John Beede – Lead Your Generation
“The greatest leaders of all time have come from the times of greatest turmoil .” John Beede breaks down what it takes to lead the most disciplined, productive and resourceful generation there ever lived: Us.
Did you know that one of your hands is longer than the other one? It’s true, watch this. Underneath your palm, you have a line that goes straight across your hand. Now, please take those two lines, line them up perfectly so you make this fan shape. Now, with that fan shape, please stretch your hands out, roll your hands together, and you’ll see that one of your hands is just barely longer than the other one. Show me the shorter of your two hands, hold it up real high so I can see it. We’re going to give this hand a goal. Look your hand square in the eye. Say this at your hand, “Hand,” say it like you mean it, “Hand, I command you to grow bigger!” Now watch this. Line those two lines up again. Stretch your hands out, roll them together, and look at how that hand grew! Aah!
What you just did was give your hand a very simple goal. You said, “I’m going to make my hand grow.” What’s even cooler is if you do the exact same thing for yourself. You come up with your own list of 25, 50, 100 goals or summits for yourself, and you define success for you. So, how do you discover what your Everest is, your big thing for you? It’s real simple. Take a giant piece of paper, draw three huge circles on it. The first circle, you write down everything you’re talented in. The second circle, you write down everything you’re passionate about. In the final circle, you write down what education you already have, or what education you would be willing to get. And whatever is overlapping in the center, that is your Everest.
So you might ask, “What’s it like to actually climb Mount Everest?” I’d like to take you there now. If you look at the Statue of Liberty, it’s one of the most recognized buildings on the planet, 305 feet tall. Now, if I exit out of this presentation and shrink that image down, as small as I can get it, and then I stack 95.2 of those Statue of Liberty’s on top of each other, that gives us 29,035 feet above sea level, which is the height of Mount Everest. And there are only eight ways to die on Everest. Avalanche, unexpected fall, exposure, pulmonary edema, cerebral edema, dehydration, heart attack, and crevasse fall. If I could just not do those, I’ll be fine, right?
The climb was pretty intense. We keep climbing higher and higher, the climb gets steeper and steeper. Now, the air on Mount Everest is one third of the oxygen that you and I are breathing here. So, my pace was one step for three breaths. I thought, “Man, there’s no way I’m going to make it up to the summit. This is too slow. This is ridiculous.” I’m taking these steps, and I get to a spot where I cannot take my leg out of the ice. I look down, they’re not stuck on anything. What’s going on? Why can’t I move my foot?
Nuru, he’s a local to Nepal, comes over to me and he takes his mitt off, and he knocks twice on my oxygen canister on my back. Normally, it would make a noise like thunk-thunk-thunk, showing that there was oxygen in it, that it was full. He goes, ping, ping, and he says, “Sir, very bad news. You have no air. Maybe we go back? Maybe you die?” And I said, “Not that one!” He says, “Oh, more air up high.” And what he was saying that, previously in the expedition, there had been oxygen bottles that were stashed up higher in case of emergency. He could go get one, and I would stay in place.
So, he disappears off into the Himalayan black sky. There’s not a feeling of loneliness in the world like sitting in the middle of the Himalayan mountains with no one around you at night. I’m looking down on that red suit that I put on, and it starts to turn gray, and then almost black. And I realize what’s happening, was my brain was shutting down. I was actively dying because of the lack of oxygen. Remembering my hero, Sir Edmund Hillary, who said, “It’s not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves,” conquer yourself, John. Conquer yourself, John.
Finally, I see this light coming down towards me, and I’m like, “Please be Nuru, please be Nuru.” And he says, “John, sir, I have air!” And I’m like, “Yes!” And he takes this oxygen bottle off of the regulator, the old one, he takes the new one, screws it in. I take a breath, and as soon as I do, my suit turns from gray to red again. Whoa. My foot pops right out. We start walking. He says, “Ready to climb?” I say, “Yeah. Ready to climb. Let’s do this, absolutely.” So, I start taking these steps, one after the other, three breaths, one step. Conquer yourself, John. Conquer yourself, John.
So, I see this pyramid shadow in the distance. That shadow is Mount Everest being cast dozens of miles into the distance. And that’s when I realized that I was there. I was standing on top of the world. On top of Mount Everest. I’m here now, not to brag about myself or tell my own mountaineering stories. If you leave here and think, “All that guy did was tell his climbing stories,” you’ve missed the point. This is about you, because every person should have his or her own Everest.
See, in life, bad things happen. There are challenges. But do not have a case of excuse-itis where you have this disease that things are too hard, too difficult, or that you’re not good enough for whatever reason. The mountains will never lower themselves to your level but you must rise up to the demands presented to you by the climb. The problems of the world are not going to get easier. You must rise up, bring out that leader within, and rise up to the demands presented to you by the climb. The greatest leaders of all time have come from the times of greatest turmoil. The greater the problem, the greater the opportunity for leaders like you to step up. We are a generation that is disciplined. We are a generation that is productive. We are a generation that is fighting to fix the mess that was given to us. We are a generation that believes that this planet will not move forward unless we embrace kindness, compassion, and respect for all of life. It is a choice that you will make whether or not you will let that leader out. Will you?