Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Worthy Goal?

In the world of goals, what is worth the time, effort and money? Hard to say, what is worth it for me is not worth it for others.

I have been reading a lot about Mt. Everest lately. I've read most of it in general, but new articles are always cropping up. They run the gamut of opinions from high respect to no respect of the people involved. Spending nine week in the mountains of Asia, after years of training, and enough money to buy an amazing car or a good chuck of a house, is it worth all of that? Obviously I say yes, because I am doing it.

We, or maybe just I, see the ticket price for a "guided" expedition to the highest mountain in the world and think of all the other things that money could be used for. After visiting Rwanda this past summer, I know that money could feed 100 people every day for an entire year. I also know that the money I am spending is contributing toward several people having "office" jobs and maybe ten more people having seasonal jobs, and many of those dozen people have families who I am supporting through economics as well.

In other words, buying a used Porsche benefits basically one person directly, although it does support the continued high prices for used Porsches across the economy. Going on an expedition directly benefits a dozen plus people, with families.

Aside from the financial aspect, there are so many other things that could be worked on instead of climbing a mountain. A third college degree, more direct charity work, more involvement in coaching, painting, building my relationships in the United States are all just a few opportunity costs I will be giving up to go visit a chuck of rock and ice in Asia. Furthermore, I am not attempting to do anything that has not been done before. I am not pushing human limits, just my own personal limits. To be honest, that is part of the allure for me.

Summitting Everest and then dying is not a success. In other words, Everest is not the limit of my imagination. There are things to do afterward that no one else has ever done. While there are many ways to push human limits, I feel one of the best is to tackle challenges that are difficult for an individual personally. In other words, if you want to set the marathon world record, you had better be able to run a really fast 10k. Similarly, if you want to create the next new web start-up social network, you had better know how to program and have a different idea about how people like to connect. This idea of pushing oneself to learn things like overcoming obstacles translates across disciplines. Climbing an 8000 meter peak is like project management, you plan for months, work hard, and try to be ready to go for the ultimate goal despite all of the setbacks like diarrhea, broken gear, dehydration, supplier constraints, and part tolerance errors that require updating the blue prints as you go to production.

In the world of Everest there are many haters. People who think the whole pursuit is worthless. That there is nothing to be gained by retracing steps of what has clearly been done a number of times before. That money could be invested one said, donated to charity another said, that energy could instead be focused on new pursuits like skydiving from outer space. The way I see it, pushing limits happens in steps. A little bit more risk is taken and a little bit more achieved. Eventually, a new endeavor is started with no comparison to know the risks.

The vast majority of people go up in the mountains to live. The view of the surroundings falling away is not rewarding simply because you can see far, it is rewarding because of how difficult it is to get up there. It is rewarding because no matter how permanent it may seem your presence is certainly limited by time. There is an aesthetic beauty to hard work. A mountain summit is perhaps simply a shallow representation of the result of a good effort. Yet it is also a clear symbol that the end of the road has been reached and the goal has been accomplished.

For the opportunity to even contemplate abstract ideas like this and not worry about where my next meal will come from I am thankful to God. This is an opportunity, and where exactly it leads I do not know. I will say, I intend to make the most of this trip that I can.

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