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A Dream Encourager


I recently went to a breakfast hosted by the Amy Beihl Foundation in Cape Town, and was delighted to hear the story of Everest summiteer Sibusiso Vilane.

In 2003, Vilane became the first Black African in the world to reach the top of Everest. A game ranger by trade, he had almost no mountaineering experience. How did he do it? Allow me to share some of his story with you now.

So many Everest success stories these days run along similar lines- I had a dream, I did this and that, I climbed here and there and this is me on the summit.

What a refreshing and enriching experience it was to listen to Sibusiso’s Everest presentation.

Vilane spoke from the heart, and about the experience, not in a personal achievement light, but rather within the context of representing the African community.

In a sport which so often revolves around ego and self achievement, Vilane turned the whole fiasco that climbing Everest has so often become in the past decade (queues of people all standing on one another to reach the top), on its head.

Speaking to a professional audience in Cape Town, the parallels to the business world stood out. Climbing Everest, more than ever, has become a literal metaphor for climbing the corporate ladder, where everyone is out for themselves and standing on top of one another to reach the top, no matter what it takes.

Rather than this approach, Vilane’s climb focused on community based aspects of helping others, working hard and working as team, not an individual.

In this light, mountaineering stands tall as an inspirational and life changing pass-time, and if applied to business, reflects what so many management and leadership books preach about for achieving corporate greatness.

Here are some of his presentation’s key points:

1- Discover a dream you can believe in. Vilane openly states it was never his dream to climb Everest, but once it was presented to him in the context of representing Black African people, none of whom had climbed Everest before, the vision was something he could connect with. It was this dream that kept him going through all of the hardships on the mountain, and stick it out when others turned around.

2- Break the dream down into small manageable objectives. Vilane had never climbed a big mountain in his life, before accepting the challenge to climb the highest mountain in the world. Looking at the climb as a whole, the task seemed impossible, even outrageous. But breaking it down into small pieces, and then focusing on finishing each objective, ultimately saw him standing on the summit.

3- Don’t take short cuts. Vilane, a game ranger by trade, decided to take a man walking through the nature reserve on his day off. This person turned out to be the British Consulate General in Swaziland. After spending the day with Vilane, he pitched the idea of climbing Everest and pledged his support to help realise the dream. Sometimes going the extra mile will open unexpected opportunities.

4- Encourage one another. Today Vilane’s enterprise is called Dream Encouragers, and his by line is “Encouraging Africa to dream!” Without the support and encouragement of many people, Vilane openly notes the summit of Everest would not have been attainable. Like the Xhosa saying “Sisonke” –together we can.

5- First attempts don’t always succeed -don’t let it get you down. It took seven years from that day in the game reserve, to actually stepping on the mountain. Big dreams require patience and perseverance.

6- Be encouraged by your successes. Each step higher for Vilane was a moment to celebrate.

And finally:

7- Remember why you are there. Before the summit at the Hillary Step, Vilane was struggling to continue. At this point he drew strength from his dream, to climb Everest as a Black African person. It was not about his need to summit, but rather the soul of the African continent beneath him, willing him to keep on, that saw him through to the summit.

In the end Vilane achieved what seemed to many an impossible mission, for an inexperienced climber to stand on the summit of the world. His story shows us just what greatness lies within each one of us, if only we connect with it and believe enough to dream.

For more info on Sibusiso Vilane, check out his website at www.to-the-top.co.za. Support the Amy Beihl Foundation www.amybeihl.org


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