Mt. Everest is not the hardest mountain in the world to climb. K2, also known as “Savage Mountain,” is the most challenging ascent and to this day, its summit has never been reached in winter. K2 isn’t as high as Everest, but its terrain and unpredictable conditions make it the most dangerous mountain in the world. One of the reasons K2 is so dangerous is the sustained technical difficulty; it is described as a cone of ice and limestone and has slopes of 45 degree angles or more. With a peak elevation of 8,611 meters, one out of four people die trying to reach the summit. So why do people try? What is the point of risking one’s life for a climb?

I’ve seen the K2 summit in photos, and when I look at its icy majesty overlooking the world, I can understand for a moment why someone would do it. To see the mountain ranges stretched out below him in surreal light. To know now like he never knew before that he can look fear and darkness and steepness in the face and keep climbing anyway. To stand at the summit and believe in the power of a dream.

Dreamers carve a new trail up the mountain – they leave “dream footprints.”

The recent blizzard in the Northeast snowed us in for days. The cars were buried, the streets looked like ski slopes and the wind blew blankets of white powder in every direction. Walking in two feet on snow is more like sinking. Until someone makes a path. Suddenly, there is a way through the wind and the snow. That is what dreamers do. They carve a trail for us up the mountain. They leave “dream footprints” for us in the snow. And if we learn from their courage, we can make it perhaps towards our own summits. Here are five famous dreamers and their lessons for us:

  1. Act As If. After being rejected from film making school, Steven Spielberg enrolled in English at California State College at Long Beach. One day he visited Universal Studios and met an executive in the editorial department who invited him to come back to visit sometime. Spielberg showed up the next day without a job or security clearance. He dressed in a dark suit and a tie and carried his father’s briefcase with nothing in it except a sandwich and candy bars.

    “For the entire summer,” Spielberg recalls.”I dressed in my suit and hung out with the directors and writers. I even found an office that wasn’t being used and bought some plastic tiles so that I could put my name in the building directory: Steven Spielberg, Room 23C.”

    When we ‘act as if’ we are already where we want to be we come that much closer to getting there.

  2. Get Back Up. The first time Jerry Seinfeld walked onstage at a comedy-club, he looked at the audience, froze and forgot all his jokes. He went through a minute and half of material before being literally jeered off stage. But here’s the important part: He returned the following night and closed his set to wild applause.

    Falling on the way up the mountain is inevitable, but the ones who make it, get back up immediately.

  3. Write On Napkins. JK Rowling was on welfare when she wrote Harry Potter. She first thought of the idea on a long train ride, and spent many years scribbling on napkins in cafes to save money on heat at home. During that time her mother died, she divorced her first husband and was raising their daughter on her own. But she continued to write, jotting down ideas whenever she had the chance. The finished manuscript was rejected by many publishers, but after it was finally accepted Rowling became the first billionaire solely through writing. When we focus on our dreams, we will want to use anything, anywhere to take them a step closer to coming true. Write on napkins.

  4. Ignore Criticism. Thomas Edison was told by his teachers that he was too stupid to learn anything, and he was eventually homeschooled by his mother. It took him thousands of failed attempts before he invented the light bulb, and he was most famous for saying: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” To keep going despite the difficulty requires us to tune out criticism. The person who says that it cannot be done should not be allowed to interrupt the person doing it.

  5. Keep Your Eye On The Goal. Michael Jordan is famous for emphasizing how failures have motivated him to keep going. He has said: “I’ve missed 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. If you’re trying to achieve there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.”

    If we know what we really want in life, we can make sure that our goal stays at the forefront of our minds at all times. When we are keeping our eyes focused on the summit, the obstacles on the way are transformed into stepping stones. Sometimes we can follow ‘dreamer footprints.” Sometimes we need to make our own path in the snow and risk sinking. But there is something about daring to dream that makes us want to climb higher. There is something about knowing what we are living for that makes us willing to die in order to get there.