A good friend once told me that, “if you want to grow, you have to force evolution”.
It was 3:00AM on Christmas morning when I was abruptly woken up by my blisteringly loud alarm. It was a mere twelve hours ago when nine days of trekking through the Himalayas had seen me reach my goal destination – Mount Everest Base Camp. My journey wasn’t over. I still had another 500m of elevation to climb, as I would be summiting the nearby ridge of Kala Patthar (5,463 m).
After I scrambled to throw on every jacket I’d ever owned, I rushed to meet my fellow trekkers who were waiting outside in an oddly inspiring -35 C December morning. Kala Patthar is famous for its 360-degree views of the Everest region. Summiting this early in the day meant that our view would be accompanied by one of the most epic sunrises possible.
I’ll admit, being Canadian didn’t help me one bit during this climb; it was damn cold. But this was one of, if not the most difficult yet inspiring challenges I’d ever faced.
The sheer beauty at the top of Kala Patthar helped put my trip in perspective. It also motivated me to keep pushing myself forward. At this altitude, everything moved so fast; and I couldn’t help but look to the surrounding mountains and feel as if there was something to be learned.
For me, the path to get to Mount Everest Base Camp hadn’t just been the past week and a half of hiking, it had been many years of pushing myself to achieve my goals, which I had often failed, and to actively be setting new ones. And through it all, as I stood at 5,6430 m above sea level and watched the sun wake along the side of Mt. Everest, I felt a shift in my approach to life. Not only had these mountains humbled me in many ways, but I was no longer “forcing my evolution” – they were.
For the rest of my days I hope to implement the lessons I learned in the Himalayas into my everyday life. And although they may feel rudimentary at first, they’re what people often forget when they seek to achieve their goals. Here are four takeaway lessons:
During my trek to Everest Base Camp I started roughly 35km and 3500m of elevation away from my end goal. The environment was drastically different at this altitude, and I’d yet to see any snowcapped mountains. It took three days for me to catch my first glimpse of Mount Everest, which appeared to be a world away at first glance.
In the last few days of my trek a Belgian trekker on his way down from Base Camp stopped to give me some quick advice, mostly urging me not to rush to the top for my own safety, but also to enjoy every part of the process.
What stuck with me, though, was when he told me, “The mountains aren’t going anywhere”. What this means to me is that there’s little benefit in rushing to meet a goal. Yes, urgency and direction are important but when we rush we open ourselves up to unnecessary vulnerabilities.
To connect this to a typical project, at the start the end goal may not always be visible but it’s important to allow ourselves the time to build our applications with thorough care. If we don’t, we may not make it to the finish line in one piece.
Fifteen days on a trail can be daunting for anyone, and in the midst of your journey it’s very easy to get caught up in counting down how far is left. This mindset can easily cause someone to lose direction and motivation, which is why it’s important to often take a step back and reflect on your achievements throughout your journey.
This is why Sprint Retrospectives are so critical; looking back on our achievements will allow for us to seek out ways to improve. What’s even more important is the fact that these meetings will allow us to give ourselves that much needed pat on the back during some of the more difficult parts of our journey.
Prior to my trek, a local guide stopped my group and urged us, “If you want to make it to Base Camp, you must go slow.”
I always knew this, but somehow his advice didn’t hit home for me until it was too late. The first few days of my trek I felt like Superman; I was practically running up the trail at some stages. Once I reached a much higher altitude, I could barely walk without losing my breath. At some stages I felt like I was moving so slow that I might as well have been walking on the Moon.
The simple process of slowing down was a very humbling process for me. The Himalayas taught me to listen to myself more and to know what I can and cannot do.
When planning a project, it’s essential to know what your capabilities are and to be aware of any potential hiccups that may occur during the upcoming sprints. If you don’t take this into consideration, more often than not it will catch up to you.
I’ll be honest, there were days on the trail where I didn’t know if I could keep going. It was my fellow trekkers who helped me move forward; whether it was by sharing supplies, helping pace each other, or talking about all of our small “wins” at the end of a long day.
In the heat of battle, it’s very easy to get caught up in our own responsibilities and to neglect our fellow team members. This is very disadvantageous to a project. If it wasn’t for other trekkers, I wouldn’t have completed my hike. It’s that simple.
The same principle applies to an effective team anywhere else. A trekker can only get so far on their own, and once they realize this they will be a lot more efficient.
They may even be crazy enough to climb a mountain.