Can You Stand the Heat?

I am going to share with you two stories. As I do, use them as metaphors and I really hope you can see yourself in these stories.

Story Number 1: Lessons from Camp

Indoor rock climbing

That wall may as well have been 80,000 feet tall. Don’t get me wrong. When you were standing at the foot of it looking at all those plastic pieces up the wall that were meant to imitate rocks, the indoor rock-climbing wall didn’t really look that tall. But once your hands and feet were on the rocks and off the ground, then it got real!


I felt a tinge of nervousness, but nothing I had never felt before and I just kept on going. Once I got to within 5 feet of my destination and about 15 feet of the ground (you know what for the rest of this story, let’s assume I am climbing the Everest on a minus 39 degree day and I am 3,000 feet above ground and much closer to the top than to the ground….increases drama ;) ) then something else hit my consciousness:

I have never done this before and there is a possibility I might feel.

Combine general anxiety with specific anxiety like that and you get yourself one fine stew of fear. I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to look stupid…..

What Would You Have Done?

I stop at this point to ask

What would you have done? Would you have:

1) Stopped climbing, let go and waited for the instructor to slowly bring you down.
2) Kept climbing at the same speed and tempo, putting the fear to the side.
3) Smothered the fear down with indignation and pressed on with a fury that can only be compared to one woman scorned by twenty other previously scorned women.
4) Fear, what fear? That aint no Everst man: get over it!

What Mwangi Did

Do you sometimes surprise myself? Well, I certainly did. It was indoor rock climbing. I was safely harnessed, about five people had gone up the “mountain” easily already.

But, I disconnected. I don’t just mean physically, I mean psychologically. I didn’t want this pressure anymore, I didn’t want to feel this and so I simply let go. First my mind shut off and about twenty seconds later, I let go and fell back to the ground making myself the first and only person who never climbed on first attempt.

Story Number Two: The Kid Grows

Stage 28

As I stood behind that wooden stage, I suddenly remembered two years ago. It was a simple enough concept:

Step one: Take an ordinary sack
Step two: Take that sack to the nearest tailor and get him to craft for me a smashing set of clothing, both top and bottom.
Step three: Take the new half-jacket, short ensemble and wear it backstage.
Step four: Model the sack-turned-to-clothes set for the whole school on stage with my main man D who would be quite smashing in a blanket suit.

But that day there was a step five that went a little something like this:

Step five: Feel the terror slowly begin to crescendo the closer I got to backstage. Feel the fear, disconnect and refuse to go on stage. Have teachers come and beg me to go on stage while I indignantly refused. Experience the wonderful humiliation of one teacher taking the sack cloth off me, going on stage and model it to the cat calls of all the cute girls in the school.

And here I was two years later, still in my teens……and the lights went off:

I burst through that door and gave my 110%. Anytime the fear came up, it was wonderfully sublimated to passion, to anger, to excitement and whatever emotion the scene called for. I had actually grown, the kid had learned something.

A Few Questions

Take a moment today and figure out, how do you respond when the heat is on? Does it serve you? Does it hurt you? Does it make anything or anyone better? If not, perhaps consider a different approach when the heat is on.
What do you do? Do you run away? Do you suppress it with sex, drugs, hip hop, alcohol and rock and roll?
Secondly, have you grown over the past few years in terms of how you respond to the heat? Is the way you respond today any better than how you responded a few years ago?

Final Thought

As human beings we are not static creatures that have a fixed identity that MUST remain for the rest of our lives. Sure a lot of us get stuck in a rut and CHOOSE to stay there for the rest of our lives because it’s comfortable and easy. But we don’t have to. And I hope today I have reminded you that.

Mount Everest

“Mount Everest Returns”

I eventually got on that wall and I did climb all the way to the top. I wasn’t fast, I wasn’t elegant and heck, it wasn’t even complete, but I did. I didn’t do it so I could be crowned champion of climbing walls, though that would be nice. I didn’t do it for accolades, they didn’t exist for climbing that wall.
I did it so I could do something, no matter how small, to prove to myself that at any moment in time, I can do better, I can grow. Go Mount your Everest today. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

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Your friend and fan,

No Comments

  • By acolyte, July 2, 2008 @ 6:20 am

    I have done both outdoor and indoor rock climbing and it is an exhilerating experience. It does get scary when you get to the point where you are high up and the hand and leg holds are far from each other plus if unfit your shoulders are as tired as hell.
    But you push through it and you get to the top! sometimes you just have to say eff it and push through the barriers!

  • By Mwangi, July 2, 2008 @ 6:27 am

    @Acolyte: How different was it doing it indoors as opposed to outdoors? I think for me the embarrassment thing was way bigger than any fear of falling, after all it was a tiny wall and I was well harnessed. Yeah tell me more about the experience of doing it outdoors……….

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