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2:00pm on Mount Everest

Top mountaineer Ed Viesturs once said, “Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory.”


He instituted a life-saving rule when climbing Mt. Everest: Regardless whether you have reached the top or not, by two PM you turn around to make sure there is enough daylight left on the way down to reach a lower level camp before the evening cold kills you.


This rule seems to apply to my life in more ways than one. In every situation, I feel compelled to build in a turnaround point to avoid a point of no return that may or may not be there. It has become a way of life, and it makes me anxious because deep inside, I know full control is impossible. It’s in my genes to constantly scenario-plan and to think contingency. What I expect from the future affects my actions in the present and, therefore, impacts the future. I am in a closed loop.


I know I should let go of this illusion of control. Just let things be. Accept loose threads. Embrace imperfection and insecurity.


Easier said than done, right?


Let me ask you something. Do you feel that you control the events of your life, or do these events occur independently of your actions? In other words, do you feel you control your personal destiny?


Me, I have always felt compelled to think that I am in control of my destiny. And more and more so, as time passes.


The irony of life is that you get better and better at living it, and you come to expect it to further spiral upwards. When you marry the girl you love and you have children together, when you get promoted up the corporate chain, you actually start to believe you have superpowers. Until you get confronted with the fact that really you have no powers at all.


The paradox of life is all about how to approach it in an optimistic way and enjoy it despite our obvious vulnerability and uncertainty.


Writing this makes me realize that I should not worry constantly about the future but accept and embrace where I am now. But insight is one thing; turning that insight into actual change is quite another. I seem to be unable to stop myself from looking for certainty and security.


At least, I understand better now that this is an area I need to work on. That’s a start. A friend asked me the other day, “Do you know the expression, If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans?”


To me, that expression really says it all. Control over what will happen tomorrow is an illusion. We should focus on today and let the rest unfold.


I guess there is no need for a two PM turnaround point every single day of my life. Why don’t I just live a little on the days that I am not climbing Everest?


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