April 30, 2020 Praveen

A Mountain (Kaala Patthar) That Changed My Outlook For Life & Work

Among the billions of moments that pass us by each day, a handful stand out for their sheer ability to change our lives, provided we acknowlefdge them for what they really are…an opportunity to transform!

In this episode I have attempted to capture a discreet piece of learning that I was fortunate to stumble upon just after we concluded a successful trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC) end of 2019. I find this to be very relatable and of phenomenal value to many entrepreneurs, business owners and startups seeking to broaden their vision for their businesses and life.

We had just about concluded the EBC trek, which left us in awe and an un-parallel feeling of inspiration.

Despite the grueling journey, we felt refreshed by a fresh surge of energy which I cant find words to explain. On 17th November 2019, we reached EBC at around 2.30pm and stayed there for about an hour, allowing the feeling to settle in and capturing the precious moments on our crew camera. The way back was as challenging, but we managed to reach our pit stop, the tea house at Gorakhchep by 5:30pm.

It was hard to contain all that excitement which was coming from a strong sense of pride on having completed what we thought would be an once-in-a-lifetime experience. For the moment, we just wanted to relax and allow all those feelings to sink in and etch themselves in our memories. All the efforts that went into preparing towards the trek over the past 9-10 months had finally realized fruits. The energies were soaring high and all of us felt truly elevated.

At the time we were planning for EBC, we were told about this other small mountain called Kaala Patthar situated about 280 meters above EBC. EBC stands at a towering 5364 mtrs above sea level and Kaala Patthar tops it at 5644 mtrs. It’s usually taken up as an optional short hike post completing EBC and most trekkers who attempt EBC, typically would also visit Kaala Patthar (KP).

KP is said to really challenge ones caliber, it being very steep. You have to go there early morning, around 2.30am the very next day after you have completed EBC. So, it’s quite taxing on the body.

The real reason however, for doing Kaala Patthar is that you get an exceptional view of the Everest from its top. One of the greatest ironies is that from EBC, you don’t get to see the Everest. A lot of people set out for KP just to get that breathtaking view.

Most among them do it in the mornings, but it’s said that the best time to be at KP is during the sunset. The golden rays of the setting sun christen the Everest peaks as if projecting a golden crown on its head, honoring its glory.

All of our team sat around the table discussing who among us wanted to do KP. Of the 10, only 3 were very sure of doing it. My mind was in a deadlock. I thought about it for about half an hour at the tea house, but I wasn’t able to make up my mind. Before we took off for the EBC trek, all of us seemed very sure of climbing KP, including myself. But here we were, sitting conflicted with our own plans. I asked myself – Why should I do KP? I had successfully made it to EBC, which was the only dream I had set out to achieve, and I was very happy having fulfilled it. It wasn’t important that I did KP!

At this point, you should note that I was feeling absolutely fit and mentally charged up. If I wanted it, I could’ve easily done KP. So, the question wasn’t whether it was difficult to do, but whether it felt important! I told myself that the journey started with EBC in mind, and KP was always an optional thing. So, in the end I decided not to go.

I was sharing the room with our guide and mentor, Satyarup Siddhanta, and I remember seeing him wake up at around 2.30am. He is a good friend and a level headed person, so he didn’t probe me further once I had made up my mind on skipping KP. I never told him this, but this was probably the only time I truly wish he had asked me again.

I saw them getting ready and leaving and I chose to continue sleeping and not joining them. I didn’t really have a feeling of regret, but a thought kept nagging at me – Why didn’t I do KP? Despite, all the justifications I had given myself, it just didn’t seem to sit right. It felt as if I was not being completely honest with myself.

The 3 guys who went to KP were back by 10am and joined us for breakfast. They told us how amazing it was and we should’ve joined them too. Nevertheless, the opportunity was lost. But all through our return trip, the question didn’t leave me. My body was fit enough and I felt mentally strong, but I chose not to do it – Why?

For a couple of days or so, I didn’t find an answer, but I kept digging deeper. Then it hit me!

I observed a certain pattern that had repeated in my life until that stage. What I called my dreams and aspirations, were always of my highest priority. Every other aspect of my life would automatically take a backseat or get added to the ‘do it later’ list.

Work is utterly important for survival, for growth and to ensure that your family’s needs and wants are met. Work is also your source of inspiration, since we invariably spend over half of our daytime working in and out of our offices. At the time, I saw my friends, family, hobbies, passions and all the things I loved to do as my life, and things that I did for making money/ making a living, often got pushed over and took a beating. For example, an integral part of my life is this organization called Yi (Young Indians). If an occasion came up, where I needed to prioritize between Yi or my business, chances were that my work would mostly take a back seat.

Now, what happened when I didn’t do KP despite favorable conditions?

The view from KP is phenomenal. We couldn’t see Everest from EBC and I missed the golden opportunity to witness it from KP. When I saw the photographs, I realized what I had missed, but then I was the one who had chosen not to see it, because it wasn’t on my PRIORITY LIST!

I realized that when I choose not to attempt something that is doable, I am missing out on something very interesting – an opportunity to look at life from a new perspective, which could be equally or even more beautiful than the things I had planned for or wrote down on my priority list. It’s like allowing life a chance to surprise us with her own plans. Letting go, so nature can open new doors that so far were unseen, unexplored.

When I am not prioritizing my work for various reasons, I am losing an opportunity to see moments of wonder, moments of creativity, of awe, of richness, because I chose not to experience them.

Until this stage of my life, it was always about THIS OR THAT; it was always about picking something that resonated with me more, leaving out the rest. I had somehow started seeing my life as separate from my work. But the moment when I looked at the pictures of KP, a visual that I could have seen for myself, it gave me a new perspective to look at my life. It taught me that it need not always be THIS OR THAT; it can be THIS AND THAT!

So I can live a life, as well as work a life. Both are equally important and can be achieved with the same vigor, the same passion and energy.

Since this realization I have started prioritizing my work and my life equally and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I redesigned my workplace to reflect and showcase my inspirations and my passions in. I also relooked my business model and started aligning it to my life aspirations and the vision and beliefs that drive me. My WORK need no longer be separate from my LIFE.

In the process, I also realized how crucial it is to be working with clients who resonate with your values and beliefs. How enjoyable and thrilling the work experience can become if you synergize your employees and clients to your broader idea of life. In the process you attract like-minded and like-frequency people.

But it needed some work. For starters, it required me to manage my time much better. There were times when I woke up at 3am to read a book, woke my daughters at 6am, got them ready for school, dropped them to school and then managed to get to my office by 8am. Since I started prioritizing THIS AND THAT, I started juggling all my roles much better.

Our minds have a mind of its own. Its primary job is to keep us away from discomfort and pick the line of least resistance. When we are confronted with multiple options to pick from, the mind smartly plays the ‘prioritization card’ and saves you the trouble of having to plan better to accommodate more things. But when you stretch your capacities to plan and fit in more things, you are exercising parts of your brain which otherwise would relax by just taking a simpler, familiar path – prioritizing.

Today, I am enjoying the process of juggling all aspects of my life because I love all of them. I could never get up that early in my life to read a book but because of THIS AND THAT, life has become one great opportunity for me to do what I want to do without compromising on any other aspect of my life.

At times when we have to make a call and you know that both things are doable, just give it a wholesome shot. When your body is not supporting you, or you are short of resources, you can always choose to skip the lesser important. But when you find yourself capable of doing both, try to explore the limit of doing both. You don’t know what you are about to experience. Give life a chance to surprise you.