Going further with a team

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Going further with a team

An African saying goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” In August 2015, I experienced the truth of this adage on my climb up Siguniang Mountain, especially on summit day.

From the start, my aim was always to reach the summit; whether realistic or not,  I simply thought, “Why would anyone climb a mountain and not want to summit?” In my mind’s eye, I clearly saw myself on the summit in sunny weather, smiling, and taking pictures with the team. And summit I did. Like I had visualised, there were smiles, lots of photo-taking… alas, only the good weather was missing!

However, for a while, achieving this dream seemed rather remote. Even though the first day was supposed to be relatively easy, I was finding it a bit of a slog. I was lagging far behind everyone else and was largely climbing alone except for dear Kheng Ann, a new friend, who took it upon himself to wait for me. I also felt breathless and the legs seemed to get heavier and heavier.

As we moved up the mountain, despite my consistent and conscientious training, climbing became even harder with the thinning air. I was breathless, trailing even further behind the main body of climbers.  My body was fatigued and pride deeply dented; I was badly demoralised by the time I reached base camp, long after the rest of the group had settled down.  Then I began to feel ill and realised it was altitude sickness.

I sat crying quietly in a corner of the dining tent, unable to move for a while.  I felt so lousy, and was freaking out about how to reach the summit the next day.  I listened to my friends and our guru Swee Chiow who advised me to keep warm, drink and rest, take medication, and then give my best effort the next day.

I remember crawling into my sleeping bag that night, shivering badly even though I was quite warm – I think it was nervousness at the thought of the summit climb.

We began the summit push at 4am in the dark, cold and pelting rain.  I had stuffed some food into my face, put on layers of clothes and set off walking, not thinking too much.  It was comforting to climb together with a team.

My coach and good friend James gave only one instruction:  I was to walk behind him, keep close, and not lag.  For the next four hours or more, I tried to keep up with James who is fighting fit.  It was not easy, but whenever I slowed, he would turn back and motion to keep up; and whenever I was keeping pace, he’d shout words of encouragement.

So, after four hours and 20 minutes, I reached the peak of Siguniang Da Feng, stood proud at 5,025m, despite being sick as a dog the day before, despite the rain, which had given way to snow.

Later, I learnt that I had a whole team behind me.  Literally.  And that was how I made it up.  Unbeknownst to me, James had devised a support system to get me up the summit.  I was to move right behind him, and behind me were five other friends ‘pushing’ from behind.  I am very grateful to Jackie, Swee Hock, Kheng Ling, Kheng Ann and Winston for their patience and sacrifice. Although fitter and much faster, these friends restrained their speed to push me at a pace that would see me summit before utter exhaustion overwhelmed me. I had wondered why these people were all moving behind me the whole time!

A dream had come true, thanks to committed and caring team-mates! In particular, I wish to thank my guide, San Qi Mu, for staying by my side and providing physical support, especially on the way down.

I have thought a lot about that summit since coming back – how true that if I had gone alone, I would not have gone that far!  This mirrors my experience with the MLM business – each individual goes much further as part of a team.

Even if I could reach the ‘top’ alone, success would be a sad and lonely one, as far as I was concerned.  Imagine reaching the summit alone, with no friends to celebrate with, to share the exhilaration… to take selfies with!  I’m sure there is profound satisfaction to be had in accomplishing something alone (like sailing solo around the world); however, I’ve come to find so much in being part of a team.

Not only did my friends help me to summit Siguniang, they also gave me the courage to think of ‘what’s next’.  Siguniang wouldn’t be the last mountain for me, thanks to them. With heart thumping furiously, I said: “Together, we will climb more mountains and scale greater heights!  Kilimanjaro, here we come!”

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