[deanna_camille]: on today’s episode of experienced junkies i am joined by marissa chess has an awesome adventure story to share with us today of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro yes the summit in tanzania one of the highest summits in the world what’s surprising from our conversation is that this experience actually taught marissa to be less ambitious with her goals and to be more content with the small everyday successes of life so i promise you will really enjoy this conversation sit back and relax and listen to my interview of marissa ciesluk on climbing mount kilo
[deanna_camille]: welcome back experienced junkies i have a special treat on our episode today i am joined by marissa chest luck and she has a great story about climbing mount kilimanjaro yeah real small feet um so i’m so excited to have you here marissa welcome to the show
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Thank you, Deanna, I’m so excited to be here with you.
[deanna_camille]: wonderful well before we kick off um give the audience a little bit of uh of a background tell them a little bit about who you are and what you do
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Yeah, so I am a wife. I am a mom. I am a friend and I am a leadership and executive coach. I am here in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Um. I spent about twenty years Uh, professionally in a higher education administration and finally reached the peak of my career. Thought I was good to go. Thought I had reached my um you 笆「ltimate success point
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: and I felt completely burned out, and so Um, three years ago.
Actually, this month, um, three years ago, I had submitted my letter resignation and walked away and took a career break to kind of just spend some time figuring out what I wanted to do. Kind of a midlife crisis. Almost, Um.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: And so now I work with brilliant women who are kind of at that point that I was wanting something more and want to stop compromising who they are in the process to get that.
[deanna_camille]: wonderful amazing well we are happy to have you today and i’m really looking forward to this conversation
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Me too.
[deanna_camille]: setting out to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro like that’s a super ambitious goal how did that get on you know your vision board or your list of goals to accomplish
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Yeah, so, um, I have always been kind of a goal setter and a goldaletter. and Um. I had. at that point I had done a couple of marathons. I had done a half Iron Man and I was kind of like, Okay. Now what? What’s
[deanna_camille]: right what’s next
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: what’s next? straight? Um, and so, uh, kind of always been a big, you know, Go big. Oh bold kind of person. and um. I went to this actually for my church, Um. And they were talking about Africa and :Mt. Kilimanjaro And it just became kind of very fascinated by Mt. Kilimanjaro Um, and so fast forward a little bit. I had a friend who had just returned from climbing Mount Machupchu in Peru,
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: and Um. She knew that I had kind of taken this interest in Mt. Kilimanjaro and so we started talking and she um, hesitantly, but agreed to to pursue this um goal with me And so Yeah, that was in like a November December, and we went in June of the following year.
[deanna_camille]: so pretty short ramp uh what was your hiking experience before setting out on this goal
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Yeah, so I had always, um, been an avid hiker. I like to be outdoors. That is, The mountains are my happy place. Um. Yeah, so we set out to do this. We had, like you say, kind of a short ramp up period. The thing about Mt. Kilimanjaro is that you can’t really fully, Um, prepare for it. so um, especially where we are here in North Carolina, the tallest mountain Um, on this side of the world, at the side of our co of the country. Um is not even half the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro I think
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: it’s like seven thousand something feet, and Mt. Kilimanjaro was nineteen thousand, three hundred and forty one feet, So we spent a lot of time, Um, just doing back to back day hikes.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Um. We went and climbed Mount Mitchell. I’m just in the mountains east to or west of here. Um, we did a lot of you know, seven eight hour days of climbing. and then we get up the very next day and climb again just to kind of get our bodies in that uh space. we were ready to do. We did an eight day hike of Kilimanjaro, so we had
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: to kind of get our bodies ready for that. Yeah,
[deanna_camille]: eight days oh
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: and our minds.
[deanna_camille]: exactly that exactly
[deanna_camille]: that what after deciding to kind of embark on this journey you kind of talked about the physical preposition but can you tell us give us an idea of like the mental preparation the logistical and the psychological aspect
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yeah, I think I. I. I always told people this when I would do. you know people would always say, Mara, I can’t believe you run marathons and I’m like I know this sounds really wild. but twenty six point two miles from me was always easier than three point one. And why I say that is because you kind of get into the scroove. You kind of get into this head space where you just kind of start to overcome it. But it’s that first three or four miles. It’s so hard and so painful, so once you can kind of get past that it just becomes kind of your body’s like. Oh yeah, this is what we’re supposed to do. This is what we’re supposed to do, But really those big goals are ninety five percent a mental game.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Um, And that was true on Killm and Jaaro, The thing about Common Jaaro is that, Um, You’re out there. We were out there for eight days, so it took us six days to get to the summit and then it took us two days to come back down and you’re out there climbing hiking for again. You know, anywhere from three hours a day to seven or eight hours a day, and we were with a small group, but often times you’re hiking alone, you’re walking alone and it’s a very lonely. And so when you’re in those moments of quiet and stillness, and that you’re braining, you know we were re moving. We. it’s
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: not physical stillness. With that quiet stillness. yeah, all that mind drama starts to come up. all of that self doubt. All of that. who were you to do this? Why are you doing this? This is crazy, Your
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: nuts. Um, you know all of those things are kind of going on in your brain, and Um, So that’s what it really was. It was really more of kind of that that mental game. Um of trying to silence all the noise and really stay focused on the goal. Um, the other thing that is so uni, not necessarily unique specifically to Kiaro, but in this in this context, Um is that
Mt. Kilimanjaro and when you start out, there is a very real chance that you may not make it to the summit. So you are doing this climb, knowing that you may not reach that ultimate goal that you’ve set out to achieve.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Um. And so that is also hard to kind of navigate in your mind as you’. kind of putting one foot in front of the other too. So
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: it’ definitely more of a mental game. it’ definitely more of a mental game.
[deanna_camille]: what i really appreciate that you said was when it comes to marathons the first three to four miles are the hardest part and i feel like it seems like it’s such uh parallel for life or just
[deanna_camille]: obstacles in general like at the beginning that initial trauma feels so difficult to get through and then often times when you’re on the other side of it it just seems so much smaller than it did at the outset right
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yeah, yeah, that is.
[deanna_camille]: mm hm
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: that’s a great parallel. I love that I love.
[deanna_camille]: i think
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: that is so true.
[deanna_camille]: i followed these illustrators lizz and molly and they do a lot of like uh life inspirational uh illustrations and i think they have one like that kind of like before
[deanna_camille]: the obstacle it’s like this big boulder and then after it it looks like a pebble you know so we
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: I love that
[deanna_camille]: are we are much more capable of overcoming than maybe we tell ourselves from outset
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: absolutely yeah.
[deanna_camille]: so when you mentioned when we talked earlier you mentioned that your pre summit life and your post summit life look very different so
[deanna_camille]: just describe kind of what it looked like before you set off onto this journey
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Yeah, I always tell people on like Mt. Kilimanjaro transformed me and it transformed me in ways that I don’t know that I could ever fully articulate and offer words for what I will say. Is that Um? You know I? I mentioned, I was at a real goal setter and a Ro goal Gettter, And I think what Killammanjaro taught me was that and this is kind of my mantra. It is that success is not the summit right. it’s
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: about who we are becoming in the journey and that has really helped me to. As I think about setting goals now detaching from that outcome and thinking about who am I becoming in that process?
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Um, So So before I climbed Mount Kllam and Jaaro, I was. I defined myself by whether or not I met the goal or my title or my
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: income. So I was doing all of this external validation. And what Killammandaro taught me was that that validation does not come from external. it comes from the internal, because it was in those deep and dark and let me tell you, there were dark moments on that
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: mountain where it was like I really had to dig deep and be like Marisa, You. You can do this, I guess’, giving myself another of those those little pep
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: talks. Um, but really like, like I said when detaching from that outcome, because uh, my friend and I, that W. that went with me. We really had to have some serious conversations about. We’re spending all this time. We’re spending all of this money. We’re doing all this preparation and these T, putting time and resources into doing this and we may get over there and we may not see the top. We
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: may, we may not achieve that, And so what does that mean? What does that mean about us? and kind of detaching from that means that we set forth out on a goal and we didn’t achieve it. And that doesn’t mean that that’s that I’m a failure that I’ve done something wrong. It just means I didn’t achieve it.
[deanna_camille]: right you mentioned earlier you know again back to when you’re making the climb or doing a marathon it’s a lot of like silencing the noise
[deanna_camille]: um so it’s again like so many life parallels sometimes there’s these expectations of what success looks like what our goal should be at certain phases of life and know you said this may have been like a mid life crisis situation but when we’re seeking that external validation sometimes it’s just a lot of noise
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yeah, yeah,
[deanna_camille]: right um and so i like the idea that you said success um is not the summit you know kind of embracing the journey that that you’re going on so i really appreciate that thought of yeah the summit is is the ultimate goal but
[deanna_camille]: let’s not get so focused on that as the north star that we lose sight of everything around us
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yeah, yeah, yeah. And and that’s a lot of what I do right now with when I work with clients is helping them to re redefine success. Because I work with a lot of women like me like you were high performers or high achievers We’re goal setters, We go after these big things, And the thing is that when we create these metrics that are outside of us, their external validations, then the summit keeps moving. And so it’s constantly asking yourself. now. what? Okay now, I got this promotion Now, What? or you know, I, I got this salary. now. What? And it’s like that constant moving and it’s like then you
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: never feel fulfilled and joy and meaning and purpose. And so yeah, when you ask about like what was my pre life? You know, pres at life like I was kind of out there. Like who am I like? what am i? What am I doing? What is? What does all of this mean? Um, and I think I did a lot of meaning making on that mountain as well, meaning making absolutely. Mhm. absolutely. Mhm.
[deanna_camille]: you kind of gave us a little bit of a background of of what it was like but can give us a little more detail of walking us through the actual climb you know how much time it took some of the obstacles that you may face you kind of talked about there were some dark times
[deanna_camille]: um you know the emotional peaks and valleys like can you put is it possible to put climbing mount kilom jiro into words
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: is it I don’t know? Um, No,
[deanna_camille]: try your best right
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: it. it’s it’s real. it’s not. It’s not. It’s one of those things where it’s like unless you’ve experienced it like. I mean, I can just my friend that went with me. I can just look at her and we both just know like it was just
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: one of those moments. I think the thing that is most um profound for me and I, I should have wrote this down, but I, I kind allude to this. I was on the mountain for eight days, eight days, and so I don’t know. I. I can’t remember exactly what that is. In hours and
Minutes I was on that summit for maybe, let’s just say twelve minutes
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: total. So when you think about it, it’s like completely minuscule into the total time that I spent in preparation and journeying towards that summit. And so yeah, but I mean it was. It’s crazy. So you start out of Santgas the other day, you start out pretty much in the rainforest. So you’re
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: in this like very hot. Um. Whether the trees are very lush, there’s lots of rain. It’s very muddy. Um, and then you start to climb and it gets very dry. It’s a very
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: dirt. Um,
[deanna_camille]: mm hm
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: for a lack of a better term, Um, it’s just kind of bleak actually, And then
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: when you get to Um base camp, you start to kind of feel the weather like I told her, You know, I tell everybody I I had to put on all of the clothes that I brought at base camp, so everything that I had in my backpack went on.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: You start to kind of feel the cold weather and you start
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: to kind of know that you’re moving towards the summit and then so from base camp to the summit, we left face camp at around midnight. Um, so you’re climbing and pitch black dark. I mean,
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: there were moments where I like looked up at the sky and I literally thought I was in the sky with the stars because you’re so
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: close to it.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Um, but you can feel the switchbas. You can’t see them, but you can kind of feel them. and the closer you get to the summit, the thinner the air becomes and it’s very cold. our water froze. Um, and our packs. you can hardly breathe And then you get to nineteen thousand feet and you think okay, I’ve only got three hundred and forty one feet to go to reach the summit. That took over an hour over an hour to go three hundred and forty one feet because you were moving so slowly and it is
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: so cold and your your breathing is so labored.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Um, and that that was hard. So you’re you’re? You’re going through all of these kind of like what you’re talking about earlier, like about the seasons of life, and just kind
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: of a good parallel for life like you’re in this very lush place and then you kinda enter these peaks and valleys of dryness and dry spells, and then you get up into these places where it’s really cold, where you’re heading up towards the summit and Um, kind of where the big light is, I guess, And then you were there for a few minutes, then you’ve got to rush down.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Um. So it’s yeah, I mean, I. I. I. when I talk about it, I can see the glacier like you’. surrounded at the sumit. you’re surrounded by ice. Huge glaciers. And so you’re literally walking through. Um. a path with glaciers. big chunks of ice on either side of you.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Um, yeah, it’s It’s amazing it. It’s truly amazing. I don’t even know. I don’t have the words to explain what it’s like, but yeah,
[deanna_camille]: i kind of got chills a little bit when you’re talking about it you know especially starting out at midnight when it’s pitch black and i i can imagine too you’re away from the city so like the the air is really clean and and yeah you
[deanna_camille]: don’t have some of the pollution or things that can keep you from seeing the sky and then as you mentioned you’re so close to it that you you know the feeling of feeling like you could reach out and touch a star it’s just kind of like wow like i can i can’t imagine kind of the literally taking your breath away because of the altitude but then also the emotions of of what you’re seeing
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, it was. It’s so funny. The thing that we, uh, we had some amazing guides. We had
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: these. these men were just. They were just the. They were so kind and so generous Since I thought
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: boy, they really helped us to get to the top. but I remember. At one point during our Tck, Um, in the middle of the night we started singing Christmas songs, you know, and they singing in their language
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: and were singing, And most of most of the people were in our group, Um spoke English And it was just it was. It was so beautiful and so profound, but it was. I mean you could hear the echo and it was just the stillness and the quiet was none like I’ve ever heard before. and I don’t think that I will ever hear again. It was profound.
[deanna_camille]: it to me it sounds like a really big metaphor or or again like a parallel to being present in the present
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Hm. yeah.
[deanna_camille]: not just with your surroundings but the people that you’re with i’m sure
[deanna_camille]: some of those people in that group were complete strangers prior to
[deanna_camille]: and the bond that you connected with them in that moment because you’re so focused on the fact that we are doing this thing together
[deanna_camille]: so you know from a life standpoint doing life together with those around you your colleagues your family your friends and being present in the moment with them and not always looking forward to you know the summits of life um when you set up you were only up there for maybe twelve minutes out of an eight day journey including you know the time up and time down again like in life when you reach those milestones of maybe getting a promotion or you know a life milestone with your family you know having a child or things like that the joy the initial joy of reaching that milestone a lot of times it’s kind of very short um when you have a new baby you’re ecstatic because oh my god this beautiful you know i’ve brought life into the world and then you go home with that baby and real life kicks in you know so i i love the thought about like yeah we have all these beautiful moments in life but sometimes they’re really brief so how do we find contentment in the every day sometimes it can be monotony
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. and I think that’s like I. That was kind of a huge mindset shift for me is finding that that joy in that purpose in those
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: just very minuscule moments in those profound moments that that change us and transform us.
[deanna_camille]: yeah so when we’re talking about going to mount kelman jro to um to climb the summit i’ve traveled internationally but it’s always been for you know fun touristy things can you describe what it’s like preparing to pack for this journey being a tourist but like not a traditional tourist you’re not going to like see sites you’re going to have this epic you know adventure in front of you what was that like you know as you’re preparing and and traveling to get there
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Yeah, I love that question is. um, it is definitely different. It is
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: definitely a different experience and I think you know what we haven’t talked about is that Um, mount C D was very dangerous and there’s a lot of uh. overwhelming an lady that goes into preparing for that journey.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Um. I did not tell my parents at the time.
[deanna_camille]: oh wow
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: W. I mean they knew what was going obviously, but I did not kind of
go into like this could happen while we’re on the mountain. Um, so yeah, it is like it is kind of a different. I mean it’s there was definitely some anxiety. Um, as we kind of boarded the plane, Um, we, you know. Obviously when you travel internationally you’re you’re taking lots of stuff. But
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: we had to care. We carried our packs because it was like if we lose our packs, we can’t climb this mountain. so we had pretty much everything, Um. in our packs with us on the plane underneath the seat. Um, we. Actually, we did do the climb and then we did take some time after to to celebrate and did
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: go on safari. So we knew that there was kind of that carrot dagling in front of
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: us. Um to go and actually be tourists. But yeah, it is a different field, because you’re like we’re going into this for a purpose, Um for
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: something we don’t know the outcome. Um, we’ve got. we’ve got something to do here, so yeah, it. it was definitely a different feel than a normal. Let’s go off and and explore this new country and enjoy their cuisines and their, you know, their cultures, and and what they have to offer. Definitely a different vibe.
[deanna_camille]: yeah dangling the carrot of you know being able to be a tourist afterwards but what’s interesting is when you talked about knowing going into it that we may not reach the summit this is our
[deanna_camille]: goal this is what we’re trying to attain but realistically it’s very dangerous our
[deanna_camille]: bodies may not tolerate it and we have to be okay with that fact so knowing that you have this trip planned but on the back end whether you reach the summit or not you’re gonna do some fun things and
[deanna_camille]: i think again going back to the parallels of life like even if you don’t reach these super um uh high goals or ambitious things that you set for yourself you can still like celebrate your small win celebrate what you have done um
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yeah, yeah,
[deanna_camille]: even if it’s not what you originally set out on doing
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yes, I love that I love the elephant you can bring in that back. That’s so.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yeah. that’s so rich. I mean you’re absolutely right. You’re absolutely right. Absolutely
[deanna_camille]: bringing it back to the work that you do every day with your clients essentially
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yeah. yeah. Yeah, and
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: I I love that I love that. I love that.
[deanna_camille]: well marissa this has been great thank you so much for being here
[deanna_camille]: before we um wrap up i do ask one question to all my guests and so if you could pick one song to convey the experience whether it’s preparing for the climb the actual climb your life after the climb like just kind of give us what that song would be and why
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yeah. So couple of reasons are co one on that I chose is called Carry me with you. and it’s from the movie Onward by Brandy Carlisle, and
[deanna_camille]: oh i love that movie
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: yes, I know I know, and part of it is because they’re on a journey their own. A quest. for this, Um this light and Um, they’re also um, receiving love and accepting love even when they don’t feel like they deserve it. And that was uh, Mt. Kilimanjaro . Was a was a dark time for me personally, and so I
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: went climbing this mountain, Um, not knowing what I would find, Uh, blterally and figuratively i’m on that, and also because, Um, one of the things that I had my family and friends do when I went to climb the mountain. because you are alone, Um, all my family and friends wrote letters and notes for me to be able to open up on the mountain, and one of my very dear friends, Um. Joseph, he wrote me a letter, and he is also a very avid hiker.
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: and Um, the word in his letter that he focused on was this word onward, and just talking about, like you may not reach the summit And that’s okay. We’re going to continue onward. Um. And so I just said, that song just has uh, such profound meaning for me and and
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Um, like I said, I love Brannie Carlyle, I think she’s amazing and just a gifted musician as well, so
[deanna_camille]: yeah a little
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: I love that question.
[deanna_camille]: plug there for movie too
[deanna_camille]: onward is it’s like one of those disney movies that’s way more than a kid movie like
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: right, I know
[deanna_camille]: adults will get a lot out of it
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: I know, and I, as i know it’s like we have. We’re going to have tohave a family movie night and watch that Um with my daughter so she can be exposed to that. Yeah,
[deanna_camille]: wonderful well thank you so much for being here marissa
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: thank you.
[deanna_camille]: before we sign off let everyone know where they can find you on the inter webs
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: Yeah, so um, my main place is over on LinkedIn, and I’m Marisa Wheeling Ciesluk, over there and I would love to connect with anybody. Um, that, like I said, is kind of craving something more and are um ready to stop compromising who they are in the process of that.
[deanna_camille]: awesome we’ll have all of that in the show notes for guests for listeners to find
as well but thanks for being here marissa and um have a great rest of your day
[marisa_wheeling_ciesluk]: thank you, you, too. Appreciate this.