Everest Lessons: WHYJune 3, 2020
He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
This famous quote from Nietzsche is the absolute foundation if you want to be successful in any hard endeavoring.
To avoid making it an abstract philosophical discussion, let me share with you the “how” one has to bear on Mount Everest, the “how” that caused one-third climbers to quit before the summit push … not for just a few days or weeks, but every day for 2 months!
First, the pain of breathing the thin air. If you have ever been to Denver, the mile-high city, or have hiked on Mount Rainier, you may have a sense of what I am talking about. And Everest basecamp is more than 3 miles above the sea level, or 3000 feet higher than the summit of Mount Rainier. Can you imagine how much thinner is the air up there? And you live there for almost two months? The pain of constant coughs and headache, of clearing your nose of bloody secretions every few minutes. This is what you experience every day and night when you remain healthy.
On top of that comes the almost unavoidable sickness. Your immune system is seriously weakened at high altitude. Two months is long enough to allow even the healthiest person to catch some bugs at one point or another, and the severity is magnified 100 times at high altitude. A simple cold can develop into fatal pulmonary edema or cerebral edema overnight.
Halfway through the expedition, I had a serious lung infection and was sent down the mountain to a village for 5 days. I was lucky to be able to make a full recovery just in time.
Then, exhaustion. Every climbing day is long, you’re more tired than you’ve ever been in your life, but the altitude and the uncomfortable camping conditions make it hard to sleep, and your own cough constantly interrupts your rest.
Next, Do you know the temperature on glacier can swing between freezing cold and torching 100F within just a few minutes? How do you possibly dress properly? How awful is it to suffer terrible sunburn and frostbite at the same time! And both cold and heat drain your energy.
And of course, the fear of being caught in an avalanche is with you all the time.
Then there’s the psychological pressure. You constantly see other climbers who are stronger, faster. No matter how confident you are on day one, you begin to question if you are good enough. And not to say if you happen to be one of the weakest and the slowest ones.
And, everyone climbs on their own schedule. While you are trying to focus your mind on your summit push, others might be celebrating and packing up to go.
Even if you can endure all the suffering for two months, a monster avalanche could destroy the climbing route and end the climbing season prematurely; or the storm never relents and you don’t ever get a weather window to attempt the summit.
Why would you bother to climb this mountain when the odds are so against you?
And then you know what, it only takes a couple of days to fly back to your safe warm home; in just a couple of days, you can be in the arms of your loved ones. That option is always on your mind. Every single day, it makes you ask yourself “Should I stay or should I go?”
Now you can imagine, if you don’t have a deep WHY for climbing this mountain, what kind of torture would it be to debate every day “Does it worth it?”
You have to want to climb because you are truly passionate about mountains. Passion can help make those pains just part of the journey; Passion can help make those suffering just the norm of an expedition life; Passion can help you focus on experiencing the mountain instead of worrying about the outcome.
But Everest is more than just a mountain.
You have to want to climb this mountain beyond just your love for climbing. You need an even deeper why.
Only with a deep why, can you willingly give up the comfort of home and love of family in exchange for two months of suffering; Only with a deep why, can you courageously make each step despite the fear; Only with a deep why, can you keep moving forward even when all the odds are against you.
For me, I started this journey because I believed that an ordinary person can climb Everest and achieve extraordinary goals.
I’m on this mountain not only for my own dream, but also for those ordinary people, who believed that because they hadn’t achieved anything outstanding yet, they never would. I wanted to do my best to show everyone what’s possible for them.
For each of us, our why is unique to ourselves and to each situation. It can change over time. The deeper you can answer the why, the more motivation you will get when facing a big challenge.
How does this lesson apply to today?
Passion is more than something we need when we pursue big goals.
It’s the foundation for our happiness in everyday life, especially in times of big challenge.
The deeper you can answer the why, the more motivation you will get.
When you are doing things you are passionate about, you feel ever more energetic every day, your heart is filled with joy, you appreciate all the possibilities life presents.
When you are living with a deep why, you find it easier to stay focused on a daily basis, you see setbacks as normal steps on your journey, you see obstacles as opportunities for growth.
When you are living every day with passion rooted in deep why, the world is so beautiful, your life is so fulfilling, you light up the world around you.
When you are thriving, every dream is possible!