Climbing every mountain

Most steep hills, tops of cliffs and even mountain tops are within reach, but you need to keep climbing, step by step. I learned this early in my youth, having spent my childhood in the highest location in the Boston Hills. I also learned not to be discouraged with challenges, but to be moved by my dreams.

I have been asked many times by my students, what was it in my life that helped me to determine what I wanted to do as an adult. I thought for a bit, when I was first asked that question. There have been many beneficial learning experiences along the way. There were hurdles to be mounted and hills to be climbed. I deeply treasure the satisfactions gained from the “highs,” and the pearls of wisdom gained from the mistakes of the “lows.”

Looking back on my youth, I wanted to be a teacher, a physician, a police officer, a snow plow driver and a farmer. And then too, I wanted to become a veterinarian, a pilot, and to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. And then there was the time I wanted to become a writer, a radio broadcaster and a news commentator. And, as a teenager, I hoped one day to become a good husband, parent and grandparent. Recreationally, I wanted to become an accomplished skier, mountain climber and a good horseback rider. These are just a few of the hopes I wanted to accomplish. Several of these ambitions I was able to achieve. And the other hopes such as … a physician, veterinarian, farmer, pilot, police officer … well, they are hopes dimming quietly in the approaching twilight.

Several of my dreams have come to fruition, such as … my immediate family, now 12 of us … my wonderful wife, a great son and a fine daughter and each of their thoughtful spouses, and six marvelous grandchildren.

Fulfilled hopes also include 63 memorable years of teaching and educational administration at all levels of the educational spectrum. Also, there was the great military experience serving with the USMC. There was also a bit of broadcasting experience as producer and moderator of “Focus on Education.” And, as the author of four books, hundreds of newspaper columns and journal articles … the desire to be a writer is being realized.

As I have told my students, it is not always easy to find just the right path to pursue when attempting to accomplish the desires of one’s heart. Thoughtful planning goes into the process. But most of all, wisdom and moral support coming from others; that is a most valued treasure!

Most all of us are the beneficiaries of the mentoring wisdom from those around us. We benefit from the wise guidance of “others,” be they our spouse, parents, a teacher, a colleague or a good friend. They help to nurture within “something” very special. They instill courage and a sense of virtuous wisdom, which emanates from the heart.

And so, in answering the question from my students: “What was it that helped me to decide what I wanted to do?” As I see it, it is the WISE application of what is in one’s heart. As I see it, knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. Wisdom uniquely draws from the inner self. Wisdom resides as much in the heart as it does in the mind. It requires one to know oneself and the depth of values for where one stands. It was Aristotle who said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of courageous wisdom.”

You know, when you know the values for which you stand, no one can make you feel inferior. It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said so brilliantly, “No one can make you feel inferior, without your own consent.”

To be sure, that is wise indeed!

And so, when climbing the hills and walking the valleys of life, I have found to let your heart be your guide. When you climb each mountain you encounter with the powerful grip of faith and courage, you will surely find your way. Ah yes, with your heart as the compass, “follow every rainbow, till you find your dream.”

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia and distinguished professor at Capella University. He is an award winning author. All of the past columns can be viewed on Send comments to: