About 20 years ago I organized a Never Fear Never Quit conference. Two of our speakers were Alan Hobson and Jamie Clark. They’d written an inspirational book about their experience of summitting Mount Everest on their third attempt and I wanted my audience to hear their story.
The three attempts took them 10 years and they had to raise a total of $10 million for the expeditions. When they finally summited, they got to spend 10 minutes at the top of the world before they had to turn around and make the treacherous descent.
They told us they had to teach themselves to enjoy every step of the journey: hauling overloaded backpacks up and down the back stairwell of the tallest building in Calgary for physical strength training; sleeping in frigid meat lockers to test winter gear and acclimate their bodies to extreme cold; learning advanced rescue and first aid techniques and navigation skills; and preparing themselves mentally for the ordeal. And they had to raise the money to finance at all.
They said that had their only goal been to be able to say they’d stood at the top of the world, it would have been a bad bargain. For every minute on the pinnacle they’d each sacrificed a year of life in preparation.
They had to enjoy all of it: the harsh physical training; bouncing back from the emotional and physical toll of their first two aborted attempts (on one of them they had to turn around within sight of the summit because they’d timed out). They even had to learn to enjoy asking people for money, something that did not come easily to either of them.
They had to enjoy the journey. Otherwise the destination would have been a disappointment.
This is the ultimate paradox of life. It’s easy to enjoy the journey when you’re at the top of the mountain looking down. It’s hardest to find joy when you’re at the bottom looking up. But that is precisely when experiencing joy is most important.
Today there are many people who are in the difficult part of their journey. They’ve lost jobs, lost loved ones, lost their health, and in some cases lost hope.
That’s when it’s most important to remind yourself to enjoy the journey, the way Alan and Jamie reminded themselves to enjoy sleeping in a meat locker.
Because if you’re not enjoying the journey, the destination will be a disappointment.