“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: email@example.com
Check out Lisa’s video from the summit below:
At Market Connections, we have an amazing team of professionals, all with vast experience in their respective fields. However, what you may not know is that our team members also have some amazing personal stories and accomplishments that are also worthy of sharing!
Dave Glantz, our Director of Research Services, conducts qualitative and quantitative research on a variety of topics including high tech product and service concepts, information assurance, cybersecurity, political issues and government policy, healthcare, education, and career and employment issues for Market Connections’ clients including government agencies, top contractors and Fortune 500 businesses.
In addition to his expertise in research, Dave has an abiding interest in Tibetan culture and art, fueled by his travels and experience. This led Dave to collaborate with David Huber on The Golden Valley: The Untold Story of the Other Cultural Center of Tibet and to co-authoring their latest book, Symbolism In Tibetan Art: Meanings and Practical Applications.
Symbolism in Tibetan Art unlocks the wisdom secrets of Tibetan symbolism and opens the door to a deeper understanding of ourselves. Unlike other books on this subject, they go beyond hard-to-interpret line drawings, instead revealing full color images of the actual artwork painted over the centuries. Drawing on numerous sources dating all the way back to Buddha’s own teachings, the allegories these symbols contain can also open up unique pathways each of us can follow toward awareness, wisdom and enlightenment.
Below are a couple of questions we asked Dave to provide insight into his work and passion.
MC: What drove your interest into Tibetan art and culture? How did you get into it? What has driven your expertise?
DG: My first exposure to Tibetan art and culture came when trekking in nearby Nepal, and, years later, spending time in Tibet itself. All along the way, from Lhasa’s Jokhang temple to Everest base camp, I found myself incredibly moved by so many generous, humble and welcoming people, despite their incredible hardships. That sparked my interest in the Tibetan people.
Like 500-year-old Italian Renaissance paintings, whose images are infused with their own symbolism, 500 years ago on the roof of the world, in a place called the Golden Valley, Tibetan monks were following their own painterly traditions to decorate and educate through their own symbols and stories. Many of the paintings in these two books come from that era.
That paintings like these, along with exquisitely preserved furniture and other relics, could survive major invasions and, in our own time, the near-total destruction of Tibet’s monasteries, I consider it nothing short of miraculous that any of the art of the Golden Valley’s monasteries remains intact.
With that in mind, David Huber and I were inspired to bring these objects to light. To place this output in context, we added background on the history, living conditions, beliefs and rituals of those that reside there now, and what influenced earlier generations. The result is these two books.
MC: If you could provide one takeaway from both of your books, what would you want your readers to gain from reading them?
DG: I realize that this art, and the culture it reflects, might come across to many readers as opaque, mystical and as inaccessible as the land that produced it. It is easy to ask why anyone should even care about this remote place and its deep attention to esoteric ancient symbolism and hard to pronounce mantras; or the positioning, size and gestures of the various figures on paintings and furniture. In answer to that, I feel this legacy matters for three reasons.
First, it tells us something about the ideals Tibetans hold dear, allowing us a glimpse of what their society is all about, and why they continue to cling to their Buddhist faith in the face of overwhelming odds.
Secondly, it illuminates the path to enlightenment that countless generations of Tibetans have desired to follow – learning and reciting lessons of universal meaning and relevance that apply not just to one sect, ethnicity or nation, but as a guide for all humanity should anyone wish to take that path. To lose this learning would deny the world the unique and rich store of spiritual knowledge found on this vast but little-known plateau.
The third reason to care about this heritage is simple: once it’s gone, it’s gone. We therefore felt a profound urgency to tell their story.