The Secret Of My Success: Rebecca Stephens

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Indy Lifestyle Online
In 1993, Rebecca Stephens became the first British woman to climb Mount Everest. She is now a motivational speaker, writer and expedition leader.

Quitting my job as a journalist at the Financial Times to climb mountains was a leap in the dark to say the least. It was a very difficult decision for me because I'd always been in regular employment and I had no idea how I was going to live when I got back. I suppose I'm quite conservative by nature.

At university, I read agriculture. When I came out, I was a sort of jack- of-all-trades, and journalism was a natural place for someone who hadn't a clue what they wanted to do.

I think mountaineering was always latent in me. I'd skied and I loved the mountain landscape, but it wasn't until Roger Mear, the climber, suggested I write a series of articles on an Anglo-American expedition to Everest in 1989 that it became a real passion. To find out why climbers feel the need to climb, I climbed 23,000 feet on that trip and fell in love with the history and romance of the mountain.

Four years later, I went to Everest as a climber. I knew that my chances of reaching the summit weren't great - we missed two opportunities and I felt phenomenal frustration and disappointment. The third chance came when the weather forecast was wrong. I discussed the risks with the Sherpas and other team members for an hour and then decided I just had to go for it.

Even with oxygen, it's very hard work. When you finally reach the summit, you have this fear flooding through you that you've only just got enough hours of daylight left to get down, but the joy, just momentarily, is explosive. I'll never forget it.

The advice I give to would-be climbers is to follow your heart. Ultimately, it's not what your teachers or parents want, it's the voice you have inside that counts. When I first came back from Everest, I used to say that it hadn't changed me because I had the same car and friends. Now I know it has.

Taking the risk of leaving a job once has made it easier for me to do it again. I'm not fearless by any means, but I love that expression, "Feel the fear and do it anyway". Without taking chances in life you achieve very little. Everest expanded my horizons. I consider myself more at peace with who I am and what I want from life. That's not to say that the journey is in any way complete. In many ways it's only just begun.