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Mountains are full of duality. On the one hand, you have breathtaking scenic landscapes like those found in the Rockies or Alps, perfect for skiing, snowboarding, hiking, or camping depending on the season. On the other hand, you have hostile landscapes such as Everest, where a single miscalculation could mean the difference between life and death. And yet, people are drawn to both aspects of mountains. Personally, I'm drawn to the former—I love skiing and camping, and the daily views of the Rockies is one of the many reasons I love living in Colorado. But today, I want to talk about a different duality involving mountains. This duality is more metaphorical than literal, and hopefully you'll be able to draw inspiration from one, or both, metaphors.
Climb the mountain.
The first metaphor is that of climbing a mountain. The song, "The Mountain," by Three Days Grace, perfectly depicts what this metaphor is all about. The intro and chorus go like this,
"Every day I'm just survivin'
Keep climbin' the mountain
Even when I feel like dyin'
Keep climbin' the mountain."
A critical aspect of success, in hockey and in life, is to be in a state of constant improvement. It doesn't necessarily be fast, or intense, all the time, but you should never get complacent and be content with where you're at. Somewhere, someone else will be improving and putting themselves in a position to make the team while you're stuck being complacent.
And if you are climbing the mountain, and working to improve yourself, don't get discouraged! That's what the second half of the chorus is all about. When you're climbing the mountain, you'll stumble, you'll fall, you'll have to take a break, and there may even be times where you'll feel like quitting. But you just have to keep climbing the mountain. When I first started playing U16 AAA hockey, we had a bag skate (punishment skating, suicides, whatever you want to call it) after our first league showcase where we had gone 4-1. That one loss was the reason for the bag skate. We didn't put out our best effort for a certain amount of time during the game, so at practice, our coaches put that time on the scoreboard and we had to skate down and back the full length of the ice until time ran out. I remember briefly thinking, for the first time ever, I want to quit hockey...this isn't fun. But the bag skate didn't last forever, and I kept climbing the mountain.
Be the mountain.
The next metaphor comes from a unique source, but I think it might be more powerful than the first metaphor just because of the imagery that comes to mind when I picture it. In the Disney movie, Mulan, the Chinese Emperor, a frail old man, stands face-to-face against the intimidating Hun warlord, Shan-Yu. When Shan-Yu violently demands that the Emperor yield and kneel before him, the Emperor stands firm and replies, "No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it." It's simple, and yet so powerful in its truth. The same wind, cold, and other elements that would force you and I indoors or seeking shelter are insignificant to a mountain. No matter what fury Mother Nature throws at it, a mountain does not yield.
Most of the time, hockey players are likened to animate beings such as warriors, or beasts. And while those comparisons certainly have merit, and I loved being called a warrior or a beast back when I played competitive hockey—I challenge you to think bigger. Be a mountain. Warriors and beasts get old and die, but a mountain remains. No matter what adversity is thrown at you during a game or over the course of the season, or over the course of life, do not bow to it. Everyone else on your team or in your life may become overwhelmed and stressed. Be the mountain, the resolute force that pulls them all back together.
Climb the mountain and be the mountain. Those are the two thoughts I want to leave you with. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm sure that one metaphor may resonate and inspire you more than the other, or maybe you'll appreciate both equally. Regardless, they both have value and if you apply them, there's no doubt that you'll advance further in your hockey career and in life. Never stop improving, and do not bow to the howling wind of life. Keep climbing, and be the mountain.