The expectations are high: think quickly, but with discernment. Process gobs of information, but don’t become buried in the depth and breadth of possibility. Adapt and be agile, but develop expertise. Somewhere along the way the expectation of being human takes a secondary position. The possibility of Adventure in Everything seems, well, impossible.

“Slow down. Breathe. Take your time. We have all day…and after today we have six more days.” It was late in the afternoon, and I was coaching a guest through a technical section of our ascent.

A few weeks ago, I was leading seven climbers on an expedition to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. Standing at 19,341 feet, Mt. Kilimanjaro is a challenging endeavor that demands your full presence – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.


A Tanzanian porter, essential to the success and well-being of our expedition, walked by carrying a heavy load. With a beaming smile, the porter sincerely looked in the eyes of my client and said: “Pole Pole.” Pole Pole (pronounced Po-lay Po-lay) is Swahili for slowly, gently, or softly, and is shared daily as the wisdom for a successful ascent of the mountain. Pole Pole.

Our team summited Kilimanjaro under clear and calm skies. The ascent, while beautiful and challenging, went off without a hitch technically: we had a strong team and perfect conditions.


At our last camp on our descent off the mountain, we gathered for a final celebration dinner before heading back to town, back to cell phones, back to email and internet, work and family demands. Pole Pole was the topic of discussion. The group was in alignment: we run our lives at a sprint, reacting and responding to a seemingly never-ending stream of demands and information. Pole Pole. We wanted to take Pole Pole home with us.

Pole Pole was a gift: a gift of respite, rejuvenation, a feeling of space that gave us physical and emotional peace. The gift of time and presence that we all felt was missing in our full-engagement, 24/7, all-hands-on-deck lives at home. Pole Pole created an opportunity for laughter, camaraderie, and appreciation.


Pole Pole. It is the pause at dinner when you share your appreciations for the day. The moments you intentionally set aside your agenda and engage with a child fully, at their speed. Pausing to savor and really taste your coffee. Taking a full breath and appreciating the moment for what it is, not what it could be. Living and being present to those around you – to that moment.

Pole Pole. It’s not easy to integrate Pole Pole into our lives. But, the rewards are rich and wonderful. Give yourself, and those around you, the gift of Pole Pole. Practice it today, this hour, this evening. Shift the expectations toward being Human.

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My life revolves around adventure. It is my livelihood. Adventure in the classic sense of scaling high mountains in remote regions of the world and adventure in the mindful sense of living each day, each project, and in each relationship with intention, focus, and humor.

Shifting my focus from physical adventure to mindful adventure has not been easy. In fact, it is the hardest thing I have ever attempted. Bringing adventure into the core being of my life has been fraught with challenge and learning. The reward though is a level of engagement and awareness that is deeply satisfying and rewarding.


Ten years ago, it was a different story. I found myself standing on top of one of the highest mountains in the world – an experience that my colleagues, friends, and family looked at with awe and wonder. Yet that day I felt neither. I actually felt very little emotionally – I felt detached and indifferent to an experience that was an ultimate lifetime goal to others. I realized this numbness was permeating most aspects of my life.

I had lost touch with the true spirit of adventure, the spirit that infuses vitality and radiance into our lives.

Adventure is the willingness to commit to an uncertain outcome.

At the core, adventure is the willingness to commit to an uncertain outcome with an open heart and a willingness to learn and engage. It is the ability to take a leap into the unknown with mindfulness and grace. Framed this way, opportunity for adventure presents itself to us everyday.

Adventure is made up of five elements.

Adventure is high endeavor. It is innovation. It is courage. It is possibility. It is the ability to think big and think bigger about who you are, how you live, and what you can do in the world.

Adventure is total commitment. It is the spirit of willingness to embrace challenge and move toward success. It is the acknowledgement that total commitment does not mean blind faith or brazen disregard, but it is confidence and belief in the face of challenge.

Adventure has an uncertain outcome. A predetermined outcome is not an adventure but a packaged experience or amusement ride. Life is uncertain – get comfortable with it! It is the acknowledgement that there will be adversity and unease, but that an uncertain outcome is a gift of possibility.

Adventure is tolerance for adversity. It is our ability to be resilient in the face of challenge. Our willingness to laugh, use humor, and graceful during difficult situations. The opportunity we each face to take a step back and acknowledge the sometimes absurd aspects of being human, embrace it, and continue on.

Adventure is great companionship. While our lives can sometimes feel solitary, we can’t do it alone. It takes a team to support living in commitment, joy, generosity, and gratitude.

We can live in a state of adventure everyday.

We can live in a state of adventure everyday in every aspect of our lives. Living in adventure brings a sense of vitality, intensity, and energy into all of our relationships and endeavors.

Adventure is not reserved for the extreme athlete or the daredevil. It is an attitude and lifestyle choice. It is an expression of your heart’s intention and passion for life.

Like any practice (yoga, meditation, soccer, you name it!), adventure is a practice too. I have found the greatest success and the most meaning in my life by surrounding myself with family, friends, and colleagues that support adventure. Adventure is work – but the pay-off is well worth the commitment. Your summits await.

Curious about how the Five Elements of Adventure work? Check out the book Adventure in Everything – How the Five Elements of Adventure Create a Life of Authenticity, Purpose, and Inspiration.

Please do this for me.

More people will get this information if you do two things:

1. Write a quick comment or question below. I LOVE seeing those and I’ll write back.

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Matt Walker’s latest piece for Fast Company takes a closer look at defining our own summit experiences, falling forward, and managing our success. Read more at: The Competition is Irrelevant – Fast Company – by Matt Walker

“Watch me!” I yelled down to my belayer as I stepped out for the umpteenth time on dime thin edges for my feet and razor sharp incuts for my fingers. I had a mantra as I began the crux of the climb: focus on the goal, soft eyes, full breath, and commit to each move. I was climbing above my limit. And I was falling; a lot! “Argghh!” The sound of falling escapes my lips and I descend with gravity twenty-five feet to a soft catch on the rope. Another fall, and a little bit of new terrain experienced. I was “working” the climb – learning it bit by bit and teaching myself how to climb harder, faster, and smoother. It wasn’t elegant or beautiful – it was work.

The difficulty scale in rock climbing is open ended – there is no hardest climb in the world or a hard stop to the difficulty, only the hardest climb at the moment. Climbers, like leaders, are always pushing their limits and testing new ideas; open to possibility. How is it that elite performers stay sharp? Pressure and planning: elite performers engage themselves fully emotionally.

Read more at: The Competition is Irrelevant – Fast Company – by Matt Walker