“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”
- Sir Edmund Hillary
Have you ever noticed fear and excitement can sometimes feel similar.
It was two in the morning, and it was dark and it cold. A myriad of stars twinkled in a black, inky sky. I stood outside a hut at 11,000 feet on Mt Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia. I had a bottle of water, some food for the journey, and a head torch. Despite being in the tropics, I was dressed in warm clothes for the cold—black merino wool leggings, beanie, gloves, polar fleece jacket. I was not alone. Our small group, dressed in an assortment of clothing designed for functionality rather than beauty, looked sleepy and somewhat shell-shocked. Muted groaning was everywhere as our limbs, which had climbed from sea level to 11,000 feet just the day before, protested and said, “You’re kidding. You really don’t expect us to do this again. Take us back to bed.”
This was a journey of choice. We didn’t have to be there. A local guide was leading our small group. Another guide came behind us to help us along. Our goal: to experience sunrise at the mountain peak, 13,435 feet (4,095 metres), as the sun came up. Sleepy, aching, and uncertain, we started to climb through the darkness.
I was the slowest. I think the guides wondered if I would ever make it. I know I wondered if I would as I slowly crept my way up the mountainside. We climbed, walked, scrambled over the rocks, and even used ladders and ropes to ascend small cliff faces in the dark. As the walk got steeper, I moved slower. My breathing was laboured. I think the guide thought I sounded like I was going to die. Others pushed ahead of me, but I kept putting one foot after the other. Towards the summit, the climb flattened out. For the final push to the summit, I could almost run across the large, somewhat flat rocks. It was easier on the flatter terrain, despite the altitude.
I was the straggler, but I was persistent. I kept putting one foot after the other. I started to move faster. Just as the sun was rising, I reached the summit—and it was so worth it! It didn’t matter that I wasn’t the first to arrive. It didn’t matter that I struggled on the way up. The beauty and the wonder of that moment is with me still. I will cherish that experience until I die.
- What adversity or mountains have you climbed to get where you are today?
ARE YOU READY TO CLIMB?
When I started the climb up Mt Kinabalu, I wasn’t sure if I could make it. I knew I could walk, and I knew I was persistent, but it was a long, long way, almost straight up. Altitude sickness was a real possibility. I was one of the oldest in our group. Was I too old to be making the trek? You may feel equally unsure or hesitant as you begin your journey. Be encouraged. That’s normal, and it doesn’t have to stop you. Persistence is a powerful force!
That trip in 2007 is now an amazing memory but it is also an inspiration to me…. “I can climb mountains. I can…I will…. When I doubt, I tell myself, “Remember Kinabalu” and doubt then is accompanied by hope: “Maybe I can. What if I can! It is worth the journey! It is worth the try!” Hope then births possibility. “How can I?” Possibility empowers action. Step by step. And a new journey begins.
- Balance your doubt with hope and you can climb. What mountains stand in your way that you can climb with hope?
BEGINNING WHERE YOU ARE
One of my favourite old Irish sayings is this: “Ah, if I was going there, I wouldn’t start from here.” What that saying is saying is, so often, we don’t want to be where we are; we wish we were somewhere else. You may not like where you are. You may wish you were some other place. Some journeys begin in darkness. Others begin in the light of day, but that doesn’t matter. You start your journey from wherever you are. You cannot start anywhere else.
Wherever you start from, there is one truth for all journeys: There will be challenges! Things will go wrong. You will fall down. You will fail as you move forward. You are human. Yes, falling and failing is, in fact, the only way you can progress.
Will you lead yourself, starting today? Will you lead your life, step by step, moment by moment?
The choice is yours. What will you choose?
For more stories to help you on your journey, pre-order a personally signed, first edition of my new book, Ready Set Start today. Delivery included. Release and shipping expected September 2021
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