LESSONS FROM KILIMANJARO :
Getting to the top is often a challenge filled with many that few ever see as the work is often put in during hours of darkness, extreme conditions and outside of one’s comfort zones. Those sleeping and eating comfortably in the safety of their lives have no clue how mentally, physically and spiritually involving it is to climb. Most often than not, strangers and people in similar quests to their peaks form our critical support team, as through the mountains may be different individually, the climb is always identical. It is often our bodies, the mortal parts of us that give in first until their masters, the brain takes over and conquers them to rise beyond the pain and be disciplined-enough to take instruction and keep going. Self discipline and sacrifice are therefore important virtues that teach our systems the importance of mind over matter and allow the flesh to succumb to the mind and not the other way round. In simple terms, teaching your self to do what you do not like or want to do, is a key factor for success. This may be in small things like reading a book, rising early to put in a gym workout, eating the right things and not the ‘nice’ things…
As you gain altitude, the air thins.
This is symbolic of the lessening resources available the higher you go and this is when some on the journey will either stop or fall back. The stopping is not always a sign of failure but often a symptom of inadequate preparation for the journey. As if to test you further, at this point is often where additional external factors will come in to harden the climb. The cold symbolizes the personal rejection and criticism you will get from your own environment as people who once held you close will distance themselves from you and feed negatively into your mind. Personal relationships suffer, the good people saw is you is never mentioned and it becomes very difficult to breathe the way you have been accustomed to.
Know yourself, know your body:
A climbing guide, mentor or coach is always someone who has been on this journey before and seen and observed different people. By looking into your eyes, checking a few vital signs, he will tell if your mind is still in condition to climb or you have reached your limit. He will check if you have enough to feed the now weak body for the terrain ahead and will know if there is value in you ascending greater heights where the risks are even greater.
Regardless of your guide, you often will have the ability to know what you are and not capable of as no one can take you beyond your own dreams and strengths. Part of this process involves prior altitude training, endurance exercises, extended fasts or diets, multi day overnight camps in unfamiliar areas as simulators, exposure to rain, cold and darkness and using your climbing gear before the actual climb. No formula 1 driver even wins a race in a new car he has only driven for the first time on a course he has never driven before. Practice builds habits and habits build characteristics that added up build the character of a climber. It is this character and pedigree that then becomes your internal compass and fueler when the air thins out and the cold sets in…in the darkness of the final ascent.
In the darkness of the final ascent there are no friends or observers.
As you build up your life towards the final peak, you will rise and fall in many different areas of your life as you acclimatize. This will be on areas like church leadership, social club positions, networks of friends, business ventures and interests. You will make money and lose some. In all these you will always have people on similar paths to cheer you on and others to criticize you. It will be an ongoing interactive growth process where lots of feedback will be available as many will be watching you and many have a lot to say.
On the mountain however, as the hour hand strikes midnight, darkness engulfs the skies and the cold blanket takes over the peak, it all goes quiet and even the torches of those ahead of you are not visible.
Learn to act alone, learn to find true depth and meaning for all actions within your heart. You will not find observers and you will not find followers in the darkness so get yourself used to being in situations where you are alone and not reacting to the words or counsel of people. Be a proactive person and not a reactive one. This is a unique skill that will keep you stepping forward and listening inward.
Few ever make it to the to the peak and the peak though beautiful is for a limited time only and not built to sustain may and for long:
It is therefore vital to have a clear vision and purpose to your climb before taking on the journey as many perish along the way, not because of only foolishness, but a lack of clarity of purpose, climbing strategy and pure ignorance. The climb will consume you as the top is hostile and not designed to accommodate ordinary people in their ordinary course of life. There is no food growing at the top, no restaurants and no waiters…you live off what’s inside you already and the light snacks you carried along. Your water bottle will freeze, your candy bar ice out and ordinary tasks like going to the toilet will not be possible. Know what you are getting yourself into when you take than pinnacle office. Don’t expect to love the same life you lead at base camp and have the same luxuries. Expect change, anticipate crisis and have a plan for all possible scenarios you will face at the top.
The view will be stunning and you will see the world in ways you never imagined and in ways few will ever experience. However stunning it gets, take your pictures, absorb the moments, learn something, leave your mark and make your way down in time to avoid the burn of the rising sun that will blind you with the snow glare and dehydrate you further.
Everything has a season and time and when the season changes, those that don’t adapt will die. So as the sun rises, make your way down with a plan in mind and a pace that takes you back to base with the wisdom of a climber and not the arrogance of a politician. You did not ascend to be worshiped nor are you now any better a person than your fellow brother… however the wisdom you gained must now be a tool that guides and feeds the minds and souls of those youngsters who aspire to climb and see the world too in positions you have achieved.
There will be more mountains to climb and higher ones each time. The locations and timings will differ and so will your purpose and vision each time. In some you will climb as a guide , in others as the main climber … the formulae doesn’t change. Your heart and mind are what will affect your approach.
Finally climbing is not for everyone, just as the top
is not for every climber. At base camp will always be cooks, porters, medics, cleaners, assistants and a whole lot of crew that far outnumber the climbers. These dedicated men and women feed off knowing their work has contributed in your successful climb and ignorant and weak as they may seem, a smile, a word of thanks is all they need to keep doing what they do. It must be accepted that base is where they are good and base is where their peak is and it’s not for lack of vision that they do not climb…..it is for you that they do what they do. You bring back pictures and experiences that keep their spirits content!!
Keep climbing and keep learning!!!