Lessons From Scaling Mt. Everest

This blog post was first published on The Leaders Blog, by Take Action! Organization on March 10.


Photo credit: Trevor Haldenby

On March 3, 2011, TEDxWaterloo | The Uncharted, with over 1,000 attendees and touted as one of the biggest TEDx events in North America, took place at the Centre in the Square in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Since I was not able to attend the event in person this year, I did the second best thing I could think of and caught the livestream of the entire event online, after following the #TEDxWaterloo stream on Twitter of course.

Out of all the talks throughout the day-long event, the one talk that really captured my full attention and got me excited was the talk given by Jean-François Carrey, who on May 18th, 2006 at the age of 24, became the youngest Canadian to scale Mt. Everest.

Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly a number of very impressive speakers and individuals who took to the TEDxWaterloo stage this year, including Dr. Roberta Bondar, the world’s first neurologist in space; and Abby Sunderland, who at the age of 16 last year, attempted to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world. If you recall, Abby made headlines around the world when she set off two emergency beacons 2,000 miles west of Perth, Australia, and had to be rescued by a search and rescue team.

Going back to Jean-François, one of the main reasons why his talk captured my attention and imagination right away, was through his use of the word ‘adventure’. He used this particular word to describe his seemingly impossible dream of climbing the highest mountain in the world, and turning it into reality.

Every now and then, we find ourselves face to face with seemingly impossible tasks as a result, perhaps, of setting bold and ambitious personal goals for ourselves. This stems from a young age when oftentimes, we’re told by the entire world around us to “dream big” and “reach for the stars.” Somewhere along the way however, we ‘grow up’, and once the reality of the ‘real’ world sets in, we lose that childlike sense of innocence and curiosity, and scale back our dreams to merely what is within our reach.

Photo Credit: Jean-François Carrey – Crossing a deep and extremely dangerous crevice on Mt. Everest using an aluminum ladder

Q. “How do you eat an elephant?” A. “One bite at a time”

So how does one go about climbing the highest mountain in the world, raising money and support in order to accomplish the goal? Easy, it all comes down to a matter of perspective. There is an old adage that a journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step. Similarly, it is almost impossible to eat a whole elephant, yet, how do you go about eating one? One bite at a time.

“Passion is Contagious… just like H1N1″

If you are anything like Jean-François, you would put your goal of climbing the highest mountain in the world on a t-shirt for all the world to see. Of course, since your goal is now on a t-shirt, you are committed to making it happen.

Simply having the idea of achieving your goal is not enough though, as you need to have passion, focus and the determination to accomplish it. If you do, this passion is contagious, as attested by Jean-François as he went about training for 6 years, raising funds to the tune of $100,000 from corporate sponsors, and garnering moral support from close family and friends in the process, all in order to accomplish his goal.

Photo Credit: Jean-François Carrey – Heading towards the summit of Mt. Everest on May 18, 2006

“It is not about the destination, it is about the journey”

Keep these lessons in mind next time you set your sights on a very ambitious goal or project, including, perhaps, the next time you makes a pitch to a potential investor or partner for your start-up, non-profit organization or community event.

As it is often said, it is not about the destination, but the journey. Enjoy the ride!