Peaks and Valleys

Summary Written by Jakob Browning
"…they began to discuss what the old man called a Peaks and Valleys approach. He said it was a philosophy with skills—a way of looking at things and doing things that makes you calmer and more successful in good and bad times."

- Peaks and Valleys, page 93

The Big Idea

Peaks and Valleys

"It is natural for everyone everywhere to have peaks and valleys at work and in life."- Peaks and Valleys, page 16

Johnson explains through a short parable the value in acknowledging that everyone has ups and downs. There is no shame in acknowledging that not every day is the best day ever. He believes that because everyone has ups and downs it is how we react to the changing landscape that makes the difference.

Not every day has to be amazing. In fact the whole idea of novelty is that some days need to be different to make them feel special. Johnson writes that the ups and downs help to provide a sense of balance and appreciation. If you didn’t have cold, frozen winters, warm summer evenings wouldn’t mean as much. So rather than trying to avoid your peaks and valleys look at them with a broader perspective. Embrace your valleys knowing that with time and work you can be on your way to a better view.

Insight #1

Connect the Peaks and Valleys

"The errors you make in today’s good times create tomorrow’s bad times. And the wise things you do in today’s bad times create tomorrow’s good times."- Peaks and Valleys, page 21

When you observe mountain peaks from a distance you will notice that the valleys connect the peaks. Johnson points out that “between peaks there are always valleys,” and how well you “manage your valley determines how soon you will reach your next peak.” Through your actions you create your good times as well as your bad. Poor decisions can cut your time on a peak short, while wise decisions to learn from errors can reduce your time spent in a valley.

Still, leaving a valley takes effort. You have to work with increased zeal to make progress; but if you continue to work, eventually you will leave the valley behind. There is wisdom in preparing for your next valley while still on a peak. For example, most people do not worry about food storage during times of relative stability, it is only after a natural disaster that the importance of preparation ahead of time becomes apparent.

Recognize that you cannot stay on a peak forever. However, through paying attention to your actions, your time in that next inevitable valley can be shortened greatly.

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Insight #2

Embrace the Opposite

"Peaks and Valleys are opposites."- Peaks and Valleys, page 86

If you are stuck, unable to exit a valley, remember that peaks and valleys are opposites. Ask yourself, what put you in the valley? If you do the opposite you will get the opposite results and will likely start on your way toward another peak. You may find yourself in a valley due to a routine that you refused to change because it was working. Other times the path out of a valley will not be so obvious, however, Johnson believes, “the way to leave a valley will appear when you choose to see things differently.”

Recently, I’ve experienced some of my own peaks and valleys. I enjoy long distance running and last month I injured a tendon resulting in a very quick decent from my metaphorical peak. After several weeks of icing and rest I have tried to work my way out of the valley at what feels like a snail’s pace. Being forced to step back and start from a more elementary level has helped me appreciate more the ability to log some of the longer runs that I had started to take for granted. While the injury drastically set back my training schedule, it has given me time to reflect on why I had such a long peak and what led to my quick descent to the valley. Only in writing this summary did I realize that the dive resulted from a lack of diligence on my part. Feeling overconfident in my fitness, I stopped completing the frequent strength training routines that helped keep me on my peak for so long. After looking at my injury from a ‘what did I stop doing’ rather than a ‘what happened’ perspective helped me to see the path out of the valley.

Some days are rough. Having valleys or days where you are run over by a metaphorical dump truck are nothing to be ashamed of; we’ve all had and will continue to have days like that. The difference lies in our reaction. That will differentiate how soon we find ourselves leaving the valley behind on our way up another peak.

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Spencer Johnson

Spencer Johnson, M.D., is one of the world’s most beloved authors and respected thinkers. His books have helped tens of millions of people enjoy more happiness and success with less stress, at work and in life.Dr. Johnson is often referred to as “the best there is at taking complex subjects and presenting simple solutions that work.”His eleven international bestsellers include the #1 titles: Who Moved My Cheese?® An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change, the most widely read book on change, The One Minute Manager®, the world’s most popular management method for more than two decades, coauthored with Ken Blanchard, and The Present: The Gift For Changing Times a unique way to deal with the past, present and future. His latest, Peaks and Valleys: Making Good and Bad Times Work For You, has become another New York Times Bestseller.Dr. Johnson received a B.A. degree in Psychology from the University of Southern California, an M.D. degree from the Royal College of Surgeons, and completed medical clerkships at the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School.He has served as Medical Director of Communications for Medtronic, the original innovators of cardiac pacemakers; Research Physician at the Institute for Inter-Disciplinary Studies, a medical-social think tank; Consultant to the Center for the Study of the Person, Consultant to the School of Medicine, University of California San Diego; Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Business School and Advisor to Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership.His work has captured the attention of major media, including The Associated Press, the BBC, CNN, Fortune, the New York Times, the Today show, Time magazine, USA Today, United Press International and leading media in Europe, South American and Asia.Based on simple, universal truths, his books are read in practically every country in the world, where they also top bestseller lists.The New York Times Book Review, in a 2005 article on Chinese publishing, reports that Spencer Johnson’s book Who Moved My Cheese? has become China’s all time bestselling translated work, now with official sales of over four million copies to date.In South Korea The Present was the #1 book of the year in 2004 with over 500,000 copies of the Korean edition in print.In Japan, Who Moved My Cheese? sold over 4,500,000 copies to become the #1 bestselling book in Japan’s history by a non-Japanese author.There are more than fifty million copies of Spencer Johnson’s books in print worldwide in more than forty-seven languages.

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