Today, I had the pleasure of meeting the girls from the Singapore Women’s Everest Team who summited on May 20th and 22nd May 2009. We now have 5 girls from Singapore who have stood on the summit of the highest mountain on earth. This must surely be the greatest mountaineering achievement for our tiny nation. The girls are currently the darlings of the media, and yet, before their success on the summit, our girls initially had problems getting sponsorship, causing them to delay their expedition by a year.
Our nation, like every other, celebrates success and rewards achievement. Our problem lies in how we handle failure. Our culture abhors failure which would result in loss of face. No one wants to be associated with a failure to the point where we would rather do nothing than risk failing. Anything can go wrong on an Everest expedition that can end a climber's chance for the summit: bad weather, equipment failure, health problems. More people fail to climb Everest than succeed, and so the chance of a very public failure were high indeed... but without taking the risk, there could be no reward.
Our girls’ battle began long before they set foot on the mountain. They believed in themselves when others did not. They dared to risk, dared to fail, and ultimately, dared to succeed. To the Singapore Women’s Everest Team and their sponsors: I salute you.