When I worked at REI (an outdoor equipment store), I noticed there were two kinds of hikers. The first kind tried to figure out how much stuff they could fit in their pack. What was the longest they could hike, with as much stuff as possible? How much could they tolerate?

Then there were hikers who tried to figure out how light they could make this pack. They only brought two pairs of quick dry underwear and did a daily rotation. It was a different thought process. How light can I make this? How little can I bring and still get where I want to go? Can I make this so easy and enjoyable I could carry this pack forever?

One hiker optimizes to find the heaviest load possible and still survive. The other hiker optimizes for the lightest and easiest load to get them there.

It seems crazy to optimize for maximum suffering. And yet…..I hear it all the time with clients.

How long can I survive in this job?

Can I sustain 50 or 60-hour weeks?

If I could just push through for another 5 years, we will be in a much better place financially.

What’s the longest I can carry this load before I collapse?

Or I am about to collapse, but maybe I can handle this suffering a little longer?

Now I could help you craft a plan to maximize your suffering until your breaking point. I could even try to encourage you to push through that spot where you feel like you’re about to fall apart.

But why start with that mindset?

I’ve gone through seasons of hustle. I’ve pushed through hard times.

When I played basketball, we ended each practice with physical conditioning. And more than a time or two, there were tears and vomit. But we weren’t running sprints the whole practice. There was playing, learning, and fun mixed in before.

What if you started with a different question, instead of how much suffering you can tolerate?

What would your career look like if it was so light, refreshing, interesting, and easy that you would do it for the rest of your life?

What would have to happen in your marriage that is it so light, refreshing, interesting, and easy that you would do it for the rest of your life?

What would I need to make this easier? How could I pack this lighter? What would add more joy and fun to this? Is there a way to make this a little restful and rejuvenating instead of heavy?

Sometimes we get stuck trying to figure out how to survive and push through something that we forget to ask if there is an easier path.

Growing up, I was so used to pushing big rocks up steep hills, that I never thought to ask if there was an easier path around this mountain. Or if I even needed to push this rock. It’s easy to condemn people always looking for shortcuts because they are unwilling to put in the hard work required. But I was a person who would walk right past a shortcut out of pride.

If playing Shoots and Ladders has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes we have to go the long way, and sometimes we will face setbacks, but if you have the option of a shortcut, it’s how you get ahead. Packing light and finding a shortcut isn’t for the morally weak or lazy. You can go further with a light pack. You can get there faster with a shortcut. And it might be more fun.