About 15 years ago I had the opportunity to spend most of the summer in The Philippines. It was my first time out of the country and a wonderful life changing and fulfilling experience. I was with a group of 10 people and each day we traveled to a new place to serve in a new way. One day we would be in the heart of Manilla working with homeless boys, the next day outside the city working with small school children and the next day on a small island helping to build a fish pond for college students who were in need of a source of protein.
There was one part of the trip I was not looking forward to, a hike, through the jungle to a remote mountain village. We planned to spend a few days in this village and I knew I would be pushed far outside of my comfort zone. As I now reflect on this portion of that journey I am able to see how critical it is that we travel with people who will advance us on our journeys in life. Looking back I am able to identify four types of people that I witnessed on that hike in the Philippines as well as what I witness in my own personal journey.
On many of our journeys we are exposed to Tourists who are usually excitable people but they don’t last long on the journey. Their approach is to get started with enthusiasm, they are energized by the newness and excitement of what lies ahead but not long into journey, after taking a lot of pictures, they find a reason to abandon the journey and head in another direction. If I am being honest, that was me on the hike in the jungle; “well this is different, how many people can say they have been to the jungle, let me get some photos… well, good, I am ready to go home!” Tourists can help you get going but don’t be surprised when they bail on you. Appreciate the excitement they bring, even if it is brief, and then you must keep going.
As you continue your journey you may notice at some point that people start to stand out as Campers. Campers are willing to work hard but they hit a point where they decide “this is good enough” and they are ready to settle at that point. Our group had that moment in our hike though the jungle that day. We were halfway up the mountain, covered in mud, exhausted, with limited water and food and no shelter but as a group we were ready to stop, we were thinking “this is good enough, this will do, I mean look how far we have come”! There is no doubt on your own personal journey in life you will encounter people who become Campers. Value you them for coming this far on the journey, recognize that you may need to stop and rest with them, but if your mission and purpose is still out in front of you then you need to press on and you may have to leave some Campers behind.
As you move forward you will want to make sure that at this stage in your journey, as you work through the really difficult things, that you have a core group of Climbers. Climbers are the people who have their eyes on the final destination yet at the same time they understand the value in the journey. The Climbers are going to do whatever it takes to keep moving safely. It took a lot of encouragement for my group to become Climbers on that day!
But the people that I think we most often over-look on our journey are the Sherpas, the people who’s sole (soul) purpose is to help you reach your goal. Sherpas do not receive credit for their part of the journey but the journey doesn’t happen without them. Whether you are climbing Mount Everest, on a hike though the jungle in the The Philippines or on a new career path we all need good Sherpas. Your Sherpas will look out for your safety, they will help you carry the load and they will help you find the way when the way isn’t clear, but they do it all with the purpose of serving you. In my opinion Sherpas embody characteristics of leadership that are far too rare. On my hike in the jungle my Sherpa emerged when we were about halfway up the mountain and ready to stop, he was a 4 year old boy, who came running down the mountain to carry my backpack. I’ll share more at another time about his influence on me that day.
The reality is that as we seek to move forward in our lives and to live out our influence we are going to find ourselves on difficult journeys where the path is sometime treacherous and unclear. Who you travel with really does matters because they will influence your journey. Do not be discouraged when people who you thought were in it for the long haul turn out to be Tourist or Campers. Instead, be grateful for their role in your journey. Shift your focus to your fellow Climbers and celebrate that you do have people on your journey who are with you every step of the way. And lastly, how will show gratitude to your Sherpas, those people on your journey who look out for you, who help carry the load and who help you find your way. Sherpas are very rare.
Who are your traveling with? Who are your Sherpas? And who can you be a Sherpa to?