Alice Zhao

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

In the past 3 years, I've summited of two of the highest mountains in the world. Through these experiences, it is not climbing 10,000 m from sea to sky that's the greatest challenge. Rather, it's my ego. This is the lesson I finally learned on Kilimanjaro, my climb after Everest. My fearless sherpa taught me a saying. “Pole, pole” which means “slowly, slowly” in Swahili.

During Everest I was over-confident in my fitness. I needed to prove that I was the strongest and fastest. Not just to those around me, but to myself too. However, at 4,000 m I got altitude sickness. My sherpa had to carry me down on his back to save my life. My blood oxygen level was at 30% compared to normal healthy levels of 98%. I was slipping in and out of consciousness. People thought I could die if I didn’t reach lower grounds fast enough. Since I'm here telling my story, you know I survived. I was able to recover on the same trip, pick my feet up, and head up again to reach the top.

For Kilimanjaro, I made a promise to myself. I decided to enjoy the journey rather than focus on the destination. I approached the height of the mountain one step at a time without needing to prove my worth. This time at 4,000 m, I was singing Hakuna Matata at the top of my lungs and walking with a skip in my step.

In the end, I realized there is no point comparing myself to anyone else. We all get to the same point sooner or later. My ego was an expression of my insecurities and self doubt. I’ve lived in constant fear that I’m not good enough. It was liberating to be at the base of the tallest mountain in Africa and finally submit to the powerful nature around me. I started to take my journey one step at a time; enjoying each step as deeply as I could. Accepting myself has allowed me to accomplish more than I thought possible.

There is still so much I want to create in this world, including building inclusive products that connect people together. It's not going to be easy.

But pole, pole as my sherpa would say.