Mount Kilimanjaro talked to me

Storytelling is one of my favourite areas of work as a practioner as well much as a facilitator. Last month we gathered a bunch of improvisers from Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium (with Nathalie from Inspinazie) and even Canada. Our intention was to start an international collaboration network around applied improvisation. No need to say this first meeting was full of expectations. Our right brain was overloaded with information. We used storytelling to explore our motivations, get to know each others…and to use our right brain!
I am glad to share you the result of that part of the day.
When I married in 2001 I planned a surprise trip to Tanzania. My wife and I like to hike so I organized a one week trail up to the mytical « Kilimandjaro » mountain. A quite unusual honeymoon I confess…


The roof of Africa.

A spectacular triangular volcanic shape with its eternal white snowcap on top.

A nearly holy mountain for local Massai population.

A highly touristical destination where the only african people are guides and carriers.

Hiking on the top of Kilimanjaro is not a technical issue.

The tricky point is the altitude sickness.

Your metabolism can suffer from the lack of oxygen and pressure differences caused by a rapid rising of altitude: several thousand meters in only a few days. Headache, nauseas, loss of appetite, bad sleep. Thoses symptoms can be a reason to give up. You don’t joke with altitude sickness.

Each days’ scenery was different: luxurious rainforst on day one. Cactus on day two. stones on day three.

I had insomnia the two first nights. « Typical » said our guide.

The third day I started to have the symptoms of altitude sickness. I minimized and played the tough guy.

During the fourth night, things got worse. I had nauseas. I got out of my tent. half dizzy. looking for some water….that was actually inside my tent.

Keep breathing

I looked up at the brightly starred sky. The moon was shining.

I felt something in my back. Turned around

And I got hit by a flash of light.

Like a second moon


The big snowed cap of Kilimanjaro was reflecting the moonlight.

A massive white top was closer than ever.

Two days to go.

And also farther than ever.

I was feeling like shit.

Tomorrow could mean the end of my trip.

I felt it

I felt bad

and not only for medical reason.

This big white eyed summit of snow was looking at me

Talking to me in the oppresive silence of the night

The god of the Massai was looking at me.

Smartass occidental tourist who believes in no god

And now great Kilimanjaro was in front of me.

All at once I felt so little

I kneeled

and I begged for some kind of foregiveness. for being so arrogant, so hurried, so confident…

I returned to my tent and felt asleep immediately. The next morning my symptoms were gone.

I would walk again. Eat. Sleep. I couldn’t believe it. I was feeling so thankfull. Two days later we reached the top of Kilimanjaro.

So let me tell you that I learned from that experience.

When you want to do something ambitious and big don’t forget to « Take your time »

Pacing and rushing only leads to failure.

One step at a time

Don’t rush things.

…So ended my storytelling exercice. The enthousiasm of my improv friends was very strong. So was mine.
Link a strong, personal issue to a business context was as unexpected as powerful.

« The more you are personal in a storytelling exercice the more power you trigger to others » concluded our facilitator of the day. A singular story can truly move other people.
« I hope to read that one day on your blog Martin. It is a beautiful story ». Check!
And so we finished our day. So ended our first kick off meeting on the road to create a european network of applied improvisers.

The story helped us to feel OK about having too many items at the agenda.

The frustration of « having sooooo many ideas and so little time to achieve our goals » was gone.
One step at a time

Pole pole they say in Africa.

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