Climbing Mount Everest is widely known as a pinnacle of achievement and mental tenacity in itself, but the ‘Everest’ ideology applies everywhere in life. As a lifelong stammerer, I have always been socially awkward/hopeless, and find instigating a conversation much harder than I would find slogging up a 50 degree ice wall at 2am in -20 degrees with the reduced oxygen availability in the air on a 6000m Himalayan peak akin to breathing through a straw on a treadmill. The message being- we all have our own daily Everest to climb.
It was May 2014 when I was trekking out of Everest base camp after my first expedition was cancelled before even stepping foot on the mountain. Something that I had dedicated absolutely every bit of me into, hoping to show young people what they are capable of achieving, was swept away in front of my eyes. That is the nature of life. As my mentor Chris said to me at the time; ”what matters is how we react to the kick”.
So, I then found myself sitting outside Tengboche Monastery in the Khumbu Valley with a weak 3G signal on my iPhone and cancelled all five of my university offers. I’m not quite sure where the urge came from but I never looked back. Perhaps it was ‘divine intervention of sorts’, although you can imagine our disbelief when one of the local monks asked to borrow an iPhone charger at a teahouse the day later…
I think the problem with (some) young people is they are unaware of the direction of their own journeys, and they lack the resilience and problem-solving capacity needed to rise up from the adversity of life. Or- they remain in their comfort zones, and therefore don’t experience the adversity needed to shape them. Of course, not knowing exactly where our journey may take us opens up the doors of possibility, but if we don’t have a purpose, will it take us to the right place?
As I’ve seen so far, my biggest opportunities have come since returning stronger to Everest this year- when my second attempt also fell short due to the Nepal earthquake. I really saw for myself how fragile life can be, and how it owes us nothing other than to give it our best. This insight has completely changed my outlook on life.
Unless young people, (or anyone, really) are taking steps to fulfill a purpose, are they going to fully achieve their potential? I’ve noticed so far that the current system in the UK often gives young people a false security that a degree is a conventional path to entitlement. Unfortunately, I think there’s more to earn first. Many young people work their backsides off for x number of years and sadly, many struggle to get the path they worked for. It’s sad to see. As more earn degrees, how can they adapt? Stand out in the crowd? Can their grit and character shine through past their grades? It’s important though, that I say ‘some’. Young people being generalized into the same category is half of the problem. I recently spoke to a friend of mine who has now pulled out of his course, and now feels lost, badly depressed, without a clue what to do with himself. So, I’m going to drag him out for a hill walk- as there’s no better factory for ideas. Depression is something I know very well. A constant battle against an unquenchable desire to achieve and inspire.
Some people are born with positive genes, I believe. Others are not. When these positive people tell someone with depression to ‘stop sulking’ they may as well tell someone in a wheelchair to go and run up Ben Nevis. Sure, it’s not impossible. But it damn well feels that way.
Personally, I need/want to help others find their true purpose. Through my outdoor challenges, and the resultant speaking, upcoming book and ambassador roles, I want to inspire them to overcome their own Everest. Whether that’s watching the paint of depression dry on the wall, dealing with bullying, finding confidence, starting a business, running a marathon or even getting out of bed in the morning: the resilience required to overcome these challenges can be learned by anyone. It applies to all areas in life; in business, at home, or in education. My purpose is to give others hope that it can be done.
Sometimes the upward struggle never really goes away, and we just have to learn to adapt; as I have with my stammer. In particular, there’s not enough help available for mental health problems, so with my upcoming plans I will be doing what I can to tackle this problem. As you may expect, I’m not done with Everest yet.
Want me to take away the excuses of your team/students? I’m available for motivational speaking and leaving an impact on your audiences.
You’ll get a free Parker pen, just for enquiring…