I was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa. I’d joined a group of about 12 from all over the world and we’d been climbing for 5 days.
We were all sleeping in a hut and although I was wearing 4 layers of clothing plus a sleeping bag, I felt the coldest I’d ever felt in my life.
I’d rented the sleeping bag from a shop at the base of the mountain.
But it was the strangest one I’d ever seen – an old German Army one with arms.
It was midnight and our guides woke us up so that we’d see the sunrise when we reached the summit.
But I was suffering from altitude sickness – caused by lack of oxygen.
We were all in single file, shuffling along at a snail’s pace – it was impossible to walk faster as the air was so thin.
Suddenly, a tall French man in front of me stopped.
Although I didn’t understand what he was saying, I could hear the panic in his voice.
His girlfriend explained that he’d gone blind.
She gave him a glucose tablet and, miraculously, his sight flooded back. (He was one of only 4 in my group to get to the summit)
I thought I could make it to the top but the more I went on the worse I felt.
After walking for hours, I could see Gilman’s Point in the distance.
Gilman’s Point is on the ridge of the crater but to reach the highest point you have to walk along the ridge for about another 2 hours.
At least I’d be able to say I made it the top of the mountain even if I hadn’t gotten to the very highest point.
As I got closer I realised that it wasn’t Gilman’s point at all but Hans Meyer cave – 17,000 feet above sea level but not close to the top.
It would take another few hours to get to Gilman’s and another 2 hours to reach the summit.
Why was I doing this?
I had altitude sickness.
I had a pounding headache.
It wasn’t fun.
It was hard work.
It was painful.
It was all ego.
But when you’re a tourist in east Africa one of the things you do is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
So I climbed it – because it was expected of me.
I’d finally had enough of this punishment.
I said to one of the guides, ”Sorry but I’ve had enough – I want to go back down.”
So he led me down the mountain.
Although going down was much easier than going up, it took 3 days and the soles of my feet were covered in inch-wide blisters.
And walking was difficult for days afterwards.
Someone said I was walking like Jean Claude Van Damme.
Maybe he walks as if he has blisters all the time.
After all that, looking back, I was glad I did it. It was an amazing experience.
But motivation should come from a source other than ego, pride or just because it’s expected.
Although these may be all that you have right now – until you discover a different source.
Did I kill my Ego on Mount Kilimanjaro?
Not quite. But I recognised it and I realised that I needed to find a different motivation.
Are you going in the wrong direction?
Are you being driven by ego?
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