Recently John and I watched the documentary, K2: Siren of the Himalayas on Netflix.
It was fascinating. I recommend it even if adventure, mountaineering and near death experiences don’t excite you.
Why you ask? Because the lessons taught by this powerful mountain and the incredible people who have attempted to conquer it, transfer perfectly to life.
We all have mountains to climb, hard choices to make, and days that test our endurance. If we become overly obsessed with our summit to success, we can miss the majestic views, awe-inspiring vistas and experiences along the way.
There are 14 peaks in the world that reach over 8,000 meters. Mt. Everest is the tallest at 8,848 m (29,029 ft), yet K2 still remains the most formidable at 8,611 m (28,251 ft). One climber said that “Mt. Everest and K2 aren’t even the same sport”.
Mt. Everest has been successfully summited 6,871 times with 248 unfortunate deaths (a death rate of 3.6%). K2 has 337 summits with 84 deaths (an alarming death rate of 25%). Yet skilled alpinists come back year after year hoping each time to beat the odds and reach the elusive summit.
Fabrizio Zangrilli is an accomplished and well-respected alpinist who has made 6 attempts on K2. Twice he has been tantalizingly close to reaching the K2 summit. On his first attempt in 2000, although it was a perfect day, he stopped just 820 feet short of his goal to give aide to a high altitude porter slumped down in the snow. Instead of summiting, Zangrilli spent the next four days helping the man off the mountain.
In 2009, the rising sun illuminated another perfect summit day for Zangrilli. Exhausted, he took in the familiar view of one of the most stunning mountain ranges in the world and felt he could almost touch the K2 peak. After investing nearly two months on this particular expedition, Zangrilli was faced with a tough decision. Does he press forward and accomplish his goal knowing that his exhaustion could prove fatal in the descent?
Zangrilli abandoned his dream and chose instead to return home safe. What he said about his decision in the documentary parallels a perfect life lesson:
“There are lessons to be learned from every climb. You are constantly changing how you do things, how you see things. You don’t really worry much about summits. You want them, you chase them, but you really better enjoy the day in and day out activity of being there. You’re ever present in the moment. If it’s that one moment you’re chasing your gonna forget about the millions of moments that came before.”
The climb up in life is seldom one straight, continuous, upward journey. There are twists and turns, valleys, plateaus and even crevices to cross. All along the way there are experiences and views to take in. If you feel that your successes are “never enough” or “not fast enough” you lose sight of why the journey is worth taking.
Enjoy the climb UP and be present where you are.
If you feel that a perceived failure limits and defines your future, you become blind to alternate routes that could potentially take you far beyond what you initially judged to be your ultimate success.
Enjoy the climb UP and be open to new routes.
There are no failures, if you try something and it doesn’t work but you learn something from it that can help you be more effective in the future, then you’ve truly succeeded.
Enjoy the climb UP and seek growth and experience as the ultimate measure of your success.