The View From The Top Of A Hill…

When we’re walking the same streets, facing the same challenges, going to the same places every day we start to lose sight of the bigger picture. Take a step back and view it from a distance – see how far you’ve come and how much has changed.

The end of the summer always comes with mixed feelings for me. I won’t lie, I’m glad to see the back of that relentless, never-ending heat but getting rained off at Regent’s Park Theatre the other night really brought home to me that we’re heading in to Autumn and I haven’t yet managed to shake off the sluggishness that the stultifying heat brought. We’re heading in to the last quarter of the year, but I’m already planning 2019 so the end of the summer feels a lot like the end of the year.

Recently a lot of the actors I’ve spoken to, either in meetings or coaching sessions, have told me that they’ve really been struggling this year – it’s felt like an uphill climb. They’re focussed, hard-working, driven, but the trudge upwards has felt harder this year. It certainly has for me – both professionally and personally it’s felt like one thing after another, as if I’m not just trudging up a hill, but having to climb over a stile every couple of days.

Rusty and I took advantage of the Bank Holiday today and we took a literal climb up a hill. I decided I’d spend the day with my dog and not my laptop and we headed off to Parliament Hill armed only with some poop bags and the feeling that I needed to be out somewhere in the open where I could see and think clearly.

From the top of Parliament Hill you can see right across London. It’s one of the most breathtaking views and I highly recommend the trip. It’s a really easy and very beautiful walk too, we came up from Hampstead Heath, near the Spaniards Inn pub and while we had a general direction in mind, we kind of wandered, seeing where the route up might take us. Sure, I had to go back on myself a couple of times when I found the way forward blocked by thorn bushes or a puddle (note to self – wear the right shoes!) but I didn’t mind too much as we discovered some really cool, ancient trees, a beautiful pond, some weird landmarks, and some other hidden treasures. We would have got there a lot quicker if we’d stayed on the path but I wasn’t in the mood to just go straight up, look at the view and come back down.

There’s a legend that Parliament Hill is where Fawkes and Catseby planned to watch the destruction of the Houses of Parliament after they blew it up. There’s another legend that it’s where the first settlers in London built their camp. It’s an prehistoric mound, a llandin – which in Welsh means sacred and eminent. Llandin – get it? All who settled in sight of the llandin would have been known as llandin-ers, cool huh? From the hill you can see the Shard, the BT Tower, the Gherkin, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Palace of Westminster. It’s pretty spectacular and while Rusty may not have been quite as taken with it as I was, I think we both felt it was worth the walk.

I’ve been going up Parliament Hill since I was a kid – I was born just a few streets away and have been walking the Heath all my life – but it’s probably been about six or more years since I was last up there and I was struck by how much the skyline has changed. I never notice the changing skyline when I’m down on the ground – it’s only when you get up high that you can see clearly. As we came down towards home and back to the ‘busyness’ of the streets I really felt something clear in my head. 

It’s the same with your career, I think. If you’ve been struggling along, and like me, feeling like you’re having to climb a stile every few steps, you probably need to get on top of the problem, literally, and look down on it from above. When we’re at the coal face of it, down on the busy streets, it’s tough to see how much, and how fast things are changing. When we’re walking the same streets, facing the same challenges, going to the same places every day we start to lose sight of the bigger picture. Take a step back and view it from a distance – see how far you’ve come and how much has changed.

The bigger picture from Parliament Hill is that London might have grown out in all directions from this mound – stretching out across the land and the centuries, growing upwards and outwards and it was all done step by step, settlement by settlement, day by day.

A new favourite quote I came across this week was Austin Keon’s ‘Creative is not a noun’ – you can watch his keynote talk at Scratch Conference 2018 on the subject here. It’s something I realise I’ve been guilty of, calling myself a Creative and thinking that’s enough, but just as London may have spread out from  this llain, this ancient meeting place, inch by inch, so I had to climb to the top in the same way – inch by inch, step by step. Creativity is something we have to work on daily, taking a new step up the hill or out into the world every day. Creativity is action and we have to take action every day. Yeah, you might find your path blocked by thorn bushes, you might have to double back a few times, you might even have to stop and rest along the way but little by little, step by step, you’ll get there and the view from the top is worth it.