Climb the Summit of Freedom

By Stephen Hultquist

Transformation happens at the edge, not in the status quo.

Yet, we live in comfortable boxes, free from risk. We create these ourselves and work to maintain them—but they represent our slow slide to death.

Looking in the mirror, just before my 52nd birthday, I hated what I saw. I had a blubbery middle and extra puff in my face. In my eyes I could see that I was losing hope. Was this how it ends? I was on a slippery slope, an unhealthy slide to death. It was time to change. I didn’t want to face it, but if I wanted to live, it was time to transform.

How could I do this? How do people make such changes? When you or I make a change, we need to know where we are going. I realized we need a Summit. We need a challenge and a fight to climb, to overcome obstacles, to face barriers and conquer them, to become fully alive. To transform, this is what you need to know:

We are created to win. When we limit ourselves, we slowly die. To live, we must climb The Summit of Freedom.

Imagine yourself: From there you can see. It’s inhospitable, yet raw and powerful. It allows you to see what’s possible, while it also reminds of limits and mortality. From there, you see how far you have come and remember what you overcame to make it. Up there, the air is clear. You can see far and with great clarity. Breaths come intentionally, each one palpable, offering fresh life. Your heartbeat is in your ears as you take the last few strides to The Summit. The focus is on your heartbeat as it returns to normal.

Enjoy the blessings of your achievement. Pause and rest….and then start looking for the next Summit.

Preparing for the Journey

Starting a journey of transformation requires planning and focus, just like climbing a physical mountain. You decide where the summit is. Then, you decide how to get there. Ultimately, you determine each step of the journey.

As I stared into the mirror that day, I decided on my Summit: real health. I read, I studied, I decided what I would do, and I took action. It was hard. For more than a year I exercised 45 to 60 minutes every day. I made sure that the food I ate was healthy. I eliminated things that caused my body to react negatively. And, I began to change.

Within six months I lost 30 pounds. I have kept it off for more than a year and, in the process, other aspects of my life transformed as well. I hadn’t expected it, but there were amazing benefits; my physical transformation became the key to an astounding increase in enjoying life.

To get there, I had to push past the status quo. I had to change. I had to create new habits. There were times I found myself walking through the grounds of a hotel late at night to be sure to do my exercise before the end of the day. It wasn’t easy! I was often working 12–plus hours a day and giving my family time, but remaining committed to exercising every day. It was worth it.

What about you? What transformation would matter in your life? Is it physical or mental? Or spiritual? Regardless, the process is the same:

  • Determine what you want to change.
  • Decide that the change really matters to you.
  • Plan your path to get there.

What is your “burning desire.” What matters enough that you’ll push past obstacles?

Where is your Summit?

Once you decide on your transformation, what’s your plan to climb to The Summit? There is no “right” way, and you can alter your path any time. When you encounter obstacles, carry on. Find a way. Allow the reason behind your goal to pull you onward. Get moving—and allow the momentum to work with you.

What do you need? Who will help you? What must you learn or change, and how will you grow?

I had to learn which foods and exercises work for me. For example, I have a high-energy, passionate personality. As a result, I needed an exercise plan that reflected it. For me, I needed timed, high-intensity resistance and plyometric exercises using a combination of bodyweight, resistance bands, and weights with limited, timed rest periods.

Whether your goal is physical transformation, inner peace, wealth, or something else, others may question you. They will not recognize the truth that you worked hard, overcame the obstacles, and didn’t let them destroy you.

What about other obstacles? When I think of what can get in the way, I visualize each challenge as a wall along the climb to the mountaintop. What are your options?

Climb it. Go around it. Tunnel under it. Or go right through it! Choose wisely and move forward. The key is to hold The Summit in your mind. Hold onto why you are on this path and taking these steps so that obstacles transform into opportunities for growth.

Since your journey to The Summit will have twists and turns, it is important to measure progress on the journey. How do you know that you’re getting closer? What you measure depends on your personal Summit, and it may be subjective. Take the time to create the habit of measuring your progress. Just as with mountaineering, you may descend into a valley before you make the last climb; as a result, one of your metrics may temporarily go the wrong way. That’s ok. Keep measuring and moving forward. Find your path.

When you get to The Summit, what will you do? Look around. Celebrate! Take in the view. Then, set up a monument—something to remember what you accomplished and how it felt. I passed through Bangkok on a business trip just to visit one of the city’s famous custom tailors. I had suits made to my new shape. They make me feel amazing when I wear them, they remind me when I look at them in my closet, and they help me stay the course because I don’t want to go back.

What about you? How do you want your life to be different? What really matters enough to make you climb to The Summit? There is no time like NOW to begin your own transformation.

What will it be?

Steve Hultquist provides coaching and guidance to diverse organizations from Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, and Microsoft to small early-stage companies. He has worked to create empowering organizations that deliver high value. Always, it’s about the people. In all of his endeavors, Mr. Hultquist helps teams deliver exceptional value to customers and all stakeholders, creating quality solutions that work to benefit all and building teams to accomplish great results while growing personally and professionally. Mr. Hultquist is an author and journalist who speaks on topics including delivering value, humanizing business, technology, organizational leadership, personal development, and human relationships. Email or visit

This article is a chapter from the book Transform Your Life! written by 60 real-life heroes and experts and available at,, and all ebook formats.


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