The inquiry was reasonable enough. Ben (Jennings, CEO of E-Trip Africa) wrote me if I’d ever thought about Kenya, and more specifically climbing Mt. Kenya, Kilimanjaro’s little sister. Just over 17,000 feet high, she’s two thousand feet lower than her far more famous and heavily-trodden sister just over the border in Tanzania.
No, I hadn’t. I had bought a ticket to return to Tanzania but Ben and I hadn’t begun real planning yet. The DRC was still in civil unrest and folks were getting killed. I’ve already been to Uganda and Rwanda, and Tanzania twice for that matter. What to do next?
Over the last few years life’s been interesting. I have smashed my pelvis, broken my arm and wrist, broken my back in four places, and am currently barely six weeks out from a major rotator cuff surgery back in May. I just rebooted my running program, have returned to the gym, and am edging back into yoga. Not quite ready to ride a bike yet. Or get back on a horse, but that’s coming soon. I can’t wait. Sure, they’ve tried to kill me. Worse things have happened.
I’ve spent a good part of the last three years recovering from major injuries. Just got wickedly ill during a trip to Borneo and lost fifteen pounds.
The BF, who was about to move into my basement, wrote
“You don’t need to be doing this any more.”
Time to throw in the towel?
Hardly. I wrote Ben back and told him to book it. I’ll be there in November, precisely five years from the month I summited Kilimanjaro. Precisely what any reasonable, thoughtful, mindful elderly woman should do.
Then this morning I drove out to our local natural amphitheater, Red Rocks, and ran 3600 steps. That doesn’t count the downs, just the ups. Three hours in the hot sun. The last time I did that I was in training for Kili. My calves are gonna hurt. But I am so stoked.
Here’s the point.
There is absolutely nothing so motivating, so invigorating, so intensely energizing as having a Big Hairy Ass Goal to work towards. When I decided to take on Kili in 2013, I threw myself into it. Had a knee that had undergone surgery and had been told by my DO that I “should be happy with 80%”. By the time I got to the famous green sign on top of Uhuru Peak my knee was easily at 95%. I had worked my butt off.
Running, swimming, cycling, body building, climbing the local fourteener peaks as training runs (yes- planning to climb a MUCH higher mountain puts the local peaks into perspective), hiking the neighborhood in a heavily weighted vest, running tens of thousands of steps out at Red Rocks.
Let’s be clear. I’ve never thought of myself as an athlete. However day by day, step by step, weight by weight I sculpted myself into one. By the time I left for Dar es Salaam in early November 2013, I was cut, tight, and intensely ready for just about anything. The Kili climb was a walk in the park. The way down is another story, but then that’s what we all find out after we get to the top.
Shortly after that I was doing far more difficult and challenging adventure travel all over the world. I had the body and the mindset for it. There is absolutely nothing like making it to the top of a big mountain (in reality or by finishing a really challenging goal) and looking around to savor the sights. “If I can do this, what else can I do?” Precisely.
A BHAG changes how you see yourself. It redirects your focus, your energy and your entire being on that end goal. It’s not the writing of it, the thinking about it, or anything else that makes it happen. Once you have decided that this is your goal, the entire Universe lines up behind you. If that is where you’re supposed to go, baby, you’re going.
Along the way you might get bored, tired, exhausted. You might get injured (I did, from over-training). You learn how to prepare, research, interview others who have done the same thing. You learn to rest. Recover. Get up the next morning and start training again. You discover, erase, and establish brand new boundaries far beyond what you ever thought you could reach.
I have friends who helped me train for Kili who now do 100-mile endurance races. They choose a big rock and go after it. Doesn’t matter how old you are, or what your big rock may be. The point is to have a big rock that energizes you in ways nothing else does. It doesn’t have to be a physical goal. Just having something huge to work on piece by piece, so that you can see progress, is enormously motivating.
The point is to find something that you’ve been dreaming about for the longest time, or something that you suddenly discover. You have that magical thought “Why not me? Why not indeed?”
You can sit and think about what you really want to do. Or you can decide to do it. Or you can get up and get going, driven by the joy of things larger than you and I are. It makes no difference whether you plan to build an immigrant shelter, harbor stray dogs, or get involved in your local school board. The world is changed and moved by those who get up and get things done. How you do that is uniquely up to you.
A great quote, often attributed to Goethe but more likely the words of the Scottish Explorer William Hutchison Murray (http://4spires.com/blog/2013/06/until-one-is-committed-quoting-the-correct-author/),
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
Wanna climb Kilimanjaro? I did that already. I can absolutely tell you how much work is involved. Wanna lose 80 pounds?I did that already. I can absolutely tell you how much work is involved. AND how hard it is to keep it off for thirty years and counting. Wanna quit smoking? I did that too, after getting up to five packs a day. You read that right.
Along the way I decided a hundred million times over to do each and every one of these things. Nothing changed until I started doing what I said I cared about. It’s in the doing that we draw resources and energy towards us.
You see my point. It is my heartfelt desire to plant the gauntlet right at your feet. What indeed is your dream?A goal, as they say, is a dream with a date on it. I made one this morning. A Big Fat Hairy one. Along the way I will be rebuilding my often-broken body. I will sweat, swear, curse, piss, moan and complain. You betcha. But if I want to stand on that summit, I had better get after it. Just like I did this morning, 3600 stairs. I am already designing a workout plan that won’t repeat my previous mistakes.
Why? Because I already know I can. I’m a self-respecting, reasonable, thoughtful 65-year-old broad. And I belong at the top of the mountain.
Where do you belong? And what are you willing to do to get there?
As that ad used to say, Where do you want to go today?