Dear Why Team member,
I hope this week’s message finds you well and encouraged.
At this writing, I am fortunate to be enjoying a beautiful sunny Sunday and to have much on which to reflect. Currently, I am experiencing significant gratitude for the life I have been so privileged to live. And at the top of my gratitude list are my family and friends. Thinking about, and I encourage you to do the same, all the friends and colleagues that I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with, some for decades, there is no way to measure their collective impact on my life.
Last week I wrote on my experience climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and as I shared in the post, I came away with a mountain of insights; the one that keeps rising to the top for this week’s post is that no one is truly self-made. Consider for example that from the time we are born, the amount of attention required by our caregivers is itself a great cause for gratitude.
You, members that are parents, can attest to the incredible amount of time and energy a child can consume. My Great Grandfather, Royal Guy Findley, a Scots-Cherokee, used to say, “Children is how you pay for your raisin(g)”.
How many parents have considered that mindset?
Are you grateful for your raising?
If not, why not?
How can anyone be truly self-made if from the get-go we are 100% dependent on someone else?
Such talk of independence; while that certainly is on our developmental path, as is crawling before walking, maturity beyond independence is interdependence; and this is what was so prevalent in my experience on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
On the early morning ascent to the Summit, the local porters and guides were right there alongside us. They had been with us for the past six days, and we marveled at their strength and agility at such high altitude, but it was that personal one-on-one care the morning of the ascent that really conveyed: Hey, we are here for you, and all of this has been to get you to the top!
I was fortunate to have the lead guide, Bonaface, nicknamed Boney, take specific interest in assisting me. Just before the ascent, he took my backpack in hand to test its weight and insisted on carrying one of my water bottles to lighten my load. On that very early and cold Summit morning, at each of our hourly breaks during that six-hour climb, he was right there to assist me. It was interesting to notice in myself, and in my fellow climbers, a hesitation to allow the porters to lighten our load - especially since they had been doing that very thing the entire time on the mountain. The porters made the trip possible from the outset - carrying our additional clothes and gear in heavy bags we would zip up for them in the morning and then find them waiting for us when we arrived at our next camp - the porters having passed us on the trail with our gear. Their constant chant was One Team, One Dream. This reminds me of the well-known sentiment that there is no letter “I” in the word “Team”.
A crew of 42 took our group of 8 to the top, that made a Team of 50! And Success for all 50 was that we 8 reach the Summit. Bonaface, the lead mountain guide, has climbed Kilimanjaro about twice a month, nine months a year for the last nine years. Simple math makes that about 160 Summits! But how rewarding for him, to assist others beyond where they have ever been before, to explore their own possibilities in collaboration with others. If there is one thing I have learned in my own personal quests, it’s that there really are no limits if we are willing to collaborate with others. We can of course expand our own personal capabilities via an improved diet, more sleep, physical exercise and learning - but we expand our capabilities exponentially when we are willing to partner with others. Together we can become far more capable than any of us could alone. To first acknowledge that from our earliest days we are not self-made, then leveraging this awareness to fuel gratitude and a desire to lay a foundation for collaboration that not only lifts us to new heights, but others as well.
Just as many components are necessary for a Rocket to reach the moon, consider the countless men and women who brought forth their individual gifts to put a man on the moon - one step for a man - that was made possible by thousands of steps taken by thousands of people. Armstrong may have left a footprint on the moon, but we must also remember the footprints of all those who traveled so far to reach their own personal dreams through him. Many enjoy, and even prefer, success from the shadows.
As we took our final steps out of the rainforest, having Summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, the day before, we were greeted by all those who had made the journey possible for us. Their joy for our success was born from it truly being OUR collective success. There was a team and there was a Dream and together we all made it happen. I will forever remember their faces and keep with me the lesson learned that none of us are completely self-made, but rather for those who are willing to receive a hand up, there is no limit to the heights that can be reached.
This week I hope you will more consciously extend your hands to another and be more open to receiving from those who wish to assist you, let their love for what they do, make what you do easier; remembering that together we are all truly better.
Make it a great week,
There is no such thing as a 'self-made' man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.
GEORGE BURTON ADAMS