“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high, and we miss it, but that it is too low, and we reach it.” -Michelangelo
This quote from Michelangelo is one of my favorites because it sums up what I truly believe – we are each capable of so much more than we realize. Over the course of my adult life, I have tested this belief multiple times by setting and achieving big goals – from starting my own company, Market Connections, to jumping out of perfectly good airplanes to trekking to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa this past January. At, 19,340 feet, “Kili” is the tallest peak in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world! Not only was this an epic adventure, it was the hardest physical thing I have done. EVER.
Climbing Kilimanjaro has been one of my major goals and last year I decided to stop talking about it and just get it done. As you can imagine, doing this type of climb takes both physical training and mental preparation. Last August, I started my physical training by doing cardio three times a week and strength training once or twice a week using machinery like my Peloton bike and Stairmaster. On the weekends, my husband and I drove 1½ hours to hike various trails in the Shenandoah and GW National Forests. Even though he did not go on the Kilimanjaro trek with me, I could not have asked for a better, more supportive training partner.
While the training helped me to prepare physically for the challenge, the actual trek (taking nine days from start to finish) was, at times, both physically and mentally grueling. However, summiting Kili gave me a true sense of accomplishment. As in other times in my life, it showed me that I could accomplish the high-reaching goals I set for myself by putting in the hard work, training and preparation, and in the end, there is a certain level of exhilaration and awe when accomplishing that goal.
As in any difficult endeavor, certain life lessons are brought into sharper focus. Here are a few of mine from the climb that apply to both my business and personal life:
- Slow down and enjoy the journey. If your life is anything like mine, it is full to the brim with activities and obligations. It can be very hard to be present and keep your focus on things that are truly important. Kilimanjaro doesn’t give you a choice. It strips you down to only the absolute essentials, both physical and mental. For example, I packed several “must have” items I thought I would need that never came out of my duffle bag! As we climbed further up the mountain, worries and frustrations I carried from home quickly fell away. Instead my focus was on “pole, pole” – Swahili for slowly, slowly. It’s a phrase we heard often on the trek. Walk slowly and breathe slowly and deeply. This advice was almost meditative and allowed us to focus more fully on our surroundings, each other and achieving our goal of getting to the top.
- “Hakuna matata.” Swahili for no worries. Before coming to Tanzania, I’d only heard this as a reference to The Lion King. In Tanzania, and particularly on the mountain, this is something people repeat a lot. For them, it’s not just another phrase, it’s a way of life. I’m trying hard do the same. Stuff happens, but we all have the freedom and ability to decide how we deal with it. Easier said than done, but I’m working on it.
- Drink more water and be a ‘lazy lion.” To stay well hydrated and keep altitude sickness at bay, we had to consume at least three liters of liquid each day. That was tough. At home, usually the only liquids I have all day are two cups of coffee in the morning. We had acclimatization time when we were told to be “lazy lions” – to rest and take it easy – so we would be ready for the physical and mental challenges of the next day. To succeed on the mountain, you must pay attention to, and take care of your body’s needs. Back down at sea level, we all need to do the same. With all the responsibilities and busyness of our everyday lives, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. Start small. How much water have you had today? Drink more water. Take a nap. You’ll feel better.
- We are all greater together. We can accomplish so much more together than we can ever accomplish on our own. Stephen Covey calls it interdependence. And I needed it to get up the mountain. Before I went, it came in the form of encouraging words and training support from friends and family. On the mountain, it came in the form of about 60 people including my climbing partners, guides, porters, and cooks all watching out for my well-being. Each had their own unique strengths they brought to the task at hand. It’s no different at home. You are only as strong as those who support you. Don’t underestimate the value and power of your team. Recognize and tap into that power and there’s no telling what you can accomplish together.
- Never give up and push beyond your comfort zone. As a successful business owner, I already knew this, but the climb reinforced it. Big journeys begin with a single step. And it’s one step at a time and then just one more until you reach the top. While the journey may be tough, the view from the top is worth it! (Just check out my video below!) We each must set our own goals and hike our own trail in life. Your goals may change, and while you may not always make it to the summit, make sure you give it your best and that you’re happy with the trail you leave behind. Remember, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
I hope this will inspire you to take on new challenges or try something you never thought possible. What are your plans in 2019 to get out of your comfort zone? What goals will you strive for? What steps do you need to take to prepare to reach those goals? Drop me a note and let me know. I would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out Lisa’s video from the summit below: