Anybody can do (most) anything they want to in this life. I believe this with all my heart. The art of the possible. The human potential. The nineteenth century novelist George Eliot wrote, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been”. Most people reach a point in life where they feel compelled to do more and be more. Perhaps they have redefined what is meaningful in life and begin investing their time in things that matter. Perhaps they realize they have been “stuck in a rut” far too long and finally choose to do something about it. Perhaps they reach a milestone birthday or a personal setback or tragedy, and decide to pursue a grand ambition.

After I summited Everest I came home to people with comments such as “Congratulations, that’s amazing, but I could never do Everest or what you’ve done”. I would say something like, “Gee thanks, but you really could achieve your own Everest, whatever that might be”. I might comment that Everest is something I did, but not who I am. I’d ask them about their deepest dreams, something maybe others would not know, and what might be stopping them from going for them. So this drew me to tell my story in the first book, Climbing Your Personal Everest, and help provide some answers as to how I got there (and back) and the experiences and learnings along the way.

Shortly after publishing the first book, I got a job offer to return to Asia Pacific and move to Singapore to head up one of our regional functions in a challenging role in an even more challenging environment. We’ve got to see parts of the world we never thought possible and to try to make small differences in people’s lives in places like Indonesia, Tibet, and Myanmar. Along the way, we’ve both enjoyed the experience of living and working abroad, but also imagining and planning for our own inevitable longer-term transition from this professional, personal and geographic phase of our lives. When I say I’m on the journey with you and share your own fears and worries, excitement and dreams and struggle every day to be a better husband, father, executive, global citizen and person – you can believe me.

After the first book, I became fascinated by other people’s stories, and trying to understand the magic moment when they decided they wanted to make the change and their own journeys of hope and heartbreak. How did they manage their transition? What secrets could I learn? I can honestly say I still don’t have all the answers (and never trust someone who says they do). I tried to explore how others went about the process for metamorphosis and transformation as we walk, jog, and run towards the finish line we all face. These subjects are a key part of a forthcoming follow-up book early next year.

My own life has maybe gone somewhat like yours. I went to school, got married, had kids, bought a house, moved around, saved some money and along the way lost friends, loves and – at times – hope for a better future. I was, and still are, confronting self-confidence and self-determination fighting self-doubt. If you’re at all like me, you’ve had a voice in your head nagging that whatever you’ve done, whatever successes you’ve achieved, – it’s not enough. Maybe you’re aware of the hour of your life; that you’re on the ‘back-nine’; the stark reality is that you and I only have so much time left to pursue our unrealized dreams.

We are all familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We know that when the needs for safety and for physiological well-being are satisfied, the next class of needs for love, affection and belongingness can emerge. Maslow says that people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. This involves both giving and receiving love, affection and the sense of belonging.

When the first three classes of needs are satisfied, the needs for esteem can become dominant. These involve needs for both self-esteem and for the esteem a person gets from others. Humans have a need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others. When these needs are satisfied, the person feels self-confident and valuable as a person in the world.

When all of the foregoing needs are satisfied, then and only then are the needs for self-actualization activated. Maslow describes self-actualization as a “person’s need to be and do that which the person was born to do. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write.” Restated, it is “what a man/woman can be must be”. These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization. For many this comes about in trying to be an ideal parent, or in athletics or artistry or inventing or entrepreneurship.

Much later in life, after going through his own experiences, Maslow introduced the concept of “self–transcendence” – defined as “full spiritual awakening or liberation from egocentricity”, along with the notions of “peak experiences” and “plateau living”. He also defined it as selflessness and in giving of oneself to a higher goal in altruism and spirituality. Much earlier, Buddha and Buddhism taught and documented the concept of “Enlightenment”, which actually has several meanings depending on the branch, practice and interpretation. I thought maybe standing on top of the highest point on our planet was equal to self-transcendence or enlightenment, which is of course both foolish and wrong. It wasn’t until much later, after descending from the mountain, both literally and figuratively, that I understand that the reasons we are put on this planet are both unknown to us and also difficult to understand and always shifting.

The best-selling book, When Breath Becomes Air, is a powerful look at a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis through the eyes of a neurosurgeon. When Paul Kalanithi is given his diagnosis he is forced to see this disease, and the process of being sick, as a patient rather than a doctor – the result of his experience is not just a look at what living is and how it works from a scientific perspective, but the ins and outs of what makes life matter. When your own death is imminent, you might just then realize that you have to really explore the meaning of life (no, it’s not “42”). He only had 12-18 months to live, while most of us reading this believe and hope that we have many decades left to live and making something of our short existence.

We might know in our rational part of our brain that things don’t always go as planned and indeed, we are all going to die sometime. We, and only we, are largely in control of our lives and we have to find kindness and generosity and the beauty around us, even during the darkest times. We have to love deeply and spiritually and live in the present. And importantly, we have to find what we love, and do what we love, – what’s important to us – and have our actions aligned with our priorities, our passion, to find meaning and purpose while constantly reassessing our path and progress.

We live in a constantly changing society. The normal that we knew is becoming unhinged. We are entering a time of great uncertainty. The dissolution of the known old world order. The UK Brexit votes, and the US Presidential election of 2016 revealed the deep, dark divide that the US, Europe and the world are facing in the coming years including economic disparity; environmental and climate disasters; endless wars and resulting refugees leading to xenophobia; free trade issues; privacy and security breaches; gender bias, racism, and bigotry.

In my own technology industry, we are facing commoditization, consolidation, “cloudification”, the move to virtual solutions and increasing competition in all facets of the business. We’re seeing the massive shift from hardware to software; from fixed to wireless including 5G, and increasing pressure on margins decreasing the ability of firms to invest properly in the next generation of products and innovation; thus leading to a vicious potential circle of disinvestment and cost-cutting. Moore’s Law has become exponential; capacity drastically increases to keep up with increasing consumer and enterprise demand for high-bandwidth secure services, at the same time that people and companies are less willing to pay for value. New business models lead to new partner eco-systems and “co-opetition”; leading old-world “Goliath” companies lose market share to challenger “David” innovators. Social media with the promise and delivery of a connected world also led to new generations almost exclusively getting their news via Facebook, and terrorists using encrypted messaging and sites to communicate their mantra of hate and induction to the masses. Employees have to both meet the needs of today’s quarterly results driven industry for shareholders but at the same time have to develop new hard and soft skills, and capabilities to allow them to evolve and stay relevant through their own and management’s investment – or risk being outsourced, out placed and out of a job.

Segments and people in society have become stagnant. If we don’t change while the world changes around us, we become victims. Not even the “elites” are immune anymore. What does it take to embody love, compassion, generosity, passion, purpose and commitment? How do we move from depression and despair to making a meaningful difference in our lives and in others? We have to take action now. It’s not enough to keep having fun while others are suffering in the world.

It is important to look after ourselves and others during these global seismic events. Some call it love. I call it the Art of Reinvention. This does not mean living your life in a bigger house or getting a better job, but finding deep purpose and meaning and committing to the changes and transformation for yourself and society to which you can control and making a difference.

There is also a whole other group of people. These are folks who after 55 or 60 decided to “hang up their boots” and just want to travel a bit, read a little, fix up their house, take leisurely naps, binge-watch TV series on Netflix, improve their golf game and spend time with their grandchildren. God bless them. There’s nothing at all wrong with this approach at all, it’s their own reward for working their asses off during their long careers and just enjoying their twilight years. If, however, you’re like me, and want to be energized every day towards a really hard and important goal or purpose, we have to take steps now to prepare ourselves.

We use the phrase, “ordinary people achieving extraordinary things”, which may sound simplistic or trite. But there’s nothing simple or cliché when the descriptions aptly apply to actual individuals – people much like you – who overcame hardships, and conquered fears on their way towards achieving their vision. In my own journey of life, like everyone, I’ve made mistakes and missteps, had millstones and milestones, and witnessed miracles. Someone just like you or me can follow their dreams to places we never thought possible. Not all of us, however, can become professional athletes, astronauts or play at the Metropolitan Opera house.

Consider what you want your legacy to be and how you can make a difference in others’ lives while achieving things you never thought possible. Getting from here to there won’t be easy, but accomplishing something of value never is. If you’re ready for the next big leap forward in your life, just know that there has never been a better time to be who you were meant to be.

Your fellow traveler on this journey,

Mitch Lewis