How a Jeep, an Active Volcano, and a Horse Became a Metaphor for Success
A spontaneous, unexpected idea to go to Indonesia brought me to East Java, where Mount Bromo (a well-known active volcano) is located. While our first day there was mainly in search of local cuisines and visiting food hotspots, the highlight of our trip was yet to come. Who would have thought that I would obtain a life lesson/realisation/reminder/insight – or each of these bundled in one – about success and the journey to achievement by making the decision to make the voyage up an active volcano.
1. The Journey // The Jeep
“My god… How long is this going to take? Are we there yet? When will this ordeal end?”
We were at the departure point at 1am. Mind you, we did not get any sleep as we were hoping to sleep on the way up. Boy, was that a bad decision. The whole journey, which lasted for two long hours, was bumpy. Not the “tiny pebbles and occasional potholes” bumpy but the “snaky, honestly-not-a-road but a cleared jungle path” kind of bumpy. Jostled and bounced around, our bones rattled and our heads bumped the top of the Jeep more than once. Thankfully, at 3AM, we reached the top.
How does this relate to success? I’m sure you’ve heard this – it’s all about the journey.
The reason we endured the nightmare in the Jeep was to see the view that numerous people have spoken about. Similarly, when people talk about success, we have the desire to feel it too. We then work hard because we want to hit our targets and to see our goals manifest. People also talk about the suffering they endure to achieve success – but do we focus on that or do we only focus on the fact that they might now be millionaires? In the same way we had to sacrifice our comfort and sleep in order to see the sunrise, we will have to make sacrifices in order to get to where we want to be and to see results of our struggles. Even then, success is not instantaneous.
2. Success is Achieved // The Volcano
“YES! We’re here! But… We’ve still got to wait?”
Marred by the fact that we then had to wait for another two hours in 8-degree weather for the sun to come up, our relief was short lived. We occupied ourselves as best we could by napping, snacking at the gerai – gerai (stalls) there, and walking as far as we could without falling off the mountain.
Then, it was time (5AM to be exact). The sun took an hour to rise but – while it did not feel like an hour – it was an hour of perpetual amazement, happiness and gratitude. I was glad I chose to go through with the sleepless, bumpy and cold excursion.
The lesson here is that it’s not easy to reach accomplishment and it does not come fast. There will be factors beyond your control (competitors throwing their prices, government regulations affecting your profits). There will also be risks – the mountain is an active volcano but what if it chose right then to erupt? If we fixated on the risk of the journey, we would never have seen the overwhelming beauty of a different kind of sunrise. Likewise, you do not know how great your triumph could be if you do not take risks – you might hit 100% of your targets if you take risks. Nevertheless, when you achieve success, the time spent enjoying it can be fleeting. Therefore, enjoy it when you can, work hard to maintain it and break through your limits.
By breaking through your limits, you can get used to and build an immunity towards challenges. You will be less surprised and more prepared. This is why the phrase “practice makes perfect” is so widely used. Your mind-set will transform itself and grow from the experience so you will now think, “Ah. I expected this, whatever”.
Side note: Throughout this harrowing journey, my son – our resident Baby Ninja – slept like a … well… baby. Imagine my jealousy – I could not even drink water in that darned Jeep but he managed to dream his way through the experience.
3. Success Can Be Tainted // The Horse
“If you don’t walk the walk, don’t talk the talk.”
At the National Park, we had two options for how we would get back to our Jeep: ride a horse or walk. We decided to ride horses. During the ride, my horse was rearing and acting as if it wanted to run away. Thankfully, its minder kept it in line with the other horses. We passed other tourists and in addition to feeling their death-stares, I could hear them whisper, “Well, look at that! Did they not think about the poor horses?”.
To be honest, we shrugged off their disapproval. For one, horses can carry up to 20% of their body weight and our horses were sturdy. Secondly – when would we get to journey far on horseback in KL?
You will come across people who think it is their place to criticise you and your means but these same people rarely turn their judgemental gaze onto themselves. Do not let your success be tainted by people who do not practice what they preach, who are social justice warriors behind screens but do not apply their “principles” in real life. Your results are not their results! Learn from people who want you to succeed – these people (be it leaders, mentors or colleagues) will make sure you remain aligned with your goals and the company’s values in the same way the horse’s minder kept him on task. Give yourself the time and space to reflect on the room for improvement or missed opportunities stemming from what could have been done that was not.
The difficulty of this journey (and so many others) has shaped my mind-set to be resilient. When we got back to the hotel, my first thought was not, “Oh, thank goodness we’re finally able to rest”. My first thought was “Oh man, I am so glad we did that”. My mind-set was that of someone who knew that without struggle, there is no accomplishment – and I acknowledged the need for struggle. There is no need to whine about how difficult it because when you look past the struggle, allow yourself to focus on how accomplished it made you feel. Don’t whine, don’t complain.
If you are having difficulty transforming your mind set or being the supportive leader/colleague you know you should be – let us know and we can help you in your struggle towards success.
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