“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
– T.S. Elliott
The truth is, those who know me are tired of hearing about my Mount Rainier climb. I don’t blame them – the preparation was all-consuming for me. In fact, I should start with a big “thank you” to my wife, Kim, Placers’ employees and customers, my general care provider, Dr. Felzer, my chiropractors, my physical therapist, Dan, my personal trainer, Amy, and my yoga instructor, Shay – all of whom were kind enough to put up with my constant preoccupation with anything and everything that would get me up that mountain.
What started last Labor Day with a simple deposit with IMG, our guide company, concluded this July with a blizzard at 11,500 feet. You can climb in snow, and strong winds, and even poor visibility, but up on that mountain we were faced with all three.
We spent a tough night in frigid temperatures. Our tents were blowing like kites on the beach with all forms of precipitation billowing into my tent and sleeping bag. Needless to say, we got a taste of what it is like to be on the top of Rainier that night. Ultimately, nature decided it was time to descend off a ridge to safer and lower Camp Muir at 10,500 feet.
There is an incredible satisfaction that comes from doing hard things. Hard things take time. They’re complicated. They frustrate you when your progress does not seem to equal your effort. Climbing that mountain took me to a familiar place – the perfect metaphor for my journey with Placers.
Starting a business from scratch can often feel much riskier, challenging, and fraught with more setbacks than climbing big mountains. Truly. While this experience is impossible to summarize in a brief blog, here are six lessons I learned throughout the process that can resonate across many aspects of life:
Lesson #1: People will opt to take the path with no pain or little resistance. As human beings, we are wired to prefer easy, soft, and no danger. Running towards danger takes practice.
Practicing the mental and physical discipline required to prepare for the climb made it easier to maintain the same rigor in the rest of my life. I came back not wanting to give up the gains of being in the best shape of my entire life. I’m more disciplined than I’ve ever been. By the way, this includes my time in high school when I could run a six-minute mile in August heat. Today, this old guy could outwork that young defensive end with ease.
Lesson #2: Not everyone likes change. It takes guts to go your own way and be who you want to be.
At 51, I learned that pain does not mean you can’t do it. I have arthritis. Getting up from a chair hurts at this point. But that’s the thing – it hurts whether I work out or not, so I work out. I get up and move. I strive towards self-improvement even when it’s uncomfortable. Nobody is going to do it for me.
Lesson #3: Being mentally tough requires you to work past stressful situations or temporary pain.
Getting up at 3:45 am to meet my trainer went from something I dreaded to something I craved. Was I going insane? Maybe a little. However, I found that the more folks thought it was crazy the more it made sense to me. After all, climbing a mountain is crazy. Preparing to climb the mountain wasn’t going to happen without a little dash of madness as well.
Lesson 4: We rarely maximize ourselves on a day-to-day basis.
As a leader, I challenge others frequently to determine if they maximized their day. Did they really give everything they had? Do they know the gap between what they gave that day and what they are capable of? Achieving big goals is transformative. I am not the same person I was before the climb – I don’t want to be. I have been told I was a bit of an a**hole, grumpy, selfish even. Everyone is 100% right. Getting up early means you go to bed early. Molding your mind and body into shape means you become antisocial by today’s standards. Everything I did further closed my gap – if it wasn’t, I would’ve been failing myself.
Lesson 5: My Dad always told me I wasn’t tough enough or enough of an a**hole to survive running a business through its ups and downs. I am a nice guy. (Well, maybe not as much today. Look out world…) But being an a**hole isn’t requisite to success – persistence is.
I am by NO means an Olympic athlete but over the last few months I have studied what it takes to become one. Mastery of something has a cost and will impact the rest of your life. I coach and write about how it takes 10,000 hours of mastery to become the best in anything. Within that 10,000 hours, there will be sacrifice. Which brings me to…
Lesson 6: Extremes in anything have repercussions. If it means enough to you, learn to be at peace with it. Breathe through it. The struggle makes you stronger.
My wife was the best and biggest supporter in every way. Even down to the very difficult discussion of how to move forward if something bad were to happen on the mountain. She knows it’s better to live dangerously by your bucket list than safely from your living room chair. When you take risks, magic happens.
Tell me, what has been your biggest challenge? How did you prepare? How did you overcome it? What lessons did you take away from the experience? What magic came out of it?
PS) The title of this Outside Insights is from David Goggins – a Navy Seal, Army Ranger, author, trainer and the originator of the concept of callusing your mind!