I have just returned from climbing - and summiting - Mount Kilimanjaro, the world's highest freestanding mountain. I am not a mega fit, courageous adventurer. I'm a 40-something woman who enjoys walking, who should probably lose a stone and who far prefers a comfy bed and glass of wine to a tent and peeing in a bottle. But a friend asked me to climb it with her for charity and I said yes.
That was the sum total of my qualifications. I simply said yes. I didn't think about how I would do it or whether I could do it or how difficult would be. And that is the first learning you can apply to business:
Say yes first. Figure it out later. Don't overthink it. Don't read the fine print because it will scare you off. Just say yes.
But there are many other learnings that came out of my experience of climbing a mountain that are exactly like running a business:
Put the effort in before you start
Walking for miles in the cold while lugging a backpack, hitting the gym and spending hours researching what kit you need isn't a huge amount of fun. In fact, it's hard work. But the more effort you put into your training and preparation before you start, the easier the actual climb is. The same is true for business. If you are trying to launch something, the more effort and research you put in before you launch, the more successful you're likely to be. Don't confuse this with researching and training before saying yes. Say yes, then research and train!
Have a hard deadline to focus your mind
If I had decided to climb Kilimanjaro at some point, I wouldn't have had any pressure on me to really ramp up my fitness or get my gear together. I had a hard date I had to be ready for. Same goes for your business. Unless you set yourself a specific date you want to get something done by, you will let the deadline drift and you'll never get it done. Particularly if it's a difficult thing you have to do.
Get expert help
I paid for a personal trainer, a specialist boot fitter and spoke to numerous people who had climbed the mountain first to ensure I was prepared. I could have done it without their help, but perhaps I wouldn't have made it to the summit or perhaps I would have hated every minute of the experience, instead of enjoying it - like I did. In your business, you can probably do things for yourself without paying for an expert, but getting some guidance and expertise can make all the difference to your success and enjoyment.
A positive mindset will overcome any challenge
I was told that climbing Kilimanjaro is a physical challenge, but really it's the mental side of it that will affect you most. I was determined to maintain a positive mindset. That meant I refused to worry about what ifs. I didn't dwell on the tough bits. I stopped myself from complaining as much as possible. I tried to help others. I visualised being at the summit. I never doubted that I'd get there. I didn't compare myself to others climbing. I just remained focused and positive. Funnily, it was easier for me to do this climbing a mountain than it is running my business, where I am regularly knocked back by comparison-itis or self-doubt. I will be taking that focus and positive mental attitude from the mountain and will apply it to my business. You can too.
Being fastest doesn't always equal success. Slow and steady perseverance has a higher success rate.
On the mountain, you are told to go 'pole pole', which is Swahili for slowly slowly. People who charge ahead up the mountain are often the ones who don't reach the summit as they haven't given themselves a chance to acclimatise. In business, we see the small business superstars who seem to have overnight success and multi-million pound businesses in less than a year. It makes us feel like we should be going faster to be successful. But going pole pole can give you more sustained growth at a pace that you can manage. Perseverance really does have a higher success rate than those who strike out fast and collapse.
Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will get there eventually
On summit night, you walk for 9 hours in the dark before you finally reach Uhuru Peak. There are many times during those nine hours in sub zero temperatures and little oxygen where you might want to turn back. But you simply have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you eventually get there. A business is exactly like that. There are times when it all just feels to difficult, you want to give up or stop and cry. Just keep going. The steps don't have to be big or fast. They just need to keep you going forward and eventually you will reach the top.
Enjoy the journey - even the tough bits and take time to appreciate the view
I am a firm believer that every journey - no matter how uncomfortable - is worth taking because you see so much and learn so much. You will find pockets of elation and utter beauty right alongside your darkest moments. The important thing is to look up and around you, appreciate the view from where you are right now and embrace all you see. It's very easy when you run a business to get bogged down in how tough it is or the busy-ness of it all, that we forget to enjoy it. Stop, breathe, look around, appreciate where you are and the journey you're on - and then keep going.
Just because a challenge seems daunting doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. You may just surprise yourself at your resilience, tenacity and ability to succeed
I wasn't looking to climb a mountain. The opportunity presented itself to me. I could have said no because it seemed too much of a scary challenge. But I said yes. And I now I can say that I've stood on the roof of Africa. If an opportunity comes your way, remember to say yes. You can figure it out later. You may just surprise yourself at how capable you really are.
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If I can help you get clarity in where you want to take your business or what your brand story should be, write your copy for you, coach you in how to communicate your story to your ideal clients or help you connect with other like minded small business owners at my Campfire Retreat, please get in touch.
Now go climb that mountain!