20 April 2015. Preikestolen, Norway
My feet hung over the cliff, where 600 meters (1980 feet) below, the blue water of the Norwegian fjord settled like blue concrete.
My right hand held a Kvikk Lunsj chocolate bar (basically a Norwegian Kit Kat) as my left hand held on for dear life. My friend and travel companion, Harald, took my picture as I tried to look as relaxed as was possible while sitting at the edge of a 600 meter drop.
I was at the top of Preikestolen, aka Pulpit Rock, named the #1 most breathtaking platform by the Lonely Planet.
My travel companion, Harald, was the reason I was there; not just there at Preikesetolen that specific day, but also the reason why I was in Norway to begin with.
I had met Harald three years ago at The Humor Project in Silver Springs, NY. He was there to improve his own humor education and I was presenting on how to effectively use humor at work. We connected afterwords over a shared love of standup comedy and stayed connected after the conference via the Facebook.
A few months after that, a friend of his was visiting New York City and he put the two of us in touch. She happened to be the producer of a comedy festival in Norway and was looking for talent from New York City. We hit it off and six months later I was in Norway for the first time to help her kickoff her production company.
Now, in 2015, I was back for the second year of her comedy festival which had taken place over past weekend. Harold had offered to take me to Pulpit Rock and I agreed. He even took the day off so he and I would be free to make the journey, and a journey it was.
To get to the top of the rock required a 3.8 km hike (2.3 miles) up 334 meters (1,095 feet). And though the temperature was 10°C (50°F) down on the ground, the trail still included quite a bit of snow once the elevation increased.
During the climb, Harald and I caught up, talking about a wide variety of things, from nature to comedy to having kids to the hike itself (“Whoa, this is more strenuous than I thought.” “Yup.”).
We eventually got to the top where we took in the stunning view. There were quite a few other people hanging around, including a group of Frenchmen who were preparing a slack line to cross one of the gaps between the two rocks.
I had started off very cautious at the top, army crawling my way to the edge. My confidence slowly grew until I finally felt comfortable enough to sit at the edge (while holding on).
Sitting on the edge of a cliff while feeling a slight breeze as you eat chocolate has a way of making you think philosophically.
I thought about how spectacular view was. I thought about how so far on my journey, some of my best experiences had taken place in the company of other people, despite the fact that I consider myself very much an introvert. And I thought about the nature of effort and reward.
The view was naturally stunning. But it felt even more amazing because it had to be earned. There was no driving up to the top, there was no tram, no shortcut, no elevator. It required a somewhat strenuous hike that included ups and downs, wide rock landscapes and narrow snowy paths, easy strolls and hard climbs.
The hike up had taken 90 minutes. The hike down would take another 90. Depending on how long you stayed at the top, you might spend more time getting to and from the destination that actually enjoying the destination itself.
The same is true for setting goals in life. It’s not just about the end destination, it’s also about the journey to get there. And most of time, there’s more work to be down, even after you’ve reached the top.
My grip on the rock loosened ever so slightly as I took another bite of the Norwegian Kit Kat. I had enjoyed the journey up. I would enjoy the journey down. But for the moment, I was enjoying being at the top.