We know the name Edmund Hillary as being among the first people ever to summit Mt. Everest in May 1953. Do you know who was standing next to him on that day and in that place? It was 39-year-old Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. An extraordinary accomplishment to be sure but, as it turns out, it almost didn’t happen for either of them. Two months before that famous climb Hillary fell into a deep crevasse and was only saved from near-certain death by Norgay’s quick-thinking and fast-action of tying-off a rope to a climbing axe, stopping Hillary’s fall.
No one achieves success alone. Neither man had ever been to the top of Everest before – no one had. It’s impossible for anyone to do it by themselves and no way would Hillary ever have become Sir Edmund had it not been for the strength, courage and expertise of Norgay.
Whether the goal is to stand on top of the world or achieve a certain level of personal success there will always be a need for a guide. Step here and not there – do this and not that – listen, think, then act. Sometimes the greatest help along the path is to ease one’s burden, not necessarily all the way, but just enough to make navigating a little easier, safer and less worrisome.
Anxiety is one of the heaviest burdens a person can carry. Anxiety is distinguished from fear because the latter arises in response to a clear and actual danger whereas anxiety is a subjective, internal emotional conflict or concern for an uncertain future. Will I have saved enough for my retirement? What will happen if my elderly parents need care? If one of my children is involved in an auto accident, how will I know and what will I do? What if my underlying health condition worsens? If I do or say the wrong thing while serving on the homeowner’s association, can I be held personally liable? These are only a very few of the thousands of “what if” questions that float through people’s mind and typically create anxiety and stress. That anxiety, that stress, that worry is a hindrance to living happily, easily, more fully.
Those questions, and many like them, are good questions to ask. The problem isn’t in the wondering – it’s in the burden, the anxiety caused by not having the answers, of not having a plan. Imagine a mountain climber coming to a juncture along the way to the top. Go left and you’ll follow a well-traveled but longer path. Heading right seems more direct but there’s fewer safe areas and a questionable ice field to cross. Straight forward looks tough, and no one has done it in many years, but it’s an idea. Stopping here and turning back is always an option. So, what does one do? This is yet another moment when the Sherpa is an invaluable resource. Their wisdom, experience, advice and perspective will help the right decision to become obvious and could very well save the climber’s life, just as Norgay did for Hillary.
Anxiety can be overwhelming; I’ve seen it in others and am empathetic to those crippled by it. The anxious burden of an uncertain future can be eased by a guide, a Sherpa, who’s walked the path themselves, who’s seen the path walked by others, and has the insight, wisdom and credibility to help lighten the load and point the way. Offering advice, relaxing one’s anxiety and enabling them to walk easier and more confidently shouldn’t be conditional on buying products or upgrading services. Norgay didn’t stop two-thirds up the mountain and present Hillary with a pay wall that needed to be satisfied before proceeding on. Tenzing didn’t have a product to be sold to further enrich himself through a commission.
A guide is to be paid fairly for their experience and expertise, for their ability to help others successfully navigate the uncertainty ahead, avoiding the crevasses that create anxiety. The greatest reward for the guide however isn’t in the collecting of a fee, it’s in the satisfaction of knowing they’ve helped someone achieve their dream. The smile upon Norgay’s face in the famous photos from 1953 wasn’t simply from him standing atop Everest; it was from helping Hillary achieve his goal, from easing another man’s burden and showing him the way. It’s from the knowledge that no one achieves success alone.
Contributed by Dan Cuccia