Change Choices Helping others Purpose Self awareness

Climbing down the ladder

When we discover that there’s more to life than going up and up and up.

The only way is up.

Until it’s not.

From the moment we’re born, our eyes are focused upwards unless we’re lying on our belly.

Our age goes up. Our length goes up. Our weight goes up. At school, grades our counting upward (in most countries).

With our first job, our income goes up. When we’re good at what we’re doing, we’re eying that job up the pyramid.

Up. Up. Up.

Our entire society is focused on going up.

Up is good. Lateral is in service of going up. Down is bad.

The first sign of trouble in Upwards Paradise is when we’re turning eighteen or so (can be earlier), and we stop growing.

Then we discover that what was growing up is now growing sideways and, if exaggerated, starts hanging down.

So we’re trying to lose weight.

Down is good.

In the meantime, we continue to aim for bigger jobs (up in income), bigger houses and cars (up in status), i.e., bigger comfort in our lives.

Up and up.

Song reminder: Coldplay ~ Up and Up

“I’m gonna get it, get it together and go
Up and up and up.”

Up and Up, Coldplay

Then we discover that there’s more to life than going up and up and up.

‘More to life’ is often called midlife crisis, but I continue to call it midlife opportunity.

Harley Davidson, girlfriend, enough of corporate life. NB. this is considered the male version but could easily be the female version.

Here’s the message…

Down is the new up. Down is good.

That was the spirit of a discussion I had last week when visiting Amsterdam. 

I met with friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen in many, many years. 

We met in a bar bistro ( owned by a group of friends from Groningen. They saw the midlife opportunity in owning a bar together.

Almost everybody was doing well. Almost nobody was working in a corporate environment anymore.

Made redundant or decided to leave on their terms.

Some were making more money than ever; others were making less than before.


Everybody was happy (ok, we had a few beers at that point).

But the point still counts.

There’s a point in life when you decide to put yourself more first than ever.

It’s the moment you are at the end of climbing the ladder.

It’s when you decide enough is enough, and it’s time to climb the ladder. Or replace the ladder.

Doing something that truly gives you meaning, makes you happy, and gives you a feeling you’re truly contributing.

Not to the bottom line but the happiness of yourself and others.

You probably should have done this earlier in your life, but there were enough valid reasons you didn’t.

Now you can. 

And if you can’t? 

Don’t give up (and up and up).

Your turn: where are you on the ladder?

The story should end here, but there’s one thing I’d like to add for those in employer positions.

You have a chance to help people climbing down the ladder. 

There are many experienced people who, for less money (because that’s your concern), are willing to help those climbing up the ladder.

So don’t forget. 

Down is the new up. Down is good.

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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