How to Find And Keep Your Own Personal Sherpa

By Thursday, September 18, 2014 4 0

I will need to keep my personal Sherpa as happy as these fine fellows appear to be.

I’ve decided I need and want my own personal Sherpa. I know it is politically incorrect for me to say that, but today I am feeling self-centered. Radio talk show hosts have a lot of fun by making the world all about them. Just for today I’ll do the same.

I recently returned from another three-night road trip to Southern Oregon. I love my job (I coordinate public transit in rural areas), but these trips involve schlepping, often up and down stairs, my laptop, work notebooks, journal, stacks of meeting agendas, large duffle bag with running gear, purse and food bag (I’m a grazer and need to eat frequently).

My Sherpa will cheerfully carry all my things around. For a reasonable fee (possibly working in exchange for rent). And go wherever I think it is best to go. On my timetable.

Talk about being rich in what matters.

Here is how I will implement my dream of finding and keeping my own personal Sherpa.

My road trip car: two-seater, 2000 Honda Insight. My Sherpa must be small enough to fit inside, but strong enough to push it uphill.

Recruit honestly. My Craigslist ad will contain no false pretenses. Hard work. Steady travel in cramped quarters (see car photo). Lots of schlepping. Some mountain-climbing, sometimes gasping for air.

Interview with candor and full disclosure. I will look my Sherpa candidates straight in the eye and tell them the truth.

Here is the bad news about this job. Eccentric boss. Has been seen eating coconut cream pie in the car. With her hands. Bursts into song upon viewing beautiful scenery. May expect you to sing with her. You must fit into a tiny, two-seater, 14 year old Honda Insight (its 57 miles per gallon help to battle climate change). If that’s a problem, would you consider using the very best diet in order to make weight and fit? Car has three cylinders and struggles over the mountain passes. Are you willing to get out and push?

On the other hand, here’s the good news. We will travel to some of the most beautiful places in the continental U.S. If you are an introvert, I will discipline my extroverted gushiness so as to not overwhelm you. And, I’m putting together a Sherpa Ongoing Education Program so that you’ll feel stimulated and challenged (see below).

Once my Sherpa is hired, I will not have it made. Employee loyalty is a thing of the past, and employers now must perform for their employees, just like employees have to perform for employers.  Hence, my Sherpa Retention Plan.

SHERPA RETENTION PLAN (not copyrighted, feel free to copy and distribute)

Foot massages are a key component of the Sherpa Retention Plan.

Practice kindness to my sherpa.  I didn’t say BE a kind person. That’s a tall order, and I’m not sure that I am one yet. I do know that kindness, like love, is a verb thing. It’s not sentiment. It’s action.

Example: At the end of particularly hard road trip days, I will offer my Sherpa foot massages. I have strong hands and am becoming skilled at these; I’ve been practicing on my husband Thor. He’s been expressing satisfaction. (But he’s not offering to become my Sherpa).

Offer a Sherpa Ongoing Education Program. Everyone wants to be upwardly mobile, and rightly so. And I am qualified to teach at the college level by dint of my M.S. in counseling psychology.

So we will start with curriculum I have already developed and published, like top ten tips for climbing a mountain (or doing any hard thing). When my Sherpa has mastered that material, I will develop more. If you have curriculum ideas for the Sherpa Ongoing Education Program, please contribute them in the comments section. It takes a village to retain a Sherpa.

Pack lightly. I am not especially good at this. But I am great at seeing the value of packing lightly. Light loads will extend the goodwill of my Sherpa. They will also extend the life-span of my Sherpa, and by extension, of our planet, which is struggling from too many people extracting too many raw materials from it, manufacturing those materials into things, and then schlepping all those things around. I’m as guilty as anyone.

An overqualified Sherpa (overqualified is the trend these days) may even take charge and help me to pack more lightly. “Hey Alison, I’m tossing these running shoes. You can run in your bare feet. Your life is too cushy anyway. And what’s with this makeup kit? It weighs 11 ounces. Gone.”

Provide a recreation program for my Sherpa. I love to recreate, and this part of the retention plan will flow like water.  After work I’ll invite my Sherpa to go dancing, running, hiking and bicycling with me.

If my Sherpa is too tired after work for these activities, well, all is not lost. I will provide him/her with a free, autographed copy of my novel Revelle. It’s about a thirtysomething woman who loves to dance. She has a million problems and almost no money, but is often rich in what matters. After my Sherpa has finished reading it, he/she will hopefully feel like going out dancing with me. (One reader of Revelle told me she felt this way.)

Beam at my Sherpa and express gratitude, as in, even after he/she has tossed my running shoes and makeup kit. When my boss smiles at me and thanks me for tasks well done (like filling out my travel reimbursement form correctly) I feel very happy. It makes me want to stick around and keep working for her. I’ve been with my current employer almost seven years; their retention plan seems to be working. Once I even offered to schlep my boss’s huge briefcase up the stairs for her (see tip below).

Emotions are measurably contagious. The Dalai Lama has noted this, and tells us we all have a responsibility to contribute to each others’ happiness via our own happiness. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet, home of the world’s best Sherpas, and I take him seriously.

Be willing to be a Sherpa, myself. There is always someone around who is less able to schlep things than we are. My stepping up into service to others might inspire my Sherpa.

To wrap up, I realize I may be in a bit of a dream-world here. Not everyone can be as self-indulgent as a radio talk-show host. I might never get to have a Sherpa. Or, maybe I will get to have one when I am 90. My dad is turning 91 in a week. He uses a walker, and since this leaves him with no free hands, we all love to schlep his things around for him.

Still, a woman can dream. Please tell me: how would you improve the Sherpa Retention Plan? What politically incorrect dream do you secretly harbor?

Sherpa photo courtesy of Didrik Johnck. 

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  • Mick Wiley
    September 20, 2014

    I can tell you enjoyed writing this post. Your imagination and playful mood are really evident . Fictional humor is hard to pull off. I respect the fact that this is quite different than most of your posts - which are more self- improvement , relationship, and environmental based.

    • Alison
      September 30, 2014

      Mick, it’s true that I had a lot of fun writing this post. Wish-fulfillment can be so . . . fulfilling. I had endorphins bathing my brain as I merrily typed away. Yes, it was outside the box of my usual topics. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  • Jan Morrison
    September 19, 2014

    I remember Neil Young’s song “A Man Needs a Maid’ and so does a woman. A maid, but someone like those lovely old-fashioned domestic types of the thirties perhaps. A pie making maid who will indeed go out of her or his way to make my life comfortable. Perhaps we could alternate - one day I’d be the maid and the next day X (maybe you?) could be the maid. That would be nice. Or to maximize the effect - one week on, one week off. A personal assistant. I’m a Buddhist following a Tibetan tradition and so know too much about the lives of the Tibetan lineage of Sherpa (it is a family name, not a job title) - however I do like the sentiment. So if you’ll change it to maid or perhaps ‘general dogsbody’ then I’m in.

    • Alison
      September 20, 2014

      Jan, thanks for educating us on Sherpa actually being a Tibetan family name. No wonder that when I typed that word, Microsoft Word kept automatically capitalizing it.

      Fun idea that you and I could take turns being each other’s maid!

      Now I’ve got that Neil Young song whining in my head (I actually like him a lot, but the tone is a little whiney). Thanks for writing, Jan. I’m going over to visit your blog now.