In a crowded, smoke-filled room packed with curious New Yorkers, the man behind the podium pointed to a map behind him. He explained how this time the ascent up the mountain would be different using what he and his team had learned from their two previous failed attempts. His listeners knew he was an experienced climber and hung on every word he spoke.
During a break in his lecture, a local reporter asked the question most of the audience was also wondering. “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?”
“Because it’s there.”
“Everest is the highest mountain in the world, and no man has reached its summit. Its existence is a challenge! The answer is instinctive, a part, I suppose, of man’s desire to conquer the universe.”
The man, George Mallory, and his partner were last seen on the “First Step” of the mountain, only 300 meters away from summiting. It isn’t known if they ever made it.
Some people would call him reckless, maybe even crazy for chasing such an insane challenge, but I think he understood something very few people do. In our fast-paced society where our life choices are more limitless than ever before, it doesn’t matter what you decide to do as much as you think it does. What does matter is that you contribute and that you devote your life to what you’re passionate about. A lot of people will try to tell you that those two things aren’t enough, but they are.
Teach English in Tibet, dig wells in Uganda, build longboats in Chile; in a world like ours, where we’re given the opportunity to do anything, the only inexcusable action is doing nothing. Every year there are millions of people struggling to find their passion, a life purpose they can stand behind and be proud of. It’s important to challenge yourself and always strive to be better. But choosing a passion is just the first step; the next thousand are what your life will really be about.
Instead of wasting a lifetime figuring out what your passion is. Do what George Mallory would do, search for a purpose that’s ethical, needed, and exciting to you. And when you find a passion that fits all three, stop searching and start doing. At a certain point he had to stop talking about climbing Mt. Everest and actually start the climb. That’s the message; stop wasting time. Set sail, take flight, start climbing!
Here's a longer quote from Mallory summing up his philosophy of exploration:
“People ask me, 'What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?' and my answer must at once be, 'It is of no use.'There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron... If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”
Thanks for reading!
Photo: By shrimpo1967 (originally posted to Flickr as Bhutan Card 02 085) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons