How to Climb a Lamp Post

Don't tell people what you do and how you do it, show them.

One of my favourite sports is climbing. And I’ll climb anything that offers a challenge – trees, buildings and bridges. 

While at university in Kent, I would climb onto the roof of my halls of residence at night and hang over the edge, four-storeys high to watch the students staggering and stumbling back from the student union bar. 

Other days I’d climb a colossal Juniper tree in the grounds. Its sprawling and wave-like branches made it easy to climb. I sat at the top, hidden and observing the world below.

I was still searching for a club to join when I met John.

“I’m in  a club called Romney Marsh Mountain Rescue,” John told me with a thin smile. “Want to come along?”

On my first night out with the club, we piled into the back of a land rover shortly after sunset. We left town and drove south toward the coast.  

When we reached the coast, a bright full moon illuminated the sea on my left and on my right, an impressively flat land stretched as far as the moonlight could reach.

“We’re here,” John said. 

“Where are we?” I asked. “Where are the mountains?” I added in my head.

“Romney Marsh,” he replied.

My heart sank like a dull weight inside my chest. Suddenly it was obvious. The Romney Marsh Mountain Rescue club was a joke. Romney Marsh is a giant wetland and there are of course no mountains in Kent.

“So, what are we doing here?” I asked, trying not to show I was expecting to see mountains.  

“We’ll drive to the edge of the marsh and drink,” he said.

Is drinking all anyone wants to do at University?” I thought, disappointed. 

I drank Leffe and Heineken with the Romney Marshers that evening, perched on a dune between reclaimed marshland and a shingle beach. It was a beautiful place to get drunk, certainly better than the student union with its sticky floors and bins of vomit. But this was just another drinking club. 

I still yearned to be part of a climbing club where I could share my love of climbing with other students.

So I started my own climbing club. It would be a club where we’d head out into the towns and countryside of Kent and climb whatever we fancied. Like the other sports clubs, I designed a challenge for new members. But this challenge would test their climbing abilities rather than show how much beer they could drink.    

Nick was the first to join. 

“Okay, so what do I have to do?” Nick asked me, nervously. I thought for a moment.

“You have to climb a lamp post and hang a road sign over the top.” I said, chuffed with the creativity of the challenge. 

I already knew an ideal eight-metre lamp post we could climb. And I knew there was a battered roadworks sign abandoned in the field next to it.

One of the lamp posts we used to climb as part of my climbing club at University.

Nick climbed onto the post’s bulging base with the roadworks sign over his shoulder. He wrapped his arms and legs around the post and started to climb. But he slipped almost immediately, banging his knee on the post and dropping the road sign to the pavement. 

“Oww! That hurt. It’s impossible; there’s no way I can do that,” he complained. 

“It’s possible,” I replied, slowly. “But there’s a technique. Maybe it’s easier if I show you what I mean,” I said.                                          

I slung the road sign over my shoulder and shimmied up the lamp post, squeezing my feet together to gain traction. At the top, I swung the road sign off my shoulder and up over the lamp, where it dangled for a moment before I retrieved it and slide down the lamp post.  

Now it was Nick’s turn again. 

Hesitating, Nick hoisted the road sign over his shoulder and climbed onto the lamp post base. He climbed slowly but using my technique, he made it to the top, and on his third attempt swung the sign over the lamp, and visibly shaking, clambered back to the ground. 

“Congrats Nick!” I cheered.

Over a few weeks, several more students joined my climbing club, with their first test being the lamp post challenge. Each time I told them what they had to do, they looked puzzled. And every time, I had to show them what I meant. 

Showing rather than telling someone what you do in your business is also one of the most effective ways to communicate what you do. 

One of the reasons I write story-based blog posts for my business is to show readers, through experiences in my life, the different ways I work, how I work with clients and what’s important to me. 

Instead of telling people that I am trustworthy, I share a story about how I refused to lie to a Nigerian Immigration officer even though it was an easy way to get what I wanted.

Instead of telling people that I have high integrity, I share a story about a time when I compromised my integrity for the sake of money and the consequences this had for me. 

Instead of telling people they should follow their dreams, I share a story about my grandmother not being able to follow her dreams. 

Writing and sharing my personal experiences helps me create a stronger emotional connection with potential clients. It’s an opportunity for them to get to know me, perhaps like me, and even trust me. And that’s vital if I want to have a successful business.