Over the upcoming holiday season, Walt and I will be trekking in Nepal. Oh, sure, some people choose the Bahamas when they want to unwind, us, not so much. We’re all about yaks and tents and pooping in a bucket because, well, that’s just how we roll. Nothing says relaxation like spreading frozen sunscreen on your face at 2 a.m. before you set out for an 18-hour day.  Which got me thinking about doing a little adventure series while we’re gone. To keep you entertained. 

There we were, trapped in the deepest, darkest Papua New Guinea. For nearly two weeks, Walt and I waited for a helicopter ride to base camp with our team members. Each of us had arrived to climb Carstensz Pyramid, the tallest mountain on the Austro-New Zealand continent, part of the seven summits project, a common enough pursuit for serious alpinists.

Because our day consisted of one long series of meals interrupted by naps and reading marathons; because we couldn’t leave the hotel compound lest the tour company be held liable for our murder at the hands of hostile natives; because the only available diversion we had was chitchat; we got to learn a lot about our new companions from across the globe.

If you were to meet any one of the team at a dinner party, he or she would easily be the most fascinating, accomplished person in the room. If you’re anything like me, you’d be inclined to keep your trap shut, not just so you can hear about their adventures; but to avoid exposure as the limp dishrag you truly are.

What can you add to the conversation when one person claims he must get back to Lyon by the 28th because his astronaut wife is due to launch into outer space? When another describes sourcing goose down at some backwater farm in order to make high-altitude parkas during the Bulgarian communist regime?

That’s right. Nothing. Not one thing.

It didn’t take long for all of us to realize that we had a famous Italian alpinist in our midst. Simone Moro has written a number of books, been the subject of documentaries, and is best known for being the first to climb a bunch of 8000-meter Himalayan peaks in the dead of winter, which, by the way, is really fucking hard.

He also happens to run his own rescue helicopter service in Nepal, something he took up after surviving an avalanche, the very same one that killed two of his climbing partners. He also makes a shit ton of money representing companies like North Face and La Sportiva, all while receiving from them shipping containers full of the latest new gear.

I really wanted to dislike Simone if only because he possesses so many qualities that I covet. Because, if I were to believe my father, someone that famous and accomplished must be an asshole.

Except, there’s nothing not to like about the man. He’s confident, as opposed to arrogant; fun, interesting, enthusiastic, and engaged. He positively radiates joy. And, damn, does the man tell a good story. He had us all riveted to our seats. According to him, it was this very ability that had garnered him attention early in his career.

Also seated at the table was an unassuming South African named Greg. I took him for a run-of-the-mill climber looking to tick off Carstensz from his Seven Summits list, nothing more. If he remained quiet, well, he must be a self-aware nobody like me.

Yet, the more I peppered Greg with questions just to keep the conversation going—remember, we had a LOT of time on our hands— the more I understood that Greg was your basic Greek god.

I mean, the guy crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a specialized rowboat all on his own. It “only” took him 53 days, despite having to battle some hurricane-produced 30-foot waves. Then there was that Straight of Gibraltar swim. And the fact that he’d trained for 14 solid months in near-freezing water in order to swim the English Channel. Of course, he ran across Greenland; and the Kalahari Desert, all 1000 km of sandy goodness. Biked across the United States, from California to New York. Three weeks before coming to Papua New Guinea, he’d gone and completed an “extended” Ironman in the state of Alaska, which means he swam more than 2.4 miles in open water, biked more than 112 miles, then ran more than 26.2 miles. How much more, he couldn’t say. I’m sure he tossed in a few more accomplishments, but at a certain point, I just had to tune him out so I could retain a modicum of self-respect.

To do any one of these activities just once in your life is pretty damn impressive. To do them all? WTF!

Getting this information out of Greg, however, was like pulling teeth. Unlike Simone, Greg shied away from the limelight. His humble nature made it tough for him to share his stories. Too much attention and the man went quiet then changed the subject entirely.

It’s hard not to admire the humble, particularly when they’ve got good cause to crow. It’s hard not to admire the humble when we live in a world overpopulated with blowhards.

But Plato had it right when he said, “Those who tell the stories rule society.”

Just think about the truth of that statement for a minute.

I give Walt a hard time about his constant self-promotion. He’s got to be the biggest media whore out there. He never misses an opportunity to seed a conversation, no matter how random, with his success stories. But, damn if that man doesn’t snag the most amazing opportunities. Damn if he isn’t invited to speak or teach in the most amazing places.

Me? I keep quiet because I like to equate humble with noble. I cherish my moral superiority, which I’d lord over Walt if he’d buy that brand of shit. Anyway, I think strangers should just intuit my value. Why should I have to talk to them at all?

I have no doubt that different forces drive Simone and Greg. I’m betting the last thing Greg wants to do is write a book or hit the speaking circuit. He’s not looking for sponsors to pay his freight. I suspect that he does what he does for the personal challenge; because he likes the man he has become as a result. He’s perfectly content going home and working a nine-to-five.

All of us are hardwired in different ways. But if you want to change the world, go out and share your story. If you want to establish yourself as a leader in your field, you ain’t getting there any other way.