My Perfect Day: Climbing for a Cure!

I wrote the following for almost 2 hours in a tent on Mt. Kilimanjaro this past January 1 to the songs of our African porters singing and ringing in the New Year.

It’s 11:39 pm on 12/31/19, and I’m alone in a sleeping bag in a tent at 13,500 feet—mid-way up Kilimanjaro. An amazing place to be, but I’m tired, part freezing, part sweaty, part cozy, and part on the brink of a panic attack. And I also realize that I’m in the middle of training to climb Mt. Everest while raising money for cancer research. #Everyday Everest

So, at this moment, there’s no other way I’d like to ring in the New Year. Well maybe one: I’d like to be in a double sleeping bag kissing Happy New Year to the man, who has just asked me to marry him and who loves and adores me.

If he were here, I would besiege him to allay my present fear, especially since I’m wide awake and have six more hours until daylight. The winds are howling outside our tents, and I’m with a group that will summit Kilimanjaro in a few hours. Our safety is my number one concern—then we can celebrate our victory!

So, yes, I would like him here . . . after all doesn’t that sound more “perfect?” But is it really real? Will we cherish one another more for the journey, the time, space and the distance? I know this: this day, this moment is, perfectly imperfect.

The dozens of porters next to me are singing Hakuna Matata. They’ve been singing for 27 minutes straight. Perfect. Another group chimes in indiscernibly. Perfect again.

So, how did I get here? It all seems quite unreal. I have just led two 50-year old women up to 15,000 feet, and they are asleep in the tent next to me. One serves on the She CLIMBS board of directors and the other learned about our regular trips to Tanzania and bravely raised her hand and left her kids, husband, and a foundation behind.  

She CLIMBS is one of the non-profits that I have founded and one of our goals is to motivate women of all ages but especially young women to learn how to conquer successfully the many challenges of life.

This is my fifth trip up this majestic mammoth of a mountain—the largest free standing mountain in the world. I’m not altogether sure what that means. It’s large. And, it may be my last time climbing it with this group.

Honestly, the need for change can be hard to recognize when you’re rolling a boulder up a hill and juggling too many balls in the air. This is where I am at the moment just as I’m sure many of you are.

Following my own Perfect Day principles, I have come to a point of knowing when enough is too much.  After all, Perfect Days are perfect because you learn how to value what you have—family, friends, loved ones, and the work you do each day.

She CLIMBS has led four successful trips and transformed many lives and at least one soul, so I find it may be time to put this baby on the shelf for a season—not gone, just away. You may be standing at the same point and I want to assure you that stepping away, does not mean you are off the grid. It means the opposite! It means that you are sensitive to your life grid and you know when to step back and make wise choices for now and the future.

Honestly, I have never been great at running non-profits. What I’m great at is having the vision behind them; the guts to step out and accept a challenge; and then to get them up and going.

Over the years, I’ve led best friends, strangers, friends from foreign countries, both my children, my former husband, and many youth up this rocky “mind crusher” supported by what might be the second best people of the world. The porters on this mountain are amazing, powerful, grit-filled servants to the climbers of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Someone in the African government got it right by requiring us to employ a certain ratio of guides/porters and by limiting the poundage they can carry for us. I would say “good job,” especially on this trip with the rare winds whipping around us at almost 50-miles per hour!

But who would be my first choice of mountain guides? I’m certain it would be the Sherpa people of the Himalayas. While the African porters are mostly Christian, and it shows (our current crew has names that include Gabriel, Nazareth, Abraham and David). The Sherpas are primarily Buddhist. And while I don’t know much of the Buddhist culture, I think it’s a winning formula for me as a paying climber.

Maybe “we” Christians could take some notes from the Buddhist page. Let me explain: the Sherpa people I’ve encountered climbing in Nepal are less focused on compensation at the end of the trip. There’s no begging/asking for my used climbing gear and gadgets. Why?

They have a core belief that to serve is what truly makes you happy. That fits with the Perfect Day strategy. The Sherpa people and the porters in Africa truly want to serve. There’s just a different underlying motivation; money/things vs. servant attitude. So, the question you and I must answer is this: What is the motivation behind my service? Do I serve because this is one of my passions or do I serve because there’s a “cash-in” at the end.

The greatest gift you can give yourself is to serve with a servant’s heart. If you want to have more Perfect Days, and who doesn’t, get up each morning and ask: “Who can I serve today in a way that will encourage and bring hope?”

This brings me to why I am here. I’m here because in 2003, my business and personal coach Claire told me I needed to write MY Perfect Day. She became a mentor and so much more. She was my friend and someone who challenged me to learn what it means to live with a Perfect Day mindset. Bad days? Okay, those happened but even dark times mold and shape you so you can personally climb your own Alpine mountains whatever they may be.

Sadly, Claire died three years later after a 10+ year-long courageous battle with breast cancer. And some 16 years later, here I sit in a tent in Africa paying homage to her. She offered me a powerful experience that day. It was and still is rooted primarily in the ability of the human spirit to dream, connect, and achieve. Above all, to connect with others.

Most of you know that I’m a storyteller. That’s how I connect. Here’s mine. Perfect Day began as a love letter to other financial planners and wealth managers in my field. It quickly became a tool of motivation to people I have not even met but have connected with through the web and through conferences. On what seemed to be an imperfect note: it weathered a divorce decree and love letter to the father of my children.

My book, Perfect Day, offers readers my financial planning version—the process I use in my planning and consulting practice and of Claire’s life altering 2003 Perfect Day experience. After all, the Perfect Day process is a very valuable tool in our industry and for many who are not in this industry but are clients, who understand there is more to this life than just the hamster wheel! 

Half-way through writing the book, I realized I was not following the Perfect Day process and my marriage was over. But hold on. This is about having Perfect Days in imperfect moments—right? Don’t cry for me.

We divorced successfully which by my standards is pretty high, and we now have a better, more healthy relationship. I’m a fortunate mother. You see this is the point. Perfect Days are at their core about your relationships.

And daring greatly, today’s story is about GOD. And before you turn the page on my Perfect Day book, please know that I’m no saint. I’m a sinner, who believes in the grace of God. I’m no theologian—just a storyteller. And I think I have a few good ones left to tell!

So, stay tuned for the next chapter and the next mountain summit! I’m scheduled to climb Mt. Everest this May! And I want to challenge each of you to join me as I climb to raise money for cancer research.

Now, off to read The New Alpinism on my kindle to improve my #Everest2020 experience. Before I close this blog post of love and hope to you, I want to tell you that Claire’s inspired mantra for me was ‘Be Who I Admire’ — I’m getting there, Claire! XO

Cokie Berenyi is a Mother, CEO of Alphavest, Women’s Health Pledge movement founder @, Perfect Day Financial Samurai,Mountain Lover, Goat Farmer.