Just Keep Climbing

Or: how to make progress.

Assumed audience: Basically anyone who feels short on time and long on ambition. Today, mostly writing this to myself.

Both yesterday and today I have done stationary bike rides using Zwift, rather than running, because I have a sprained ankle.1 Both days, I have tackled some routes which are big, steady climbs — yesterday’s was almost 2,000 feet of climb in just under 5 miles of road”. I was reminded of nothing so much as the climb over Vail Pass. The way you get through a long hard climb that is simple — hard, but simple — : you just keep climbing steadily. Not fast or hard.2

I was struck this morning by the (extremely non-novel) observation that the same is true of a lot of how we actually get work we care about into the world. For me, right now, that means everything from the large-scale symphonic work I have been plugging away at for the last 27 months, and hope to finish by the time I am 40, in another 46 months; to the slowly-baking jj init post I am writing as an deep dive introduction to Jujutsu, which I have been working on for over a month; to the tailored-just-to-me site builder that I first started thinking about and drafting code for all the way back in 2016, and am only now finally making any real progress on.

In every case, the way forward is simple — hard, but simple — : just keep climbing steadily. Write a few hundred words. Compose 10 bars of melody. Draft an illustration. Write the orchestration for those same 10 bars. Ship one small part of the site builder. Just keep climbing steadily.

Like I said: nothing novel here — but a good reminder.


  1. Low-impact work like cycling is fine — this is the normal rehab for a sprain. A stationary bike is preferable to actually riding my road bike for rehab because the chances of my falling off of it or having to pop out of my pedals and put my foot down hard to catch myself are roughly zero. ↩︎

  2. Sure, the guys riding in the Tour de France push hard on those big climbs, but (a) they are racing and (b) they are still going a lot slower than they do on the flats and downhills. ↩︎