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What A Trek Up To Tiger’s Nest, Paro Taught Me About My Career!

Following are some of the career lessons which the gorgeous mountains wanted me to mull over

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Climbing mountains have known to have a therapeutic effect on the human body and the soul. Mountains often represent the microcosm of life and the journey of an individual through his life. I had the privilege of recently trekking up the toughest 160 floors in my life, to pay homage to Guru Padmasambhava in Tiger’s Nest, Paro, Bhutan.

TIger’s Nest is a small monastery hung on a cliff overlooking a spectacular valley. It is one of the most majestic tourist attractions in this part of the world. The legend goes that Guru Padmasambhava flew on the back of a tigress, hence the name, to tame the local devil. He then meditated at one of the caves for many years and so the place became holy. He has been credited to have brought Buddhism to Bhutan.

Following are some of the career lessons which the gorgeous mountains wanted me to mull over,

#1. The journey is worth more than the destination!
The beauty of Tiger’s Nest is the journey till the summit, comprising the breathtaking views, the ad-hoc difficulties encountered while trekking up, the internal resilience required to make it to the apex. While the visit to the set of 8 temples is rewarding, the reward is amplified due to the quality of the journey undertaken to get there.

A corporate career is rarely about the title or the compensation at the end of a three decade long career. It is often about the choices made to get there, undertaking difficult but enriching assignments, working with supportive colleagues and mentors, building necessary capabilities and garnering requisite experiences. It is a gamut of these aspects that make the end state worth it.  

#2. Hard work and preparation, in the right amount, is the key!
It is necessary to be in the appropriate physical condition before commencing on a difficult trek. Moderate regular physical activity, suitable diet before the trek and a well rested body are essential before embarking on the journey. It is also necessary to read up on the details of the trek to be mentally prepared for what is in store ahead.

The right amount of preparation is the key in any corporate engagement. The critical word is ‘right’ and not ‘relentless’. You do not want to be underprepared at any part of the journey but you do not want to be overburdened and exhausted before the assignment has even begun. A burnout is rarely desirable at any stage of your corporate career.

#3. You are only competing with yourself!
While you are trekking up Tiger’s Nest, you will see tourists pursuing the journey at their own pace without worrying about time taken by them or their neighbour. In fact, you will notice random tourists helping each other with food, water or a helping hand over a difficult ridge. You will notice that people rarely post their ‘time to ascend’ on social media too as there is no point posting given it is not a competition.

This behaviour should be symptomatic about life in general as every individual is only competing with himself or herself during a three decade long career. Career movements and salaries of neighbouring colleagues should rarely matter. In fact, what matters is lending them a helping hand at times. It is bound to come back in a good way.

#4. Don’t give up, take a break but don’t give up!
The trek equivalent of 160 floors to 10,000 feet above sea level amidst occasional showers, low single digit temperatures and treacherous pathways can be difficult for the fittest of people. There are many tourists who give up the trek midway and return to base camp as they are are convinced they won’t be able to pursue the road ahead. I feel it is a ‘state of mind’ that forces people to quit. Had they rested for a few minutes and gone ahead, they wouldn’t have missed out on the fantastic journey.

Similarly, in a corporate career, during a difficult business environment, the words ‘I quit’ should be the last ones said or actually not said at all. Often, a short break to divert the inner trappings of the mind can be enough to recharge a person for the difficult but rewarding journey ahead.

#5. Expect the unexpected to happen!
A trek up till Tiger’s Nest is often difficult for the fittest of people and can rarely be planned on an excel sheet. There are aspects that are bound to go wrong. An ad-hoc shower, a slippery and potentially dangerous trail, physical fatigue, a mule heading down towards you with passion, losing your way are some of the unexpected events that can happen while ascending or descending Tiger’s Nest. Rather than fretting over these and losing your mind, it is essential to calmly overcome these mini-obstacles.

In a professional career, despite the best of intentions and planning, unexpected things do and often happen. A change in boss, fluctuating company fortunes, an unreasonable client, an irate junior, a key member of the team quitting are events that should be expected in day-to-day business and carefully handled without losing one’s cool.

#6. Appreciate the power of silence!
Besides the fatigue and the breathtaking views that accompany you as you trek up the mountain, the one thing that is truly appreciative is the power of silence. The silence is only natural as Tiger’s Nest owes its existence to a Guru who visited the place to meditate and achieve his inner objectives. Like they keep saying in the Kung Fu Panda series, silence can lead to ‘inner peace’.

In our daily lives which are flooded with social media distractions, fake news, artificial political associations, the pressure of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and barrage of office politics, the power of silence and meditation can be therapeutic for the mind and the soul besides drastically improving the quality of one’s life.

#7. You are not the centre of the universe!
A trek up equivalent to 160 floors flanked by a breathtaking valley, spectacular views of the fog making the temples visible and hidden at the same time along with monasteries resting on a treacherous cliff 10,000 feet above the sea level can be humbling for any human being no matter his or her personal achievements. The grandeur of nature amidst the calmness and serene environment is bound to make any person deeply humble and respectful.

In case of individuals holding the deep belief that the world is centred around them, the natural majesty is bound to make everyone think twice about the inflated value attributed to his or her professional importance.

#8. Conquer your fears!

The trek to the top of the hill is treacherous and difficult. Besides the high altitude and the physical difficulty involved, the path uphill can be slippery and dangerous during certain times of the year. Despite this, you will see millions of tourists every year conquer their fears and make it to the site of the holy pilgrimage to get a view of the breathtaking monastery.

A long career is a combination of undertaking roles and assignments that are difficult, outside your comfort zone and downright risky. Besides the difficulty of the unknown, they also involve conquering your internal demons to take up something that can be enriching and rewarding in the future.

In conclusion, a mountain trek teaches you many things that are representative about life. The physical and mental exercise results in a deep understanding of an all encompassing nature and the humility we all feel at the sight of these gorgeous creations. I strongly recommend a trek every year to nourish the soul and bring out the necessary perspective in every person’s life.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Sandeep Das

The author, Sandeep Das, is an MBA from IIM Bangalore, a management consultant, the author of “Yours Sarcastically” and a columnist.

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