Deciding to Climb

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Fabian Kruse of The Friendly Anarchist

It’s weird how, when I’m asked about how I am able to travel the world while getting my work done on the road, I have to think of something as ordinary as apple trees.

You see, I like apple trees. Here in Austria (where I’m currently living for a couple of weeks), there are myriads of them, both commercial ones and the old, mossy trees in forests, parks and private gardens.

Apple trees are beautiful: Some look elegant, some knobby, and they can grow hundreds of fruits, effortlessly. Sometimes, they are carrying so many, they can barely hold the weight. It’s such a simple thing: Nature, giving us something – for free, no questions asked.

When the apple season arrives, everybody is eager to give the fresh fruits a try. It’s an interesting time to observe: Some trees are fenced, most of them aren’t. Some owners will hate the neighbor children for “stealing” from their trees. But if they’ve got ripe fruits, the kids will come anyway – and they will find their way, like it or not.

Of course, most children will get the low-hanging fruits first. (This is so obvious, it has even become a metaphor in economics, describing gains that are easily obtained.)

The problem with low-hanging fruits is that they are easy to get, but there’s a lot of competition: If even a six-year old kid can reach them, they’ll be gone sooner rather than later. What’s more, they are often not very sweet, because they don’t get as much sun as the ones higher up in the tree.

There are other children who wait for the apples to fall down. Sounds like an idler’s strategy. But the problem is that the birds will probably get them faster – once the sweetest apples fall off the tree, they might already have been bitten into.

Thus, the more proactive kids will get a long stick and try to shake the best apples off. But, as so often, nothing is perfect: Hitting the fruits with a stick, letting them fall onto the floor will often make them bruised.

Apples and Freedom

I see you scratching your head now, as Illuminated Mind isn’t normally about horticultural anecdotes. But it is about living on your own terms and finding your personal freedom.

My point is that there is more metaphorical potential in apple trees than just the low-hanging fruits.

If you think about it, freedom is a lot like apples: There are people who think they can control access to it, who want to sell it to you, or who want to prevent you from getting it. But if the time is ripe, you will find a way to get it anyway.

If you think about it, freedom, just like apples, is free – but it’s not: You often can’t just take what’s right in front of you and expect it to be sweet and tasty. Much to the opposite, it might often be quite sour.

But if all you do is to look at that bright red apple high up in the tree, and wait for it to fall down, it might get mealy and stale before you get it. Or someone else might eat it. If, on the other hand, you try to shake it off violently, you well might get it, but your freedom might have that foul taste just like a bruised apple.

That’s the thing with freedom: You don’t just have to want it. You don’t just have to look at it. You don’t just have to choose it, either.

If you want to get your personal freedom, you have to decide to climb.

You have to climb up that tree and get it.
You have to be willing to put in the effort and take it.

And if you decide to do that, you might be the one that gets bruised. You might be the one who has to struggle; to fight to get up there, only to be able to reach it. You might be the one that gets attacked by the people who think they are entitled to control access to it. Worst of all, you might be the one that gets rejected by all the other kids in town who just stand at the bottom, fighting about the low-hanging fruits or waiting for the others to fall down.

Success, Failure and Getting Perspective

There’s one more truth the climber must be aware of. Even if you make it all the way up to your favorite apple, you might still get an unpleasant surprise: A worm might be sitting right in the middle. You might want to give it a bite, but it just isn’t what you expected.

But then, do you know the difference between you and the other kids that are waiting at the bottom, unwilling to put the effort in?

You’ll already be up there.

You’ll know the way. You’ll trust in your own abilities. You’ll have the right perspective on the harvest. Yes, you’ll have plenty of other red apples right around you! If the one you wanted to get in the first place isn’t what you expected, you’ll still have plenty of options.

The Freedom to Go

So how the heck am I able to travel around the world all the time? How am I able to get my work done while on the road?

All I can tell the people who ask me these questions is: I decided to do it. I decided to take this freedom. Why don’t you do it?

No time? We’ve all got the same 24 hours in a day.
No money? I earn a lot less than what many of my friends earn. World travel must not be expensive.
Fear of failure? We’re all entitled to it, but we’re also entitled to move beyond it. (Remember: There will always be another apple!)

Of course you have the freedom to go.

Just don’t expect it to always be as easy as grabbing the low-hanging fruits. Don’t expect someone else to give it to you. Don’t wait until it falls into your lap. And don’t expect it to be sweet and tasty all the time.

Instead, decide to climb.

Just like any kind of freedom, climbing will come with some strings attached: You’ll get bruised here and there. You’ll have to learn new things, like managing your time and setting up your office on the road. You’ll have to find ways to earn some money here and there. You’ll have to learn to be productive anywhere.

But if you decide to do it, these challenges won’t stop you.

The real question isn’t if you can pull this off.

The real question is: Where do you decide to climb?

About the Author: Fabian Kruse is a writer, thinker and photographer living a mobile lifestyle between Latin America and Europe. His new e-guide, Productive Anywhere, helps people to become organized and get their stuff done while traveling the world.

photo courtesy of Fabian Kruse

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15 Comments on "Deciding to Climb"

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Brilliant analogy.

As I was reading I was thinking to myself, know specifically *which* apple I want, have a desire strong enough to overcome resistance and then as Tony Robbins says ‘Decide you will accept nothing less’.

Well written.


Thanks Jarrod! That Tony Robbins quote is a good fit here! :)


“You have to climb up that tree and get it.You have to be willing to put in the effort and take it.”

To me that was the most powerful part of this post. Great work!


Thanks Dudeman! We’ll keep climbing!


Dude, Fabian… I love this! I use this metaphor all the time (particularly in market-segmentation). I also adore bouldering and rock-climbing.

I’d like to add something eye-opening and a little controversial, to take your metaphor further.

Not only do you have the freedom to climb (which sounds arduous)… you have the freedom to climb well (like Chris Sharma or Adam Ondra), but you also have the freedom to …

Wait for it…


Believe it.


Yay for flying! That’s also much better than falling, in case something goes wrong! ;)


This ends with a brilliant description of failure. I write about this a lot.. but when you bust your ass (to climb to the top of the tree) and end up failing anyway (because your apple has got a worm in it) that feeling can be quite disheartening.

I always say that your next trip up will be easier. But that implies that you’d come back *down* the tree. Staying at the top and moving towards that apples up there would be easier (not to mention much less competition)


Tim, going down to regroup and realign certainly is another possibility. But then, as you say, if we’re already up there, why not make the best of it? I really believe that the new perspective we got by then will allow us to take different (and probably: better) decisions than from the bottom!


[…] defining factor is that he refused to accept the normal path, and desired more from his life. So he reached out and grabbed it. I’m not saying that this is easy – far from easy. The normal path is […]


Climb only after a truly worthy goal, like that wonderful apple! Just struggling and straining after the WRONG goals or without proper planning and PRACTICE will only make you fall off a rotten limb sooner or later! Enjoyed this “deciding to climb for the right apple” imagery immensely, as I was blessed as a child in a family with our own large orchard, encouraged many times to climb for the best fruit. THANK YOU!


Thanks, Granbee! That orchard sounds like a great place for growing up and learning to climb!

Fantastic post Fabian! I love the metaphor and have used it myself to describe people who’s target markets are focused on low-hanging fruit. I’m also a rock-climber and boulderer and wrote a post about Ascending In Life which goes hand and hand in this, I’d love to know if it resonates with you :D I will add that it is possible to be a relatively ‘bruise-free’ climber. For example, when other people’s hands are tearing apart from all the climbing, mine are generally a-okay. My friend Greg has endurance and doesn’t really get tired, because his technique is artful… Read more »

Hey Jason, that’s some great input concerning bruise-free climbing! You are certainly right that with artful technique, we will learn to advance much further!

As for writing in trees, I have certainly throught through a lot of content up there, even though I never brought a laptop! ;)

Thanks for sharing your post, too! Will look at it now!


[…] Deciding to Climb “So how the heck am I able to travel around the world all the time? How am I able to get my work done while on the road? […]


My apple is a life where I can live and work wherever I want. I want the life of a nomad. I’m on my first few branches so far, but the view is already worth the effort!

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