In 2015 I attended a private business conference in Sydney, Australia, and during that conference I met the 64th Australian to successfully climb to the summit of Mt Everest.
He was a colleague of the organiser of the event and had been invited to speak to the audience about his experience of climbing the highest mountain on earth, a feat achieved by less than 5,500 people (*as of the beginning of 2019).
He spoke of years of preparation and training to tackle the mountain. Of unbelievable obstacles, freezing conditions and furious winds, of altitude sickness, despair and injury.
He spoke of avalanches and seemingly bottomless chasms of ice into which previous climbers had fallen and were never seen again, of tying 3 or 4 ladders end to end and using this makeshift bridge to cross hands and knees to the other side. And he spoke of the final triumph over the mountain.
But it was his depiction of the final attempt to reach the summit that I remember most clearly. He talked of the peak of the mountain as taunting the climbers, of making them believe they were closer than they think.
Then, just as they thought they were nearing the top, the mountain appeared to move further away. It was as paradoxical as it was soul-destroying:
The nearer he got to the peak, the more it seemed to move away from him.
It was at this moment, just as he was about to reach the peak and realise his dream, that another mountain, the mountain of self-doubt, reared in front of him, seemingly as insurmountable as Everest itself.
At this moment, with the freezing air chilling him to the bone, his oxygen supplies running low, all he could do was focus on his feet trudging through the ice, putting one boot ahead of the other.
“I couldn’t do anything else,” he said, “other than focus at putting one step at a time.”
He could have given up at any point along the climb. But he didn’t. He was ultimately successful in conquering Everest, and his story is a great metaphor for the mountains we all set ourselves to climb.
Like a marathon, climbing Everest comes down to the simplest, yet one of the most difficult, things we learned to do as a toddler: putting one foot ahead of the other.
There are 4 takeaways from this story of ultimate success I like to bring people’s attention to:
- Set yourself a mountain to climb, your Everest—identify your worthy cause.
- Plan and prepare—you don’t just turn up at base camp and start hiking up the mountain; you need to plan how you will conquer your mighty goals.
- Put one foot ahead of the other—sometimes that’s all you can do, but it’ll get you to the top.
- Keep going—maintain and sustain your persistence, even when your goal taunts you and seems to be moving away from you the closer you get.
As Winston Churchill said when he visited Harrow School, his alma mater, in 1941:
“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
In other words, set your course and keep going no matter what.
This Article is an Excerpt from How To Broaden Your SCOPE and Develop Habits of Success #2: C – Courage and Confidence