By Katie Beary | Director of branch operations, Gallagher

A few years ago I was sprayed by a skunk.

I was riding the Cumming to Water Works Park trail south of Des Moines, and just as I rounded a curve to speed down a hill, I saw it. Thinking of my friend 100 feet back, I yelled, "Skuuuuuuunk!" and that warning was a mistake because it startled the animal. With accurate aim, the spray started and I was hit.

This happened during a time in which I was waiting to move into a new role at work and the transition was taking longer than anticipated. It was a time of discomfort, sacrifice, patience, trust and insecurity. And to top it off, I was living with my aunt and uncle after a lease and before a relocation, so when I walked in the door and stood in my swim suit cover up – the only piece of spare clothing in my car – my aunt said, "This is just a real low point for you, isn’t it?" I couldn’t disagree.

But with low points come moments of inspiration and motivation.

During this time I saw a cartoon that illustrated a miner digging for gold. From the image you could infer he’d been hard at work for some time, and unbeknownst to him the gold was just beneath the surface, but he stopped and didn’t strike.

What struck me most was that he’d never know how close he came to satisfaction and success. It was the image of the golden nugget just beneath the surface that convinced me to hold tight and stay the course, trusting that my discomfort would result in growth.

John Wooden once said, "All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and valleys too low."

This is true – there will be personal and professional ups and downs, and some will last longer than others. Valleys mold character and character builds leaders who can empathize, innovate and patiently maneuver the valleys.

Peaks help keep us going. A peak for you might depend on your day – it could be a note of appreciation, the new position you’ve had your eye on, technology that works throughout an entire presentation, more family time, a hard conversation with a colleague that will help everyone grow. File your peak moments in a kudos drawer or e-file; I have one because I need it some days.

What I noticed about this low-point journey I shared is that I mentioned a bike ride, a friend, an aunt and an uncle. Even in our real low points, we must remember the joys of life like fresh air and bike rides as well as the support systems who love us. They won’t let our valleys get too low.

Katie Bearyis director of branch operations for Gallagher’s benefits and HR consulting division. She is a board member for EveryStep and founder of a group in her small town called Meeting of the Wines. On weekends you can find her on the central Iowa bike trails. She can be reached viaemail.