Sunday, February 03, 2008

Journeys to the ends of the Earth

Sick from catching the flu bug and feeling totally bummed, I decided to immerse myself in Khoo Swee Chiow's inspirational book Journeys to the Ends of the Earth (224 pages). My boss has very kindly lent me his copy. (Thank you, sir!) I am also totally aware that I should be working on my MBA assignments but reading about leadership and management gobbledy-gook is not appealing to me at the moment. I decided to go on an adventure with Mr Khoo.

The book tells the stories from his younger days (climbing
Gunung Ledang and Gunung Kinabalu) to his more recent extreme expeditions. I have totally enjoyed reading about "The Road to Everest"; "My Journey to the South Pole"; "My Quest for the Seven Summits" covering Aconcagua in Argentina, Denali in Alaska, Kosciuszko in Australia, Elbrus in Russia, Carstenz Pyramid in Irian Jaya, and Vinson Massif in Antarctica; and lastly skiing the extremely difficult and highly unpredictable North Pole.

The paperback has a great feel to it and features lots of beautiful photographs of awesome mountains. I also get a glimpse of how it is like to be on expeditions like that braving the force of nature. Apart from the visual feast that took me to places I've never dreamed of setting foot in, it is inspiring to read how he and his team overcome obstacles. They do not meet with success all the time. Sometimes an expedition can be halted for days and negative energy pents up, and one can expect lots of bitching and groaning. There were moments of failure but what is important is that they learned and moved on.

I also learned that Mr Khoo did not become an expert at what he does overnight, but through months of hard training. He had to learn technical climbing, acclimatize to the harsh elements, learn how to ski, etc. There are moments when he asks himself why is he doing what he's doing and why is he putting himself into such situations when he can just be comfortable and 'normal'.

As I prod excitedly (in reading) alongside him, I couldn't help but notice in those photos that he wears glasses. Automatically I begin to wonder how is it like to do the things he does while wearing them. Somewhere down the reading, he commented that glasses, oxygen mask, and the extreme cold don't make great combination and described what happened. There you go. There is no excuse that you can't be doing incredible stuff when you're wearing spectacles. Mr Khoo has done it many, many times. Later, he had his vision corrected by LASIK.

Another thing that I noticed was the little teddy that he took photos with whenever his missions were accomplished. The teddy was given to him by his lovely wife Wee Leng, and it travels with him on every expedition. What a romantic thing to do! Mr Khoo quoted in his book that marriage is the best training ground for issues of love and commitment. I agree 100 percent!

Some of the things I learned and received affirmation are as follows:

  • You won't know what lies ahead of you until you take the plunge
  • Your vision and determination sometimes makes you do things that people don't agree with, and living by your belief does entail going against the grain
  • Setbacks and failures are inevitable
  • Be mindful of past mistakes, learn from it and take action
  • Accept that things can and will go wrong, is an essential element of success
  • There will be moments of self-doubt, shaken confidence, and the temptation to throw in the towel, but do keep a perspective on things
  • When your weakness is pinpointed, take it as a sign to improve
  • Stagnation and inertia are possibly the worst debilitating states to be in

Journeys to the End of the Earth is a great read. There will be no trouble finishing it in one sitting and if you're feeling down, this book ought to motivate you and spur you on. If you're feeling bored, listen to what the author says: There is no time to be bored. No time for regrets. You just have to keep going. Happy reading and may all your dreams come true!