Life Lessons from Great Britain's Mountain King

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“On an expedition your main concern is getting safely off the mountain, putting the stuff we normally worry about into perspective,” says 42-year-old Kenton Cool. “You don’t make life-or-death decisions every day, but adopting big-picture thinking will still make you focus on what’s really important.”

Need help adopting this approach? A University of Chicago study found surrounding ourselves with things that prompt a positive mood makes us more open to new ways of thinking. Carry a picture of your kids, partner or even hero in your wallet and you’ll find it easier to maintain a healthy perspective. 


“Himalayan mountain people are welcoming to outsiders and generous with what little they have,” says Cool. “The way these often very poor people live demonstrates the best measure of success is not how much money you have, but how happy you are.”

This isn’t New Age nonsense. Studies consistently find experiences are more rewarding than things. The most recent, from the Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, showed even talking about happy memories can be a powerful mood-booster. Don’t stress about phone upgrades – plan weekends away instead.


“A lot of people I’ve taken up Everest have had a major upheaval in their life afterwards,” says Cool. “Some come back and quit their jobs. Some end relationships, even marriages, because they’ve experienced a profound shift in their mindset.”

You don’t need to risk your life on the world’s highest mountain to take it in a new direction. Address things you’re not happy with and identify the first steps to changing them. Now. Yes, now. Well, after you’ve read this.


“Even on my first Everest expedition I had no doubt our group would successfully complete it. Confidence is vital to excelling in any situation – extreme or otherwise, but it means nothing if you don’t instil it in those around you,” says Cool. “Chinks in armour come from a personal place and without understanding what drives your team members, you’ve no hope of motivating them.”

Cool’s right, and this doesn’t just apply in the Himalayas. Self-confidence makes a bigger difference to the likelihood of success in Britain than in almost any other country, according to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Start with your posture: simply opening up your chest and keeping your head level will make you look and feel more assured.

Kenton Cool is a part of the Virgin Active Discovery Lab and is launching the Apex Altitude Studio at the brand-new Walbrook Classic Collection club. For more information, visit 

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Max Anderton

Max was the head of digital content for Men's Fitness which worked alongside Coach between 2015 and 2019.