Growing up Entrepreneur: The Mountain and Men that inspired a generation

Real Man
Real Man

“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

Climbing is inspiration for many, some in idea and dream and others in action. Today marks the first climb of the tallest mountain on the planet, and a moment that will remain in infamy for many.

“On May 28, Tenzing and Hillary set out, setting up high camp at 27,900 feet. After a freezing, sleepless night, the pair plodded on, reaching the South Summit by 9 a.m. and a steep rocky steppe, some 40 feet high, about an hour later. Wedging himself in a crack in the face, Hillary inched himself up what was thereafter known as the Hillary Step. Hillary threw down a rope, and Norgay followed. At about 11:30 a.m., the climbers arrived at the top of the world.” [ Excerpt)

To imagine what it must have felt like in that moment of being the first “at the top of the world”, must have been sensational. I am a climber and have been since I can remember. The stories of Everest along with my fathers penchant for monkeying around on things served as inspiration for me early on. Both still serve as my climbing inspirations today.

When I travelled, I went with one bag of clothes and one bag of climbing gear. It has been a defining feature on my lifestyle, and living choices. Most climbers are rather silent about the facts of there climbing. Mine is all logged in pencil, in a book I keep in my bag. A quick summary would be; four continents, 600+ climbs, three near death and one rescue from death experience all logged with thirty-one climbing partners.

Climbing has truly been my one great solace and has been a driving factor in my entrepreneurship as well. Many business philosophies and ethics can be learned on a climb. I often bring business partners and colleagues climbing, and it always proves to strengthen our relationship.

Here are my top five entrepreneurial lessons from climbing;

There is always a leader, and always a second. In traditional climbing, one leads and one seconds or “cleans” the route. There is no “Sir” Edmund Hillary without his partner Tenzing Norgay. In entrepreneurship and business, a clear leader is needed as well. A second lesson that should be taken here is that along with leadership, collaboration is the key to any great climb, or venture.

The pair that did the impossible

Falling is a part of climbing. Most people who I take climbing claim a small fear of heights, I have a healthy fear of heights. The real fear is falling. The pain that comes with falling is quick sharp and can end your day, but falling is a part of climbing. The quicker you learn what falling feels like, the quicker you will progress. 

Finished is better than perfect. Climbing has many factors, weather, daylight, rock type, moisture, and the list goes on and on. Because so many variables can be left to second to second decision-making, things can get ugly. Climbs can veer off course, your photo breaks can take too long, or someone gets a small injury; you just never know. Sometimes when the plan needs to be altered, the focus shifts to completion and not the artful finish you initially “planned” for. Getting to the top is always easier than bailing before you summit.

Savour the top, knowing you will see it again. When you reach the top, depending on the exposure, the wind is strong, the sense of relief is great. You naturally take a moment to celebrate. My climbing partners are usually surprised with a cigar or a bottle of red wine that I have snuck up the mountain. Interesting observation; many don’t know how long to celebrate, they treat it like it is the last time to the top. Although I love to savour the win, I know that the next challenge will be harder because I accomplished this one. You will be back.

Focus on the task at hand. Without focus, while on lead, you will almost certainly fall or turn back. If you spend your time climbing and thinking about the office, you won’t climb very high. Focus is a key to any success [truism], focusing on the tasks “at hand” is another thing all together. In a world of distractions, it has never been more important to be able to discriminate our focus.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. – Edmund Hillary 


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