Do you remember the Ha Ling peak? It was an exquisite hike on a perfect day and I was sure I could add this to my list of things I’d accomplished that year.

I made my way up 700 metres, with only 64 more to go. An easy task you’d say. What’s the last 64 metres when I’d just hiked up 700? However, as you could agree, things rarely go as we expect.

I remember how I was paralyzed, clinging to a rock, while people passed me by. I looked up at the rocky summit and down at the valley. Neither helped my case to move any further. I clung to it for dear life, paralyzed by my rigid determination in my inability to summit the mountain. There I stood, grasped by my own fear. While I waited for my boyfriend to hike up the summit, I reflected on what had just happened. I wasn’t shocked at my inability to get to the top. Vanity projects rarely interest me. What intrigued me is that I was a living example of the age old adage — ‘you will get what you set your mind to’. Only in this case, I was determined I’d fail, so failure it was.

While I stood there, bracing myself against the constant wind, I looked at the path that lay behind us. Had I really come all the way up without realizing that I was actually climbing a mountain? There was no fear of heights, no tiredness up until now. Why was that? Was it because the trees covered up the path only to allow a few glimpses of the vistas every couple hundred metres? Maybe those trees were helping me focus on the path ahead instead of standing there dumbfounded by how far I’d climbed.

Was it the belief that I was surely going to succeed that pushed me past points where my legs gave up and yet I tread on willingly to the top?

Or was it that I had broken the 8 kilometres to the top into thousands of tiny steps, so the task ahead did not seem insurmountable.

I did climb a mountain (at least the first 700 metres). Maybe due to all three reasons I mentioned above. Undeterred focus, unshakable belief in my success ahead and a careful breakdown of the unimaginable and the unconquerable.

In that moment I realized, as my boyfriend waved at me from the top, that I’d lost my focus, my belief and my ability to breakdown tough problems into smaller, achievable bits. And that was the difference between my silly boy, perched at the top, waving at me versus my cold bum stuck waiting at that rock.

Engineer with a twist.