To celebrate our 15th birthday we’re sharing inspiring stories from our amazing community of Premium members. We’re also giving you the gift of $50 off Premium membership until Monday 30 November. Yep, you read that correctly! Join Business Chicks and meet new people, learn new things and discover what’s possible for you for less than $3 a week!
Ever heard of that saying, “reach for the moon and even if you fall short, you’ll land amongst the stars”? Well, I used to follow a modified version of this. I’d reach for the stars. And I used to think that was awesome. But Business Chicks changed that.
It all started when a friend emailed me after returning from an inspiring Business Chicks breakfast. The email was titled, “Idea for our 30th birthdays”. I opened the email expecting to see plans for cocktails in Thailand or a fancy day spa weekend. Instead, I saw “Kilimanjaro” and “raise $10,000”.
There was only one appropriate response in my mind. I wrote back, “I think you sent this email to me by mistake.”
I’d never trekked before, I’d never camped before, and I certainly didn’t think I had the skill to raise $10,000. I almost didn’t even reach for the stars. But my friend saw in me something that I hadn’t seen in myself. With a bit of gentle encouragement, and a lot of preparation, I found myself heading to Kilimanjaro with 15 other Business Chicks from across Australia, who had all raised at least $10,000 for Kids Helpline – an incredible achievement even before we had begun.
Given I had never trekked or camped before, I set myself the goal to reach Gilman’s point – one of three official summit points on Mount Kilimanjaro, and an impressive 5681 metres above sea level. The official ‘highest’ point on Kilimanjaro is Uhuru peak, another 90 minute walk from Gilman’s, at 5895m, but I told myself I would be ‘over the moon’ if I reached Gilmans. There I went again, reaching for stars but not daring to reach for the moon.
Those five days leading up to summit night were indescribable. I met the most incredible women. We bonded so quickly, in a way you can only do when you’re walking for six hours a day and sharing a squat toilet.
On summit night, things took a turn for the worse. I had succumbed to altitude sickness. I couldn’t keep down any food or drink and I could barely walk. Summit night involves an eight hour trek mostly in darkness at a painstakingly slow speed to reach Uhuru Point, then another six hours to descend to a suitable camp for the next night. I couldn’t imagine reaching Gilmans, let alone the summit. But with the support of the others, I tried.
Altitude is a funny thing. It messes with your brain and strips away your capacity to think clearly. As an example, I had packed snacks in my jacket to keep them from freezing, but when the time came to eat them a few hours later, I couldn’t find them and had to borrow food from others (once again, thank goodness I was surrounded by amazing generous women). When I reached Gilman’s Peak, altitude again stripped away my ability to reason. All I could think was, “I’ve made it and I’m going down”.
I repeated this to myself over and over again. My ability to think clearly had been stripped away by altitude, and as much as my non altitude self would have loved to reach Uhuru Point, I couldn’t even imagine taking one more step to try. I’d set myself the goal of the stars, and the moon became unattainable. But then, as I sat at Gilman’s Peak crying my eyes out, I heard other voices beyond my own: “You can do it”, “You’ve got this”, “Just keep going”. So I did.
Because of the beautiful Business Chicks around me, I made it to the highest summit, Uhuru Point.
Uhuru means freedom in Swahili. Because of Business Chicks, I live my life with incredible freedom, knowing that nothing is impossible. I know I have the capacity to reach even the most seemingly unattainable goals or overcome the deepest of challenges, because I’ve done it before.
It’s now nearly ten years since that climb, and a group of us Business Chicks still go away together every year. We may have swapped walking for wine, but one thing stays the same, we still support each other with our moonshots and push each other to keep reaching.
So I encourage everyone, never stop reaching for the moon. If you surround yourself with stars, you will get there.
Sarah French is a Business Chicks Premium member and strategic sales leader who is deeply passionate about making a positive lasting difference in all aspects of her life – at work, with friends and with her family.