Lessons learned on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Team World Vision – 10 start 10 arrive

On June 23rd, 10 of us with Team World Vision set out to conquer the mountain and change children’s lives. As I return I am keenly aware that, for many of us, the mountain conquered us and changed our lives forever. Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way…

preparation

If you have followed my blog you know I went probably over prepared. I was glad for my training and physical prep. And even though I over packed a little I was well prepared and glad I did. But it was the little things I learned to appreciate along the way. One of those things was my pee bottle. Yes my pee bottle. When you take Diamox (drug for acclimatization) you have a tendency to need to pee a lot. This is not fun 2 – 3 times in the middle of the night when it is cold out. So I rejoiced often in this. And even though others gave me a hard time about this, my tent mate was grateful when he found himself desperate one night.

Pole Pole (pole A – pole A)

Mt. Mawenzi

This phrase means slowly slowly. This became a valuable lesson for me in life. We from the west are all about getting there and getting there quickly. We say “hurry hurry”. What I discovered was that, not only can this bring failure in reaching the summit but it also causes you to miss the journey. As our guides would say “twin Danny” (let’s go) We would very slowly put one foot in front of the other and begin a turtles pace up the trail. It is at this pace that you are going slow enough to look around and appreciate the journey. So much of life is missed as we hurry along and in another similarity we are killing ourselves trying to arrive at the summits in life instead of simply enjoying the journey.

As we walked “pole pole” we were able to keep our heads up and look out over the clouds and appreciate what God has created for our enjoyment and not stumble along the way. I arrived at each camp with energy and a sense of achievement and wonder.

Success in Weakness

One of the great lessons for me was found in a contrast on the summit. 10 of us set out to conquer this mountain and 10 of us walked to the summit sign at Ahuru point, the highest point in Africa on the tallest free standing mountain in the world, together. We went as a team, we climbed as a team, we arrived at the summit as a team. However, we did not all succeed equally. I learned a great lesson as I came along side team mates who were puking along the trail. I was strong, had only a slight head ache, and made it to the top in my strength… But true success for me was seen in those on our team who made it to the summit in spite of their weakness. We all summited together but I have great admiration for those who pressed through their weakness and did not allow them to determine the outcome.

I have come to believe that the greatest success is success in weakness verses success in strength. It takes great strength of character to press through weakness.

Pride Takes A Fall

I also discovered that no matter how strong you may think you are the mountain can strip you of your pride. It wasn’t the journey to the top that took my pride. In fact I was pretty proud that I had energy at the top. It wasn’t until all “accomplishments” had been met by standing at the sign that I found myself in a weird place. It was the descent that ate my lunch. It seemed to never end. As I headed down the mountain, I found myself hungry and fatigued. I longed for camp and even though I could see it it seemed to never get closer. I found myself with a tear in my eye, my pride left on the side of the mountain, and the reality that I was totally emotionally defeated. My mind was beginning to remind me that even after I arrived at Kibo camp my journey was not over but that we would only stop long enough to take in some nourishment, pack our gear and hike several more hours down to the next camp where we would spend the night. As I entered Kibo camp I realized I was getting sick. I would have to hike the remainder of the evening out with extreme exhaustion and a severe sinus head cold that has lasted for over a week now. This day turned into a 20+ hour day of hiking and I left my pride on the mountain and skipped dinner at camp and went to bed sick. I found myself successfully defeated. I summitted the mountain but the journey is a round trip not one way. Success is only half accomplished at the summit.

Putting things in Perspective

Now as I sit at home and look through pictures I am quickly reminded of thrill of accomplishment and much of the difficulty is forgotten.  Yes there were times of difficulty and even suffering.  But as I look through the pics and the journey I was privileged to be a part of those times were worth it and an important part of the success of this journey in my life.  I am grateful for the difficulty for in it the beauty is magnified.

Rest of Pics can be seen on my face book page

What is your Kilimanjaro?

SUCCESS – When does it occur

In John Bowlings book, “Making the Climb”, he states, “more than 60% of those who attempt this climb have to turn back. Only a few stand at the summit and look down on the clouds that shelter the vast plains. Soon I will see if I have what it takes to reach the top of the mountain. Either way, it will be all right. I DO NOT HESITATE FOR FEAR OF FAILURE! To make the attempt is to succeed already.

In a conversation with a medical dr on a plane (see blog coincidence or divine encounter) I was talking about how bad I wanted to summit on Kili. He looked at me and said, “no you don’t”. I was a little taken back and said, “that is why I’m climbing, of course I do.” Then he said some profound words, “then you will miss it”. “miss what I enquired”. “the journey” he said. “if you are so focused on submitting you will not have eyes to see what is all around you.” He began to tell me about all the major mountains he has climbed and when he changed his views on submitting. He helped me see that this climb was never about submitting anyway but about the journey and the joy of the journey and the personal growth and life change along the way.

It was just before he boarded the flight and this conversation began that I had read Bowlings words and now realized that I succeeded the day I took my first step. Success isn’t the final step but the first step. Many people miss a successful journey because they never take the first step. The first step isn’t the first step toward success but first step of success. Success is a journey of one success step after another and if in each of those steps we learn, grow, impact the world around us, enjoy the vistas and take another step we have been successful even if we don’t reach the summit.  I also wonder how many people have unsuccessfully stood on top of Kili having missed so much along the way.

But you say, “the summit is the goal and the reason for the climb.” and now I would say, “no Petro and the approximately 70 other children I have helped to sponsor was the reason for the climb and all that God wanted to teach me along the way.” If it ended today and I never boarded the plane for Africa, I would certainly be sad, heart broken and disappointed, but it would have been worth taking that first step. And if I get part way up the mountain and realize that I can’t go on, it will be disappointing but NOT a failure. I have already successfully conquered mount Kilimanjaro. Not by my picture on the summit because fear of failure did not stop me from taking that first step.

I wonder how many mountains win because we are afraid to simply take the first step.

What is your Kilimanjaro?