“The Sherpas play a very important role in most mountaineering expeditions, and in fact, many of them lead along the ridges and up to the summit.” – Edmund Hillary
Reaching Higher Heights
Climbing is risky. But many who have climbed mountains will tell you there is no reward without risk. The most dangerous mountain to climb is Everest. Reaching a height of 29,000 feet, no one has ever reached its summit alone. Such a feat necessitates a sherpa.
Who Is A Sherpa?
Indigenous to the Himalayas, sherpas, or mountain guides have served as helpers for climbers for years. Although not always recognized, their value to expeditions is indispensable. In the words of sherpa Kami Rita, who has reached the summit a record 24 times, “without a sherpa, there is no expedition.” What exactly does a sherpa bring to the table? More than just potters, they are expert navigators and strategic decision-makers in managing supplies of oxygen, critical for the ascent and descent.
No one in life arrives at the summit of a vision, dream, or goal alone. Erik Weinmeyer, the first blind person to reach Everest’s summit said, “there are a lot of things I cannot do, so I need people to support me and lift me up.” We all need a sherpa(s). People who can share our burdens, help us navigate the difficulties of life, support us, encourage us to stay on course when we want to deviate, challenge us when we are slacking, and help us in strategic decision making, all in the name of helping us reach our destiny.
Finding Your Sherpa
As sherpas are conditioned to the climate of Everest, making them more adept to be specialists for scaling it, a sherpa, guide, or mentor in life should be conditioned for the mountain you are climbing. Dr. John Maxwell says a mentor is one who “knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” I must admit that it is easier to skip the first two steps and immediately jump to the final one. I find it easy to give other people the same advice I struggle to follow. A sherpa or mentor should carry all three aspects.
Sherpas In My Life
I have had my fair share of Sherpa’s throughout my life. More than I deserve. My first Sherpa was my dad, who would have turned 78 tomorrow (April 23). He showed me through his words and example how to be a husband, father, friend, leader, and writer. He taught me how to see the best in people, to remain optimistic, and always trust God even when life doesn’t go as you planned. When he was diagnosed with a brain tumor he displayed courage by facing it head-on and never used it as an excuse to not be a good dad. He even flew from Kenya to the United States for my wedding in 2007. A teacher and author himself, he passed on his knowledge of teaching and writing down to me. Even when he was bogged down with marking exams, he always kept his door open for me to come in and sit with him. He would then proceed to give me a subject with a word limit to write about. Going over the word limit was grounds for failure! After completing the writing task he would look through my writing and provide constructive criticism, thus developing in me building blocks for better writing in the future. I am blessed to have had such a strong foundational influence and model in my formative years. It is a privilege that many men have not experienced, therefore I do not take it for granted.
My wife, Caroline has also been God-given Sherpa to me. Strong, generous, and ferociously protective of those she loves, she has kept me going in difficult seasons when I felt like camping. A climber in her own right by reaching the summit of education with a Ph.D., she has helped me to not only see the big picture but strategically create a detailed plan of action for what I envision. I still remember her words, “Why don’t you write a book?” which served as a catalyst to write books and start blogging. She continues to be my biggest cheerleader and knows exactly when to inject a word of encouragement to fuel me for what is ahead. Never one to shy away from challenges, she has taught me that confronting the difficult things of life is the best way to overcome them and remain a climber. For her, nothing difficult is ever solved by sweeping it under the rug. She never ceases to amaze me.
Then I have my pastor, Apostle Lucy Ware whose sherpa-like guidance has been instrumental in my life. Gifted with the ability to discern and excavate God-deposits in others, she tirelessly invests in people with the sole purpose of seeing potential turn into progress. Her passion for people living their God-given purpose is not only infectious but from it, I have learned to be a builder of people.
I am eternally grateful for these and many more sherpas who have helped me climb mountains throughout my life.
Final Thought: You were not designed to achieve anything worthwhile alone. In addition to everything worthwhile being uphill, everything worthwhile involves the inclusion of people along the way to provide vital assistance. As you climb your mountain, my prayer is you will find a sherpa and become one for somebody else.
Keep on keeping on.