I am sitting in a self-development workshop. The year is 1989 and I am 52 years old. The leader asks us to think of three things we’d love to do before we die and likely never will. My “Bucket List”… climb Kilimanjaro, climb the Matterhorn and see Everest Base Camp. What, I’m not a climber? Little did I know where those wishes would take me.
Fast forward to May 22, 2007. It is 8:08 in the morning and I am standing at 29.035′ on the top of Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest mountain. Aside from two Japanese people, I am the oldest person in the world to do so. Since 2002 I have now stood on the highest point on each of the seven continents.
I reflect… what does all this mean and what have I learned along the way? Clearly, it’s not normal for a person, just two months shy of his 70th birthday, to have climbed to the top of the world.
But then, what is normal, other than a perception we collectively have bought into and now believe as true? Aren’t the only limitations, the ones we place on ourselves? And yes, I might have had something to prove. I grew up without running water, electricity and a telephone in a reasonably isolated farming community.
Like so many people, my underlying life’s theme has been, “I’m not good enough.” Three university degrees, a reasonable showing as an athlete, and success as a businessman were not enough to dispel this ingrained perception (which I had not even recognized as a conditioned belief).
The slow dawning, partly gained in the mountains of the world, was simply, ‘very little is as it appears’, and, if I follow my passion and stay in action, my perceived limitations, are not limitations at all. Instead they are motivators to excellence, and not only in climbing. Most everything I have attempted in life has been to make a difference, to leave a mark.
Interestingly enough, I know something about you, the reader: we are not that different. For the most part we all need to honor ourselves more, appreciate our individual strengths, and seek and approach life with maximum passion.
Many other learning experiences struck me along the way. When the mountains threw obstacles into my path, like crevasses, bad weather, avalanche conditions (to name a few), I simply asked, “OK, how do we deal with this?” There was no reason to get angry, the way I frequently have when the people in my life tossed ‘obstacles’ into my path.
Being passionate about the quest being clear on the goal and being able to visualize success even when the going gets tough…
Trusting, supporting and allowing support from the team…
Remaining in high and open communication even when emotions dictate a retreat or fight…
Being being willing to pay the price for success…
These are all ingredients to a successful quest.
My wish? That everyone be exposed to these lessons early in life, and not to have to learn them in the school of hard knocks….nor on the peaks of the world.