Nina Spencer

Climbing Your “Mountain” in the balance of 2010 and Beyond

"Climb every mountain. Ford every stream. Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream". These are the words that Maria's Mother Superior sang in the 1965 film, The Sound of Music. Funny, when we were kids, it's the only song from that movie (and record album) that we all hated. We'd lift the needle of our record players and skip to, "So long, farewell, aufwiedersehn adieu. Adeiu, adeiu to yieu and yieu and yieu", instead (much more fun to sing along to back then). But now, Climb Every Mountain, to me, is the most meaningful and poignant song from that Rogers and Hammerstein classic.

I hadn't wanted to climb any mountain all my life, Mt. Kilimanjaro or otherwise, until now; but that's exactly what I'll be doing come this January--traveling first to Kenya and then Tanzania to climb Kili.

I was ten in 1967 and it seemed to me that all families across the whole country were dedicating themselves to centennial projects. One friend's family bought land and built a cottage that they still own and cherish today; another splurged on an adventure to Montreal's Expo '67 for their whole brood of nine; and at the Spencer house, we brought my grandparents over from England for eight whole weeks, marking the first time my mum had seen her parents since her departure in 1952. That was a year of big hopes, dreams, projects and songs of national and provincial pride, like: Ca-na-da...we love the. Ca-na-da proud and free...north, south, east, west...there'll be happy times...etc., etc, etc. And in my province, school kids sang: A place to stand, a place to grow, Ontair-ee-air-ee-air-ee-o. (I still own the vinyl album of both tunes, for goodness sake.) And who among us, that lived in Canada back then, doesn't still have some chintzy piece of centennial memorabilia...an old centennial cup and saucer, school commemorative coin, pin or whatever? That was some 43 years ago, but ah for the love of centennial projects, or any projects which mark the start of a special or new period.

Now we're well into such a new period. It's late September and we're finally awakening from our lovely "summer slumber" and getting on with new projects, new adventures, possibly new jobs (or new perspectives on old ones?), and new business relationships and alignments, too. It's the start of autumn (at least here in the northern hemisphere). What new personal or professional projects has the arrival of September inspired you to muse? Have you taken any concrete steps yet to manifest those percolating thoughts...to move those, "Some day I'll..." thoughts into reality? Too many of us--myself included, at times--have lived on, "Some Day Isle" a bit too long. About what sorts of ideas or actions have you said, "Some day I'll do this...some day I'll do that"? Although full of good intentions that one day we'll depart "Some Day Isle", many of us never leave the "island" and swim to the mainland...where the real "action" is.

Although you may still be biding your time to fully implement some personal or professional ideas or undertakings that have been brewing in your thoughts for a long while, and although this year may not mark an official "centennial" for you, September does, energetically, mark the unofficial start of a new year. A good time to recommit, shake things up and put a little more joie de vivre in your days, any way you can. Good for your workplace spirit, for your fortitude and perseverance to deal with difficult or trying situations and people, and maybe even good for your soul. What career or personal projects might you choose to undertake for the balance of this year and beyond to keep you passionate, enthusiastic and feeling vital? to help you get up and actually want to go, go, go each morning? What steps can you take right now, big or little, to propel you forth? Every idea, every dream or goal, is born twice--once in our thinking and then again in our doing. Is it now time for you to take some action?

As for me and my current adventurous and rejuvenating personal and professional project--that of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, when I've never before done any proper hiking or climbing of any big hill, never mind the world's largest free standing (20,000 foot) mountain--I sort of ended up saying "yes" to this challenge because "it was there" and constantly getting in my face. But I do credit myself with finally acknowledging and acting upon that which seemingly insisted on being heard.

Here's how my idea to climb Kili was born the first time:

A woman from my business club/Verity had arranged this Kili climb challenge. She cleverly "slow dripped" on members in our weekly electronic newsletter. Each week since last January I'd read her promotion, have a moment of, "Hmmmm...that sounds exciting. Wonder what that would be like????", follow with a fearful shudder, a perfunctory "delete" and a dismissive return to the day's business, not to think of it again until the following Friday. I played out this scenario each week for six months against the backdrop of grieving the death of my 13 year old beloved "puppy" and impending feelings of an "empty nest" (for my daughter was making serious plans for moving away from home and starting her "real" grownup life). On an otherwise uneventful June 4th, that slow drip club newsletter arrived in my in bin...again.

Nineteenth century French romantic writer, Victor Hugo, declared,
Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.

Well, actually, there are a number of interpretations as to how he expressed this sentiment, including; "One cannot resist an idea whose time has come". "No one can resist an idea whose time has come." "Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come." "Armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come." "No army can stop an idea whose time has come." There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." No matter; whichever way it's pitched, that destined time had come for me on June 4th. I thought of Hugo's passage and so I carpe diem-ed and sent the following email:

Dear Ruth,

Every time I read this promotional piece about Mt. Kilimanjaro, I get excited about the idea of joining your team, supporting your cause and making the climb. But I confess, I also get scared. I usually subscribe to the philosophy: "Feel the fear and do it anyway, but THIS one is REALLY challenging my congruency. I can actually FEEL the fear as I sit at my computer each time and start to contemplate picking up the phone or sending you an email...and then I stop. Maybe it's because my speaking season will be winding down for the summer after June 24th, I don't know, but THIS time at least I've dared to email you! I'm 52 and am in good visible physical shape, but I just don't know about my stamina for this sort of climb. Sometimes one can look fit on the outside, but not really be fit on the inside (and vice versa). Know what I mean? I know that that's what the whole balance of this year will be about for me if I join you...getting into physical (and emotional, too, no doubt), shape, but still...I need a push. I need to know more from you. How much of a regular exerciser and even mountain climber does one have to be??? I keep envisioning scenes from the movie EVEREST! Can people who have never done ANYTHING like this, dare to go for it? Again, you'd laugh at me if you only knew how much the hesitation and the fear is coming up for me right this very moment. I feel brave and daring, and my heart is thumping, even asking you...even making this preliminary enquiry. So, at the very least, Ruth, I'd like to know more...

By June 18th I was "sold"! Totally inspired by the cause for which this climb was organized and totally committed to putting my metaphoric and literal money where my mouth was. I signed on. This is my personal and professional "Half-Centennial Plus Two" project (well, by January it will be "plus three"). Starting with my first 10K walk on June 19th and including September 19th's 10K hike over serious and demanding/advanced hiker terrain in Ontario's Algonquin Park, to date I've logged 250.5 kilometers/155.5 miles of hiking. And who knew, when I signed on, what a tremendous ripple effect this choice would have on my life, my health, my emotional well-being, my family, my friends and yes, even some of my clients, for many from these circles have already accompanied me on at least some local 5 and 10K walks, if not my big weekend hikes! I'm still months from departure, yet the payoffs of this project have been tremendous and thrilling, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and even socially, too. And I thought this would be a three week experience? Ha! The richness and profound nature of this experience began the minute I said "yes" to myself, to Ruth, to the mountain and the cause for which I'm climbing.

The minute we say a 100% conscious and committed "yes", to a person, activity, project, whatever, providence moves to deliver. Elton John and Bernie Taupin's song, Can You Hear the Love Tonight (from my favourite animated film, Disney's, The Lion King), includes a line I've often recited and earnestly believe:

There's a time for everyone if they only learn, that the twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn.

Funny, now, how that line and movie has heightened meaning (to me), noting Kilimanjaro is in Africa (and funny, too, that one of my favourite all time movies is, Out of Africa! Do we see a pattern here?).

So that, dear Working Wisdom reader, is what I've been up to this past summer--"How I spent my summer vacation". Climbing the world's tallest freestanding mountain at age 52 is what I'm planning and shooting for over the next four months, on a loftier level (no pun intended), while still "chopping wood and carrying water" day-in and day-out at my regular work of keynote addresses and workshop presentations right up to my day of departure on January 15th. What are you shooting for during the balance of 2010 and beyond...at a loftier professional (or personal) level? beyond your own regular, day-to-day workplace and family "chop wood and carry water" commitments? It certainly doesn't have to be climbing a mountain, but wouldn't it be wonderful if there were at least one or two exciting or interesting (or healthy fear-producing) challenges on your horizon...to feel the exhilaration of experiencing your personal and/or professional life off "autopilot" for a bit? Taking steps--even small ones--to realizing some of those goals and dreams you've mused can help keep your "fire in the belly" while still performing your daily good, regular work. Hold fast to your, "Some Day I'll..." ideas and dreams and challenge yourself to move forth on at least one now. Work on manifesting even one dream to start this "new year" off right; and perhaps, as well, work on conjuring up a couple of new ones you'd never have even dreamt of implementing this time last year, to keep you forward looking into the real new year in 2011.

In my email to Ruth I asked:

Can people who have never done ANYTHING like this, dare to go for it?

The answer is: Yes! Whatever "it" is for you, you can go for it, if you've "had enough" of where you're at--if you've had enough of autopilot--and are truly ready to move forth and go for more. Life's short and most of us only realize that truth once over 50, so get ready and do it now!

Recently I happened across a seasoned hiker at the start of one of my big jaunts. It came out in conversation that I was training for Kili. He replied, "Why would you do that? That's like going for your PhD when you haven't done high school!" My answer: "Because it was there, the cause was right, the time was right, the fit was right, I'd mustered my courage and because, in the end, I've always loved the perspective: "Go big or go home." It was time to move forth on something new. And a dear friend of mine used to say:

Behold the turtle, who only makes progresses when he sticks his neck out.

It was time (for me) to make new progress. You, too? Ready to stick your neck out again? even just a bit? If so, let's commence the neck-sticking-out-time together! You report to me and I'll to you.

And along the way, perhaps you'll find inspiration from this quote on page viii of, Getting Passion Out of Your Profession, if you're looking for a little extra butt-kick to get you going on your goal(s) and dream(s) this autumn:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. 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, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.

-- W.H. Murray superimposed on Johann Wolfgang Goethe

So may You Have a Happy, Exciting, Passionate "New Year"!

P. S. I'm climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise funds to build a Women's Leadership Centre on the campus of the university in Nairobi. Our group of 15 is striving to raise $200,000 towards this project, with my personal goal being $10,000. I'm so used to being on the cheque-signing/fund-giving end of supporting causes in which I believe--being a fund-raiser is a whole new and challenging experience, indeed. Currently, pledges from clients, friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, and even people I don't know who have been inspired to support my climb, total $1850. A fine start, but still a long, long way to "Tipperary". I believe, with, "a little help from my friends", as the old Beatles song shared, my goal of $10,000 is achievable. If you, too, are inspired to encourage me further, cheer on my arduous training regime and contribute to this worthy cause, I'd welcome and be grateful for your pledge now at:

http://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?gpID=8527

...and know your contributions go directly to the cause, in my name, and not to funding the personal expense of my climb. Although that may seem understood, I wish to make that perfectly clear.

* Please also feel free to visit the following sites if you wish to know more prior to pledging:

http://negst-letter.rowbory.co.uk/2010/01/the-leah-ngini-community-center-a-heart-in-the-heart-of-africa/

http://www.wowsafaris.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49&Itemid=30

Charitable Tax Receipts will be issued.

My heartfelt thanks for your support, encouragement and cheerleading, in whatever form it takes.