the summit or go out trying.
Crevices, glacier sheets and rocky outcroppings are the challenging parts of life.
You’ll find them in your business. Your customer may find them along the path to better health. It’s not always a smooth road.
Mountain climbing. Athletics. Racing. Forward, backward, sideways.
That’s where the mountain ascent format got its name.
Like climbing…getting well can be a bumpy path
A couple of years ago, I got a call from my sister who was born with cerebral palsy.
“Mom won’t let me call 911!” Her words were hard to understand. But frustration and fear came through loud and clear.
“How long has this been going on?” I tried to keep my voice calm. This wasn’t a new problem. Mom liked to be the one in charge.
Mom and my sister had taken care of each other for years. Sometimes Mom, on the high side of 90, forgets Sis is approaching senior citizen status.
“She’s been sick all day, can’t keep anything down. Now her stomach hurts something terrible.”
“Put her on the line. I’ll talk to her.”
“Hi Mom, Sis says you are feeling horrible but won’t let her get help.”
“Oh, it’s just…” and she dithered off into excuses.
“Mom, that pain isn’t going anywhere by itself. Remember last time?”
“It’s getting late. You need to let Sis make the call. I’d tell her to do it while I’m on the phone with you but I know you never use your cell phones.”
“I just hate to bother them. I don’t want to go to urgent care. I don’t want to risk them keeping me and making me miss Christmas,” she pleaded.
“You won’t miss Christmas. You have to do this. If you try to ignore it, there is no way to know what will happen.”
She gave a little cry of pain. More of a whimper. I could tell it was bad.
“Please give the phone back to Sis!” I kept my voice even and steady…but the tone a mom uses when she won’t take no for an answer.
“Sis, hang up and call 911. Now. You have to do this for her. Don’t listen to her…just do it. Please let me know you’ve called them.
“Okay,” Sis’ voice sounded resolved and steady.
It was her gallbladder. An infection and trip to the ER a month earlier had been a warning.
I visited Mom in the ICU following the surgery
I immediately got a sense something wasn’t right. Mom seemed agitated.
“Make that nurse go away, she’s trying to steal my things,” she scolded. “I can see her out of the corner of my eye. She is being sneaky.”
I headed to the nurses’ station. “What’s going on with my Mother? She says the nurse is trying to steal things.”
I got a blank stare. Then her face changed and I could see she’d thought of something.
“She is having a reaction to the anesthesia. It can happen. More so at her age.. We’ll need to reassure her and try to help her understand that it’s okay. It may take a day or two but those feelings will go away.”
Turned out Mom was seeing the nurse adjust her IV.
Within a few days her health was stable. She was very weak but determined.
“Get me out of here.”
Mom stated it flatly. “I want to go home.”
“Your nursing team is working on it, but you can’t go home yet.
“Sis can’t take care of you and help you get up and down. They’re going to move you to a rehab facility. There’s one very close to home.”
She put on one of her “victim” looks, but didn’t argue.
She knew I was telling her the truth. Mom was much heavier and more frail. With her physical challenges, there was no way Sis could do what needed done.
I lived two hours away and I knew if she fell, I’d never be able to get her up again. She needed rehab. It was the best solution.
Rehabilitation had its own challenges…
Mom was always cooperative with staff, but she made it clear she wanted to go home. She couldn’t even get out of bed on her own and was a fall-risk.
Tiny steps forward. Then a bad day or two where she didn’t feel up to any of the physical therapies required of her.
Days drug into weeks.
I happened to be there when she confronted her therapy team.
“What do I have to do to get out of here and go home?”
“You have to meet the requirements for physical therapy release. You need to show you are strong enough to get around on your own.
“You also need to complete the occupational therapy requirements. Things that show you can handle normal daily tasks.”
“You have to show you can get yourself down to the therapy kitchen and make your lunch.”
I saw the set of her jaw. She had made a decision.
Her personal mountain was steep, but she clearly had her focus set on the summit… her “get out of jail free” card.
Tips for writing mountain ascent stories
In both business and personally I have seen people overcome adversity many times. The coronavirus is creating heroes out there. People who are facing their own mountain ascent.
Mountain ascents force us to correct our course and deal with adversity. You can find lots of examples on television. They overcome one problem and another crops up.
To get to the summit, you have to learn from a mistake or a challenge.
Tragedies are mountain ascent stories that inspire us even when they don’t always turn out well. Think of Romeo and Juliet, The Titanic or The Diary of Anne Frank.
The key behind this story model is the challenges. There is always an obstacle to overcome. There can be many.
In a television series, every episode will have challenges to overcome. They build on these all season. Then they reveal some new level reached in the final episode.
Three parts of the mountain ascent
There are three components to this story format. The introduction and setting up the problem. Next is the ascent, the climb toward the summit. Finally, we have the resolution…how the story turned out.
Mom’s journey back to health is an example of a mountain ascent format.
I find they can run a little longer because of the challenges, or setbacks, the hero encounters.
Take your time and let the reader follow their journey and learn from them.
We introduce our hero. We need to connect with them and see a strength or weakness.
We need to catch the reader’s attention so you need a solid hook and lead. Something that will get them saying “what?!” And read farther.
We share something about the hero that may contribute to their problem.
In Mom’s story…she’s stubborn. She doesn’t want her daughter overriding what she wants to do or not do. She likes to be the boss and in charge.
We also need to set the problem. What is their challenge?.
Mom’s problem is a medical emergency.
We follow our hero through meeting adversity, challenges and setbacks.
In my Mom’s story we followed her frustrations and challenges so she could, “go home.”
But you’ll also find them all over television.
American Ninja Warrior, and Survivor follow this pattern. So do Kardashians, Big Brother, American Idol, and the Bachelor.
The number of obstacles may vary, due to time constraints. But we see some participants fail and some move forward.
In the Bachelor, we have a dual set of challenges. We have those that the bachelor, or bachelorette faces. We also have the ones brought on by competitors’ interactions.
Some get rather messy.
Reality shows are impacted by reality…
Participants in the Big Brother reality show in Germany, are currently in filming. In the home in Cologne, the 14 participants are secluded.
They learned via a video presentation the coronavirus has them quarantined. Talk about a mountain ascent plot.
In reality shows and personal stories we want to know how it turns out.
“I made my lunch!”
Mom’s voice exuded excitement. “I walked down to the occupational therapy room using my walker. I mixed up tuna and made myself a sandwich. Then I walked back to my room again.
“Later I made two laps to the front door and back.” Her tone echoed her pride in her accomplishment.
Four days later, they let her go home.
Today she is getting ready to celebrate 96-years-young.
Anne Frank gave us an inside look into a world most of us can’t imagine. It didn’t turn out well for her, but it taught us a lot.
People watched cheering and booing as the bachelor or bachelorette ended their search with the love of their life. We’ve also seen them leave with a broken heart.
For the sport competitive shows we watch some fail and others move on to become the champion.
Help your reader toward the path of the champion…the person who finds a happier life.
As I work with clients, we look at their business challenges, sidesteps and obstacles. Then I help them plan a different path to their success.
If I’m including customer stories in articles I write for them, I focus on those that share a silver lining. If a person is going to buy a product or a technique, they want it to have a positive outcome.