Book Summary

Peaks and Valleys Book Summary – Spencer Johnson M.D.

“Peaks and Valleys” is an influential story which shows a philosophy on how to deal with ups and downs in life. The story starts with a young man who lived in a valley. The man was dissatisfied with everything in life, feeling as if his job and his personal life was never secure. The man lived a dull and boring life and longed to do something exciting to get away from this monotonous routine. At work, he could not hold on to a job for an extended period of time. On several occasions, he would look up and see the tall, magnificent peaks above him. Looking at the peaks felt peaceful and refreshing for the man. He longed to climb one of the peaks, although his friends and family opposed this.

However, one day, the man began to set out for one of the peaks. It was tiring and required a great deal of effort, but he finally stood atop the mountain. At the top, he met an old man who lived on the mountain. Little did he know that he was a renowned and wealthy man who owned a large company. The old man asked him why he looked so dissatisfied, so the young man told him about himself. The old man asked him if he wanted to learn a philosophy which could make him better in his life and at work. The young man was skeptical, but was desperate to make his life better, so he agreed. The old man began by telling him what peaks and valleys are. Peaks are moments when you appreciate what you have; valleys are moments when you long for what is missing. The old man said that it is natural for everyone to have peaks and valleys to have a healthy life. Still skeptical, the young man did not fully understand. They old man continued by saying that to obtain more peaks, he must manage his valleys well. The wise things you do in bad times shapes good times; the errors you do in good times shapes bad times. This made sense to the young man. The old man now said that there are two ways to change a valley into a peak – to change the situation itself or to change how you feel about the situation and react to it. He also said that to find a way out of a valley, you must choose to see things differently, learn from the situation, and use that knowledge to make the situation better. The young man, feeling enlightened by these wise words headed back to the valley. Back at the valley, the young man remembered everything the old man had said and was determined to make the situation better. People had noticed an immediate change in him from the moment he returned from the peak. He was more effective and managed himself well.

One day, a crisis came at work where the company’s shipping service had an error and one important package for their biggest customer got lost. Soon, many other packages got lost. The young man thought about the old man’s words and tried to fine the good hidden in this bad time to make the situation better. The next day, he suggested to his boss that this crisis was an opportunity to find the error in their tracking system and that this can improve future shipments. His boss was happy with his suggestion and the young man got a promotion. As time went by, the company prospered – it was a peak. But then they started growing complacent and lazy. They took a downward turn financially and had a layoff. Meanwhile, the young man boasted about his new promotion and got caught up in his own success and forgot about what the old man told him. Soon, his friends began to avoid him and his boss started to criticize him.

Things took a bad turn. The man headed to the plateau nearby to think about what had happened in recent events. He tried to recover from this valley but nothing the old man said was helping him. He decided to climb up the mountain to meet the old man again. When he saw the old man, the old man asked him why he was down again. He told him about the recent events and asked him why the Peaks and Valleys philosophy wasn’t working. The old man told him that he did not appreciate or manage the peak wisely after he reached it and that his ego caused him to have a valley. He said that arrogance takes you off a peak quickly and fear keeps you on a valley longer. The young man agreed again, eager to put this in motion. Afterwards, the young man saw another peak from the current peak – that peak being even more tall and magnificent. He told the old man that we was going to set out for that peak. The old man told him that it would be a hard journey and told him to follow a sensible vision to reach his goal. He told him to imagine him already in a better future in such detail so that the journey to that future will be enjoyable instead of difficult. The young man took this into account. When the young man began his trek, he saw an enormous valley separating this peak from the other one. He knew that the voyage past the valley would be painful, but he remembered what the old man had said about following his sensible vision. After some time, a storm and the young man became very uncomfortable. His feat were soaked and paining; his arms were sore. He was about to give up until he remembered his sensible vision. He imagined that he was on the peak looking down on an an amazing view.

He not only faced the truth but embraced the truth. He used all of his five senses to imagine what he was doing on the peak. He opened his eyes and moved forward towards the mountain. The sensible vision gave him encouragement, clarity, and strength to go on with his trek. Finally, he reached the peak. He saw the breathtaking view and was amazed of all he had been through. He had a personal peak, where he overcame his fear. He returned and embraced the old man. He thanked him for teaching him all of this and told him of the journey. He then said goodbye and returned to the valley.

In the valley, people had noticed that he had changed yet again – his family and friends were happier around him. However he had another challenge. At work, another company had come up and was selling better quality products at lower costs. Everyone in the company panicked and some even got angry. The young man was calm, however and he saw the good hidden in this bad and learned from the situation to make it better. The man called an emergency meeting and asked everyone to see the truth in the situation and how to make it better. They finally agreed to add several new features to make the product more useful. The company prospered over the years and the young man had become very successful.

One day, unfortunately, the old man died. The young man mourned for his death but tried to make the situation a peak by appreciating all the old man had done for him.

Over the years, the young man eventually became and old man and spread the philosophy of Peaks and Valleys throughout. The philosophy was not only a way of seeing things; it was a way of doing things.

These are all the main lessons from the story:


Manage Your Good And Bad Times:

1. Make Reality Your Friend: Whether you are temporarily up on a Peak or down in a Valley, ask yourself: What is the truth in this situation?

Get Out Of A Valley Sooner:

2. Find And Use The Good Hidden In A Bad Time: Relax, knowing that Valleys end. Do the opposite of what put you in the Valley. Get outside of yourself: be of more service at work and more loving in life. Avoid comparisons. Uncover the good that is hidden in a bad time, and use it soon to your advantage

To Stay On A Peak Longer:

3. Appreciate and Manage Your Good Times Wisely: Be humble and grateful. Do more of what got you there. Keep making things better. Do more for others. Save resources for your upcoming Valleys.

To Get To Your Next Peak:

4. Follow Your Sensible Vision: Imagine yourself enjoying a better future in such specific, believable detail, that you soon enjoy doing what takes you there.

To Help People:

5. Share It With Others!: Help people make good and bad times work for them, too.

Review of Story:

“Peaks and Valleys” was an influential book which was clearly thought over and written for two decades. Some of the lessons learned from the story are priceless and extremely useful in life. However, some portions of the book were “cheesy” and were very obvious.

Additionally, many of the morals learned was just common sense. Overall, it was a great book, and I believe readers will be benefited in their work and lives if they read this novel.