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  • Writer's pictureCarlton Brown

Mountaineers vs Miners

Updated: Feb 9, 2019

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Calvin Coolidge

As children we grow up with aspiration and dreams about different things we would like to achieve. We have the conceptual ideal about what we desire and then we develop a physiological and psychological state of mind and beliefs, which in turn shapes our behaviour and subsequently our actions to achieve our intended goals.

According to a recent study by the University of Scranton a staggering 92% of people that set New Year's resolutions never actually achieve them. The question is why? Why do most people who set goals fail?

Goal setting is a complex and dynamic concept, they are challenging, often difficult and quite regularly fraught with obstacles. There are two types of people with contrasting approaches to accomplishing their goals, there are those who talk about what they want to achieve and there are those who act and start working on what they want to achieve. Those individuals who identify their goals and then act upon them are characterised as Mountaineers. In contrast, the individuals who have a lack of clarity and/or focus and who operate within the dark are regarded as Miners.


The mountaineer’s entire focus is about climbing or walking to the peak of the mountain, that’s their only goal. Hiking to the top of the mountain epitomises human endeavour and the conquering of one's mental and physical fortitude, testing one’s courage, resourcefulness, ingenuity, strength, capacity and stamina. The ability to achieve that state of exhilaration, having that “conquest” of being on top of a peak.

When a mountaineer encounters difficulty with their terrain, with such hazards as rough ground, large rocks and adverse weather conditions, they have the resilience and mental fortitude to find solutions to navigate their way around the immediate challenge.

Whilst a mountaineer receives an intrinsic sense of gratification from achieving their goal and sitting on top of the “peak”, it is the release of endorphins which help induce feelings of pleasure and euphoria that excites them. This feeling of elation will soon dissipate and a new goal will require conquering.


The miner’s role, in contrast, is based upon operating in poor conditions, inadequate lighting and limited resources looking for that elusive “Golden Nugget”. They have no specific strategy, other than to dig and hope that somehow, miraculously they will uncover something of value. Miners have a very limited mindset, lack vision and purpose. They tend to operate within the hazardous and toxic environment where they contaminate the motivation of others with their negative “crab mentality mindset” which infers that “if I can't have it, neither can you”. The metaphor refers to a pattern of behaviour noted in crabs when they are trapped in a bucket. While any one crab might be able to escape, its exertions will be destabilised by others, ensuring the group's collective demise. The miner operates in the dark with an inherent lack of direction and will very rarely accomplish their goals.

The key question for us as individuals is what do we want to be, a mountaineer or a miner? If you decide that you want to become a mountaineer then there are steps and principles that if followed will increase your chances of achieving your goals and having better outcomes.

8 step goal setting

Visualisation (VAK)

The start of the process is to have a clear, quantifiable, definable goal, visualise where, when and how you will achieve your goals. Reflect on what you will see, hear and feel when you achieve your goal and understand what impact that will have on you. Ensure that the goals are self-initiated, and they have an intrinsic value, they are for you and not for anyone else. Intrinsic motivators are more powerful and sustainable than extrinsic goals.

Determine your goals (Top Ten)

Write down and consider 10 goals that you would like to achieve, then prioritise them from 1-10, number 1 being the most important, followed by number 2 and 10 being the least important of the goals. Once you have highlighted the top 10 goals select the top three, starting with the most important.

Develop an action plan (SMART)

Specific goals ensure that the context of your goals is clearly defined and stated in a positive context.

Measurable goals which are quantifiable (I want to earn a lot of money vs I want a new job that pays me £50,000 per annum).

Achievable. Set goals that are stretching, challenging but achievable, this will ensure that you keep motivated. Unrealistic goals become a demotivator.

Realistic. Set goals which are realistic, and ensure that you have the resources to help you deliver your goals (research, people, equipment, money, plan).

Time-specific. Set goals which have specific timelines, this will focus your energies.


Achieving your goals will be challenging and not always straightforward. Those who are persistent with the ability to maintain their motivation levels will stay the course regardless of the obstacles in their way.


The law of practice suggests that the reaction time for a task decreases linearly with the number of practice trials taken. The more you practise, the more proficient you become at a task. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.


You need to create a timeline to properly devise a schedule and make progress towards your goal. Creating a timeline takes your goal from something that will happen in the future and moves it into the present. A timeline also creates a commitment to achieve your goal.

Review, evaluate & refine

Work on your goals, daily and weekly. Review your progress, evaluate if you are achieving the progress that you require and if there are shortcomings. If the progress is slower than anticipated then refine your strategy, until you start to attain the results you require.


Steven Covey in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said “start with the end in Mind”, always focus on the outcome, what it is that you want to achieve and take incremental steps towards your goal on a consistent basis and reap great rewards.

“A goal is the manifestation of human endeavour and the realisation of achieving something bigger than you thought was possible”

Dr Carlton Brown

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