EVEREST LESSONS: WHY

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?

5/27/2010

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?

Excitement! 

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!

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!

 

Getting My Courage Back

Have you always wanted to make some big changes in your life, but were held back by fear? Be it moving to a new place, changing career track, or starting a new business. Even you know that’s what your heart calls for, but you just couldn’t muster the courage to take the leap of faith?

In fact, I have been living in such fear for a long time and it was not even about a big adventure at all. For the past several years, as much as I love Boston, my heart has been telling me that I need to move on with my life. The world is too big and I long for exploring the unknowns.

I moved to Boston in late 2003 and it took no time before I fell in love with the city, declaring it my favorite for so many reasons – four seasons, education, professional development, friends and social circles, positive influence, active lifestyle with all my favorite sports within easy reach, close to nature from mountains to oceans, diverse cultural scenes, great food, proud history, awesome sports teams … and on and on – the reasons can go on forever.

I thought, “This place has so many things to explore that I can live here for 10 years.”

But, as my 10 years “deadline” approached and I started to think about moving, I kept delaying my move, saying, “I’m going to move after this year.” I found myself wanting to stay longer for one reason or another: to be close to my friends, to enjoy my favorite season one more time, to finish an educational program I was taking, to complete a project I was volunteering for … the excuses go on and on.

Though, I realized what keeps me in Boston is not just my favorite things, but also my fears. The longer I stayed, the bigger the fear. Whenever I thought about a new place to move to, I caught myself thinking, “But they don’t have this …” and while some of the “don’t have”-s may be facts, some came from my fear of the unknown. I was trying to find excuses to stay in my comfort zone.

As an immigrant living in this country without family, friends are all I have. Having been a nomad for so many years while traveling and climbing around the world, I treasure the safety and stability of a “home.” Moving to a new place is scary. I will have to start from scratch again to find new friends, to tap into a new community, build a new home. Will I enjoy it as much as Boston? Will I be as happy as I was in Boston?

It’s ironic to realize how much fear I have about moving, especially because I have been trying to encourage other people through my motivational speaking to overcome fear and pursue their dreams. I seemed to have less fear when I decided to go climb Everest than to move – how ridiculous!

Before I came to Boston, I had lived in China and all over the U.S. During those years, I was excited about each move and to explore new places; fear never crossed my mind. Now, I understand how other people felt when they made comments like, “You have so much courage to move to a new country.”

I wonder, “Why was I so ‘fearless’ before? How do I get back my courage?”

I thought back to the difference between when I was ‘young’ and now, and I noticed how my focus had shifted. When I was young, moving was exciting and my mind was focused on a new life in a new place. I wasn’t worried about the future because I believed I would figure out my way. Also, the need to move was initiated by external motives, such as going to school or changing jobs, it was a “no brainer” because the move was necessary and I didn’t have to initiate the decision process. The external motives took away the biggest hurdle, the fear.

As life goes on, when moving is not “required” by external circumstances, I have to take the initiative to make the change. That’s when I found myself spending more time worrying about losing what I have in my current comfortable life. That’s what was holding me back. To step out of my comfort zone, I have to look forward into the future and follow my heart. Just as many have said before, what people regret most in life is what they could have done but did not.

Maybe you have wanted to change your job or career track for a long time? Maybe you have always wanted to start your own business? We often see people finally make such changes when the job was eliminated or the industry was outdated; but, why only make such changes when you’re being “forced” to by external motives?

What are some changes you have wanted to make but haven’t yet? It’s hard to take the initiative, but when you look back, you will be happy that you tried.

How to motivate yourself when you are bored

When you are building a new business, or want to become the best in the world, you know you are in for an adventure. Exciting, right?

When I was skiing toward the south pole, a journey that very few people have taken, I learned, the biggest challenge in an adventure often is not exciting, or adrenaline-driven, or newsworthy at all!

Can you imagine what it’s like if the world you live in looks like the inside of a Ping-Pong ball? The earth is a boundless white plain, the sky is like a gray blanket. The sun shines from behind thin clouds like a dim light bulb and hangs just above the horizon 24 hours a day. No sunrise no sunset, no moon no stars. Not a tree, not a rock, not even a bug. The world is dead quiet.

That’s what my world looked like when I was trekking to the South Pole.

For more than 10 hours each day, we repeated one step after another, pulling behind each of us a monster sled that was as big as a bathtub and weighed more than 100 pounds. It was a perpetual uphill trip, against a direct head wind, at a temperature of minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It was so cold that even a quick stop for water or a bite would put us at risk of hyperthermia.

There was no reference of time, no reference of direction. No matter how hard you worked, it seemed you barely made any progress.

I tried to entertain myself by counting numbers, but staring at the empty whiteness, I went completely brain dead. I could not even count to 100.

By now, you probably think that your daily chores, or even the most tedious 9-5 desk job, sounds more exciting?

In fact, on expeditions like this, many people give up due to the extreme boredom. What’s the point to endure such torture?

When we are dreaming about adventures, often, our imaginations are filled with excitement. You visualize yourself as a wonder woman or a superman. You are making those heroic moves to fight evils. You look forward to the glorious prize and grand celebration. But the truth is, the journey is often just one tedious step after another, repeated day after day.

On that thankfully once-in-a-lifetime minds-numbingly boring trip, I learned, the biggest challenge is often disguised as daily mundaneness.

The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t actually comes down to how they handle everyday tasks.

No matter you are building the foundation for your new business, or trying to break through a plateau on your way to become the best in the world, there will be time that you find yourself in a disorient and unfamiliar world, few people can advise you on what to expect next, you feel you are fighting an uphill battle with all the forces against you.

Sometimes, everyday tasks may appear boring, menial, or not necessary. No matter how hard you try, you feel you are stuck.

That’s the time most people quit. Not because they don’t have the talent, but because, they couldn’t value the meaning of those apparently tedious steps that build the foundation for long-term success. Unfortunately, there’s no secret shortcut to the top.

When you feel like quitting, remember, every other person is feeling the same pain. The winner is the one who is lasting to the end. Dig deep, remind yourself why you are on this journey. Put in your best effort consistently, step by step. No matter how far, you will be there.