Beau Biden And Climbing The Right Hill

If you haven’t already, make sure to watch and/or read President Obama’s eulogy for Beau Biden, the son of his Vice President. It’s such a textured speech that reveals so much about Obama’s relationship with the Senior Biden, Biden’s family and son, and what it means to create and leave a legacy.

In re-reading the speech and all the rich characteristics that made up Beau Biden, it reminded me one of my favorite blog posts (back from 2009) called “Climbing The Wrong Hill.” This post has had a huge influence on me as I’ve traversed a career here in the Valley. Here’s the post, and here’s a short video clip we recorded with the author of the post.

Obama goes into great detail about Beau’s history. A sample paragraph goes like this:

Beau didn’t cut corners. He turned down an appointment to be Delaware’s attorney general so he could win it fair and square. When the field was clear for him to run for the Senate, he chose to finish his job as A.G. instead. He didn’t do these things to gain favor with a cynical public –- it’s just who he was. In his twenties, he and a friend were stopped for speeding outside Scranton. And the officer recognized the name on the license, and because he was a fan of Joe’s work with law enforcement he wanted to let Beau off with a warning. But Beau made him write that ticket. Beau didn’t trade on his name.

As I was re-reading the speech, it was clear Beau was always climbing the right hill.

The lesson in the post from Chris was to not climb the wrong hill. So, we try to avoid those wrong hills, but how do we have the sense, the perception, and the awareness to know we are climbing the right hill in our journey? In the original post, Chris writes:

But the lure of the current hill is strong.  There is a natural human tendency to make the next step an upward one.  He ends up falling for a common trap highlighted by behavioral economists:  people tend to systematically overvalue near term over long term rewards.  This effect seems to be even stronger in more ambitious people.  Their ambition seems to make it hard for them to forgo the nearby upward step.

As all of us progress in whatever we seek to focus on, there will be more offers, more temptations, more pressures of life…we grow older, we have families, we focus our work in specific areas (at the expense of others), and we increase the likelihood that we need a hill to find, climb, and rest on top of. But, how do we choose? People will say things like “listen to your gut,” or “sleep on it” or “do what feels right.” The problem in the hill climbing scenario, of course, is that we don’t know really. and when we eventually choose one hill, there’s no turning back, we get closer to some on that same hill and we drift away from others who inhabit the other hills. But, that is mostly about work. In life, Beau seemed to be constantly searching for the right hills to climb — something we can all strive for.

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2018 Semil Shah.

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