Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro

The mountain is hikeable at just over 19,000 feet; however, it takes seven days and is not straight up. Sometimes you descend before you can go back up, which is the best way to approach your goal: the summit.

This is just one of the similarities that hiking shares with life and investing. Others include knowing the level of risk you’re willing to accept; having guides to help you along the way; and doing your research so you’re prepared before starting your journey. Also, the descents are always more painful than the climbs.

Doing My Research

I have always enjoyed many forms of hiking. It is fun and demanding, and the more I accomplished, the more I wanted to challenge myself. More challenge typically means adding elevation, which started me down the rabbit hole of research.

In Texas, hiking research involves a trip to Big Bend National Park to climb Emory Peak, or Guadalupe National Park to ascend the highest peak in Texas. Preparing myself meant finding higher elevations, which is hard to do in San Antonio, but at least I was able to take long walks. Through training, I was able to build up my endurance for the challenge of the climb.

As with hiking, life and investing also require endurance – “pole pole.” You won’t reach your goals in just a few days, no matter how excited you are or how you push yourself. You need to be patient, because depending on the terrain, sometimes you have to take a step back for every two steps forward.

How Much Risk Is Too Much?

The more I hiked, the more interested I became in finding challenging climbs that did not require mountaineering skills. Kilimanjaro fit the bill.

Even though it’s over 19,000 feet, you can still hike it because of its proximity to the equator, despite the snow and ice at the top. There are porters along the way to help the climbers, but oxygen and special climbing equipment are not needed. As a result of my research, I determined mountaineering would be too much risk for me.

Investors need to identify their risk tolerance. To achieve big returns, an investor often has to take big risks. How much of your wealth are you willing to risk? Is it a risk that is going to keep you up at night, or can you sleep soundly with that level of risk? Never invest in something because others are investing. Analysis and facts help us make good decisions in life and in investing. Always do the necessary work to make educated decisions.

Not a Straight Shot

On Kilimanjaro, the base camp where we started was around 8,000 feet. The first day, we hiked up to 10,000 feet. Then we descended to 9,000 feet, before finishing at 11,000 feet. That’s a net gain of 1,000 feet, but we covered 2,000 feet. The following day, we climbed down to 10,000 feet, before finishing at 12,000 feet.

There were a lot of ups and downs, just like life and the stock market. Over the long term, you are working toward a goal. At times, you take two steps forward and one step back – it is rarely just a straight shot up to the summit. You don’t start at elevation 0 and – boom – 19,000 feet later, you are at the top. There is a lot of coming back before you go forward on the mountain, just like in life and the market. That is normal.

Careful planning, research, and expert advice will increase your chances of success in any endeavor you undertake.  Life is a journey, and sometimes pole pole is the best strategy for success.


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