Notes from Everest, Ep. 2: The Secret Sauce

This article is part of a five-article series, inspired by my trip to the Mt. Everest Base Camp. This episode explores what I believe is the most important trait of any team’s members, the “secret sauce” of a successful team: humility.

Winning or losing is affected by the same thing.

There is an inevitable consequence when you put together a group of headstrong and opinionated individuals: a clash of personalities. Make a team composed of numerous Type As live together for two weeks and you’re supposedly courting disaster.

I believe that this clash happens because the individuals are watching out for themselves, their own selfish interests. In some cases, this isn’t necessarily wrong, even justifiable. But it sure doesn’t make for a strong team when each member cares for no one else but himself or herself.

We see this all the time in team sports. There’s the basketball team with a starting five made up of the game’s biggest names, each one an MVP contender in his own right – but failing to make the Playoffs. Then there’s the football squad full of also-rans and has-beens – but wins the league title by a mile.

You could win – or lose – simply by having team members with right (or wrong) approach to humility.

I saw and experienced this in spades during our trek.

A lesson in humility.

When it comes to hikes, I like going fast and light. Because of this, I’m usually at the front of the pack. During this trip, our team leader moved me down to the middle and I was frequently reminded to go slow, and to never overtake the pace-setters in front. The pace were, at times, glacial and my legs were itching to move.

However, I also knew that this was for my own good. My team members knew I was highly susceptible to altitude sickness. By going fast and gaining elevation too quickly, I would have put myself at risk. Never mind going first, I would have gone home first, too.

It was the same with other team members. We had one who insisted he wasn’t hungry, but we more or less made him finish his food each night. Another was used to taking nightly showers, but we reminded him of its dangers in subzero temperatures.

In each case, it was one person keeping another person in check (or rather, keeping the other person’s ego in check). It wasn’t about exercising authority or power; it was done out of care and worry for the other person.

But no amount of reminding or ego-checking would work if the other person wasn’t receptive to it. This is where humility comes in.

Humility is not about bowing down to someone in a position of leadership. Rather, it is about understanding and then accepting that the other person only has the best of interests for you. That s/he is watching out for you and your well-being.

Humility is about ceding control, of knowing that not everything is in our hands. The mountain doesn’t pick who gets ill or injured; it happens, and the person simply must adjust.

Humility is about knowing when to nod with finality and say, “Alright, it’s what’s best” – even if it means your trip is cut short, and you’re taking a one-way helicopter ride down.

Most of all, this trip taught me that humility is about knowing that in order to lead – to set a good example to others and make the team much better – one must first learn to follow, and march in step together no matter the pace.

My hiking team is Trail Adventours, and our team members are: Guido Sarreal (leader), Angie Tan, Benedict Bautista, Eirene Bautista, Cathy Hermogenes (assistant leader), EJ Angeles, Geru Gotico, Isaac de Leon, Joaquin Laurel, JP Yu, Jun Diaz, Katho Calma, Serge Divino, and myself.

Featured image: our team about to enter the Tengboche valley.

For photos and other stories of the trip, please visit my Instagram account, jsncruz.

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