My second mountain of the summer! Mount Israel, in Sandwich, New Hampshire, a 4.2 mile moderate difficulty out and back trail: 1700 foot vertical rise, tremendous views of Squam Lake and the White Mountains. About an hour and thirty minutes up; about an hour and fifteen minutes down with thirty minutes at the top on an almost cloudless, low humidity summer day.
40-year friend Steve and I started at about 1:00 pm. The trail rose fairly consistently, steeper pitches separated by longer distances of more gradual climbing; the overhead tree canopy protecting us from the strong afternoon sun. The mountain is heavily wooded, so there were no views of the surrounding countryside until almost the top.
Steve, the more experienced climber, led; I followed. With little to look at other than rocks, tree trunks, and the occasional stream of water, I kept a careful watch on the trail and Steve’s feet, following his lead in terms of foot placement and strides.
Our conversation wandered widely. About 1/3 of the way up, we were talking about trail maintenance and the challenges of clearing fallen trees from the trail; in some parts of the White Mountains, no power tools are permitted, so the trail guys use buck saws and other hand tools to cut through the trees.
I took a step up and – I can’t think of how else to describe this – it felt like someone hit me gently with a baseball bat in the high forehead, where I used to have hair. The initial blow didn’t hurt much – it was a complete surprise – and the shock drove down through my neck and literally rattled my teeth.
“(Expletive),” I said, sharply, stopping in my tracks.
I’d made a rookie mistake. Because I was focusing primarily on the steps in front of me and Steve’s feet, I had stepped up and driven my head into a five-inch thick birch tree limb that had fallen across the trail, at that point about six feet off the ground.
I gingerly touched the point of impact to determine whether the skin had split. Steve had a look, too. It had not.
“Good thing you were wearing a hat,” he said, soothingly.
Yup. Good thing.
We can have similar experiences when we’re climbing toward our sales goals. We focus so intently on executing our day, week, or month activities that we don’t see obstacles or challenges that can bump us. While some sales trails afford more visibility than others, and not every sales trail includes low tree branches, it’s good to look up, from time to time.
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