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December 8, 2023

The Second Mountain

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There’s a book that I haven’t read yet, but have heard it mentioned enough times where I feel I can share the general concept. It’s called “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks.

The Second Mountain tells us about the two phases of life. The first phase, and the first mountain, is to build our careers and families. We identify with success as having a stable career that we enjoy and a nice house with the people we love in it. It’s a life that makes us happy.

It’s not a bad life by any means, but Brooks finds that there’s a Second Mountain that you can only see from the peak of the first that is truly our life’s work. It’s a mountain where we’re dedicated to being of service to others, making a meaningful contribution to the community, and tapping into the ultimate pay off of “moral joy”. 

It takes courage to climb the second mountain because it means you need to descend the mountain you just climbed. You need to separate yourself from the achievements, accolades, and success that you thought you wanted, and that society told you to pursue. You also need to accept the sunk costs of moving on after all of the time and energy you put into climbing the first mountain, which is hard to do especially when it comes as a personal sacrifice.

Personally, I’m extremely drawn to living a life of purpose, so I was interested to learn more about how I can go about living a life of service while still establishing myself. Brooks’ has two recommendations. First is to prioritize relationships and connections. While the First Mountain’s effort is very individualistic, you can choose to pursue personal achievement alongside others. It’s a simple shift in approach. 

Second, as you’re developing skills and building strengths, keep in mind how those skills and strengths could be applied in service of the community in the future. It’ll make the transition that much smoother.

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