Now you can imagine, if you don’t have deep WHY for climbing this mountain, what kind of torture would it be to debate every day “Is 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 challenges.

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, and 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!


Read previous lesson: EVEREST LESSONS: HOW  

Everest Lessons: 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 of 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 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 altitudes. 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 altitudes. 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 glaciers 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 “Is it worth it?”

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What does it take to climb Everest?


Everest Summit – summary written on May 27, 2010


It has been a few days since the summit, but I’m still trying to digest the fact that I just climbed Everest. Was it hard?

It depends. If you have read the previous blog “Why Everest is hard” and after two months of suffering through pain, you are still healthy/strong, determined, and positive, then maybe Everest is not that hard for you.

When I set the goal to climb Everest a few years ago, I saw it as a goal reachable by anyone. After training hard, I have finally achieved my goal! Now it feels surreal that I have just climbed Everest!

So, what does it takes to climb Everest? My thoughts…

  • Positive Attitude
  • High Pain Tolerance
  • Strong will/desire
  • Fitness/strength

You should be well above average in all four, and be in the top 10% in at least two categories. When my life slows down, I shall start writing more about Everest and will also post more pictures! So stay tuned…

How can you stay motivated?

How do I motivate myself through so many years of arduous training and during the hardest time of my climbs?

It is a question I get often.

It’s the same question I pondered again and again on mountain tops and in my everyday life.

The answer is simple.

It’s what we are all looking for everywhere every day, without being aware of it, something we all seek in each and every endeavor, and is a major factor in every choice we make.

Something so pervasive, it hides in plain sight.

So what is it?


The power of excitement is what moves everyone forward, is what had brought me to the mountaintops.

Excitement is what makes performers irresistible, conversations compelling, relationships lasting, and work a calling.

We all need to find excitement in our work, life and relationship to take ourselves and our team to the top.

So instead of beating yourself up for not being motivated, look for what truly excites you.

If you are still struggling with discovering what truly excites you, or if you find yourself such a long way off from having the life you dream of, let’s have a conversation!

There’s no magic program.

I went to my coach David Memont (you can read the original post here) hoping for a magic training program that would make me strong and fast enough to climb Everest climb.

One month later, I complained that my body composition didn’t change much (I was still too fat) despite my training “hard”. I thought that I need a more “effective” program.

David asked me to show him my training log.

It turned out, while I thought I was following his program “diligently”, I was using weights much lighter than what I was capable of. I couldn’t imagine myself doing more.

David pointed out, that my weakness was not due to a limitation in my physical abilities, but a lack of mental strength.

I came to David to get a stronger body.

He helped me achieve that as well as something much more valuable.

I became a stronger person.

How was able to do that?

There was no magic program.

Instead his coaching empowered me to become who I needed to be.

That’s how I reached Everest.

I would love to show you how to reach the peaks of success too.

I’m offering a free 1 hour coaching session to show you how to get started.

Don’t miss this opportunity, book your session with me today and together let’s head for the top.


The Secret of High Achievers

Have you noticed, all top athletes in the world have a coach?

You may even wonder why.

What does a coach provide that athletes need to succeed?

Let me show you.

Here’s how my coach helped me train for Mount Everest.

October 2009, with less than six months until my Everest expedition, the last objective left on my Explorer’s Grand Slam project, I just started my training program.

Why did I start so late? Well, I had an injury earlier in the year and had to undergo an ACL reconstruction surgery in my right knee in April. The rehab process started with one week completely immobile in bed, then another couple weeks supported on crutches, then gradually learned to walk normal again on knee braces.

During those first few weeks, I watched how the muscle on my leg shrank so fast. Not only did I lose a lot of strength, it was a long road to be able to walk just like a normal person! I diligently started rehab as soon as recommended. After a long five months, I got a green light from my doctor that my knee was strong enough to start fitness training again.

Even before my injury, I knew I was not strong enough for Mount Everest. Now, freshly recovered, I was at best a “normal” person, not even strong enough to climb other smaller objectives that I have done in the past. I had no idea how I was going to climb Everest.

Frankly, I didn’t even think it’s realistic to climb Mount Everest next spring. But I didn’t want to give up so easily.

The best decision I made was to call David Memont of Strength Discovery, the best fitness coach I know. Without hesitation, David said, “I can train you. I’m confident that you can be ready for Everest next spring!”

That’s all I needed to hear to start!

David understood how to train strength, power, speed, agility I needed for climbing. And I thought that’s the value of a good coach.

I was wrong.

Sometimes we get excited about our goals, but we are not really that excited about ourselves. We are not sure if we can do it. We don’t really believe in ourselves. A coach is someone who believes in you, sometimes more than you do. A coach is someone who holds your vision for you when you forget about it.

The hardest part of the training is not about how to run, how to lift weights, but about how to keep going with the best effort consistently even if you think the chance for success is so low. It’s about training even when it’s dark, cold and stormy outside; it’s about staying focused and executing the training plan accurately even when you’re exhausted or when life throws you a curveball.

As David said to me, the weakest part of an athlete is not the physical ability, but the mental strength. I didn’t understand that until I summited Mount Everest the following spring. I was the smallest, weakest, slowest and the least experienced one on my team of 25. I watched 9 of my teammates give up halfway through the expedition, not one of them stopping due to sickness or injury. I realized physical condition is not the deciding factor on this mountain.

A coach is the partner who will get you through the hardest part on your journey; someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself and empowers you to bring out talent and strength you didn’t know you had.

How does this relate to you?

You are already successful, and you feel you are on track towards your goal. Everything seems in your control. Why do you bother to need a coach?

If the path seems so smooth, that means you have a lot of unleashed potential! You need someone to show you how you can be your best version of yourself, like David did for me. That’s what I want to do for you.

Let’s have a chat! Let me help you discover an even more exciting future you can create for yourself. Schedule a free initial coaching session right now.

Everest Lessons: How did it start?

Before I dive into the lessons I learned from Everest, first of all, how did the whole thing start?

The credit goes to the documentary movie “Touching the Void”.

It was my first winter in Boston. As a fresh MBA graduate, I was working a 12-hours-a-day corporate job and focused on my career track only. For a book nerd growing up in Beijing, mountaineering was totally “other-worldly”. In fact, I was so scared of the brutal cold that, before that movie, I had not even ventured the 4-blocks walk from my home in Back Bay to the Charles River.

I never knew humans can be that strong! I wondered, is “mountaineer” some kind of special specie, a superhuman? Can an ordinary person like me ever do something like that?

I became curious!

I went to the library and borrowed as many documentaries on mountaineering as I can – there’s no streaming Netflix yet. And guess what, Everest is the one standing out most on that shelf.

After a weekend-long movie binge, I discovered, mountaineers are just normal human beings! Many of them had normal jobs outside the mountains, many of them didn’t stand like a giant, and most of them look like a normal person! That discovery got me excited. I concluded, a “normal” person can become a mountaineer, an ordinary person can climb Everest!

June 2004, I audaciously declared Mount Everest as my dream, despite the fact that I had not even seen a trail map in my life yet! To be completely honest, I didn’t really expect to climb Everest one day. I was just hoping, by shooting at the moon, at least I could motivate myself to start running and going to the gym!

I’m glad I didn’t stop at running and going to the gym. My curiosity led me to taking classes in climbing, camping, and more and more … before I knew it, all my life outside the office is centered on mountains.

Mountaineering became my passion.

Mountains taught me to be humble, to be respectful, to always be a learner, to always put in the best effort. There’s no handicap or excuses, you just have to train hard and get stronger. There’s no short cut or privilege, only honest and consistent effort will pay off. There’s no taking for granted, you have to earn each step.

March 2010, when I was really making my first step hiking towards the Everest Base Camp, I felt as if I had been in my dream. Six years before, when I started my daydream, I never have expected, one day, I would really set my foot on Everest.

I had come a long way! Starting from basic fitness foundation training through running and hiking, learning all the technical and safety skills, to gaining experience on bigger and bigger mountains, and gradually testing myself in more and more complicated situations.

Despite the obvious fact from day 1 that I was the smallest, the weakest, and the slowest on my team, I told myself: Being able to make that first step is a success by itself, regardless of the outcome.

Everyone has a different starting point and was gifted with different talents. Instead of worrying about how people would judge me or the slimness of my chance for the summit, I repeatedly told myself, every step higher on the mountain is a success, regardless of summiting or not.

Many people have argued that, just for the fact that I dared to attempt this mountain, I can’t call myself ordinary. However, if you have met me when I first started daydreaming about Everest, you would have laughed at me just like my old colleagues did. In fact, even years after I have climbed Everest, some of my high school classmates still thought I was joking when they first heard about it. They only remembered me as a book nerd who could barely pass PE tests in school.

Even today, after I have been training for so many years, I continue to feel humbled by the high performance standard of our mountaineering community in both my original home base of New England and my newly adopted home of PNW (Pacific North West). No matter how you may argue, I only feel comfortable calling myself an ordinary mountaineer.

However, like in many situations in life and career, our natural talent level is often not the most important deciding factor in one’s success – of course, there are some objectives in climbing, in life, and in business, that you simply can’t risk unless you have really high competencies – On Everest, the physical capability is not the most important factor.

A person with ordinary talent or ability but the extraordinary spirit and mental strength can achieve extraordinary goals.

Mental strength can be trained and learned. That’s the lessons I’m going to share in the next few weeks.

The most important lessons from Everest

It’s that time of the year again … May always brings back the memory of Mount Everest.

This year is the 11th year anniversary of my Everest summit.

In 2004, inspired by the movie “Touching the Void”, I had this daydream of climbing Mount Everest. Yet, growing up an unathletic book nerd in Beijing, I never expected that I would really climb this mountain one day.

Six years later, when I finally started hiking towards Everest Base Camp, I was considered, by almost everyone on my team, the least likely person to succeed. I was the smallest, the weakest, and the slowest. Yet, among 4 women on my team, I was the only one who summited. Among our team of 25, only 16 made it to the summit.

By all means, Everest started as an impossible goal.

Since my return from Everest, I have always been asking myself, what are the most important lessons I learned on Everest?

In the next few weeks, I will share the most important lessons I learned on Everest, and how that helped me thrive today. I hope they would inspire you and help you thrive in your own life!

First, why do I climb mountains, or more specifically, Why Everest?

… stay tuned!


Learning Leadership through Art

As part of the “Nature of Leadership” retreat I helped run last week, everyone painted an oil painting. For most, it was their first one ever and it was clear that this experience deeply impacted each person and the team on many levels.

First, though oil painting is not as “adventurous” as mountain climbing, our clients found that they had to overcome a different kind of fear, so they could break through a different kind of limit. As C-level executives at technology companies, oil painting is a very unfamiliar challenge. When they first learned they would be painting, many responded with, “Impossible.” They had to alter their thinking, applying the same positive attitude they use in their professional life to overcome this fear of painting. The hardest step was to put down the first stroke on the white canvas.

Second, while oil painting appears to be an individual exercise, our clients realized that team support makes a big difference for everyone’s success. After overcoming their initial fear of getting started, many of these normally very confident and authoritative executives soon experienced a “break down” moment – they felt desperate from their lack of skills and their self-confidence plunged. Several people almost wanted to throw away their brushes and trash the canvas. At such moments, sincere compliments from colleagues, along with advice from the coaches, was a huge morale boost that encouraged them to continue the work.

Third, as they compared paintings later, it was very amusing and amazing to see how everyone painted dramatically different paintings from looking at the same spot. The art of painting is not just a copy machine production of the world in front of us, but a recreation of the world from the painter’s mind. It’s not just what they see, but how they interpret it, how they wish it to be, and what they desire. Regardless of skill level, the painting also reflects the person’s personality in an amazingly accurate way!

The same thing happens in our communication and collaboration with others. We hear the same thing and see the same thing, but everyone can interpret them differently; some would rather believe things are what they wish for, instead of what they actually are. Then we pass on our understanding of the situation to others, naturally adding our own intentions, wishes, and pre-judgments. It’s important to realize that everyone’s opinions and understanding of the same situation can be justifiably different. Instead of trying to quickly judge the other person, we should try to understand them first.

Finally, after we finished painting, we had a round-table discussion where everyone explained his/her motivation and the process behind his/her painting; then, other members of the team talked about what they saw from others’ paintings. It was very interesting how everyone noticed different things from the same painting and got different feelings about the person or personality behind the same painting.

This is like any review/reflection process we have after each project or event because reflection is the most important part of the learning experience. How the artist intended the painting and interpreted his/her own painting is totally different from what it looked like to others. In fact, who we are in our own eyes can be quite different from who we appear to be in others’ eyes. It’s hard to see ourselves. Sometimes we miss our greatest attributes, and, of course, sometimes we miss our biggest shortcomings. Through listening to how other people interpreted each painting, we get a direct connection as to how others understand the artist’s personality, style of communicating, and/or behavior.

More important, for a leader, it’s important to understand other people’s unspoken intentions, unexpressed emotions, and unvoiced desires. When we are giving our take on others’ paintings, we are actually practicing understanding others beyond words, or, in this case, beyond the surface of the painting.

Art is not only a healing and self-discovery experience for each person, and when done as a group, it is a great team building process. Not only did the team encourage each other during painting, but helped one another by offering ideas and feedback. More importantly, the whole team gained an understanding of each other at a much deeper level through their reflection, so they could bond at a much more intimate level.