Alison shares her views on PERSPECTIVE on LifeByMe.com.
On any given day, on any mountain, I am, at best, average compared to those around me. Yet, on May 24th of 2010, I stood on top of Mt. Everest, completing the Adventure Grand Slam: climbing the highest peak on each of the seven continents and skiing to the North and South Poles.
Here’s what I realized: Reaching the top of a mountain doesn’t change my life, nor does it have any impact on the world around me. I stand on the summit for what, 30 minutes or so? What’s important is the journey. What did I learn along the way? How am I going to take what I learned on that mountain and use it to have an impact on my community and on the world around me? So I’ve stood on top of the world. Now do something with my new tools – tools like digging down deep and asking myself for MORE, when I’m certain I don’t have any more to give – to make that world brighter. We all have more to give – it’s about tapping into our reserves.
Standing at the top of Mt. Everest isn’t “all that.” It just isn’t. Mt. Everest is a pile of rock and ice, that’s all. And getting to the top of it doesn’t mean you’re good at anything other than pushing yourself and maybe withstanding pain and discomfort for extended periods of time. It doesn’t mean you’re a great climber or athlete, because plenty of better, stronger, more skilled climbers turn back from the top every season due to factors outside their control – weather, gear malfunctions, altitude sickness, frostbite. The window of climbable weather is short when it comes to planning an assault on the summit. All your work during two months on that mountain (not to mention the months or years of preparation you put in before even getting to the mountain) is going to pay off or blow up on ONE FINAL DAY – your summit day. It’s not fair. Well, tell it to the Mountain Gods.
In 2002 I made my first Everest attempt and didn’t get to the summit. But I probably learned more from that experience than I did when I topped out in 2010. Embracing failure is part of what keeps us alive in the mountains. We learn when to push and when to pull the plug. If we make good decisions, we can always have another shot at the top. Your best might have been good enough that day, but tomorrow you get to be better.
- Alison Levine