Several weeks ago I tried to climb up a mountain to the Needle (a massive point of solid rock) on Cook Island. I planned for an early start, but I missed the place to get out of the bus closest to the start of the trail. So I had to walk 30 minutes to reach the trailhead.
The Needle climb is a steep, jungle one, but I climbed as fast as I could. I saw a young man coming down, and he told me the trail was so slippery from recent rain that he had decided to forget about going all the way up.
I continued up, bracing each step with a tree root and grabbing trees and rocks to help me. I saw a group of Danish teens coming down with a guide in the front and a bandaged girl in the group. My thought: I don’t need no stinking guide — I am too stupid to even have a climbing buddy.
Up and up I went, like a character in a children’s story. When I reached the huge rock face at the top, I looked for the great views I had expected. Mostly I saw clouds. I kissed the massive rock and headed down.
The descent was treacherously slippery. I focused on putting each footfall where I would not slide down and injure myself. I went slowly but surely, as my energy waned. At one point, I slipped on wet leaves and fell straight down. No harm — I fell onto leaves. Ten minutes later as I was standing and resting near a cliff, my legs gave away. I collapsed and hit some rocks, but I did not slide. Some people are swooners. I am a collapser.
I regained my feet, with more adrenaline pumping, and continued down, careful step by careful step. I felt ecstatic when I saw a clearing ahead. I had made it.
Later I asked myself why I went up even though I could see the risks. The answer: the need to achieve. I wanted to conquer that mountain — my little Everest.
That need to achieve leads some individuals to make great discoveries, to create fantastic works of art, and to engineer huge social changes. People vary widely in their level of need to achieve.
What has the need to achieve led you to do?