My greatest mentor on building a business was Mt. Shasta, the 14,000 foot mountain at the very top of California. Mt Shasta is the second highest mountain in the continental United States. It's glacial and classified as a technical climb, meaning you need crampons, an ice ax, a hard hat, special clothing and boots, and a long list of other essentials to undertake the journey. You also need to be in excellent physical condition. As in business, the mountain is unforgiving of those who neglect even small details in preparing to make the climb to the top.
Getting ready takes months of preparation, and it demands more than being tactically prepared. It requires a positive attitude that is grounded in absolute respect for the challenge, faith in yourself and those climbing with you, trust in the process, and reverence for the mountain. It is the polar opposite of hubris, which leads to mistakes that are lethal in mountain climbing.
During the first hour of the climb, my mind was preoccupied with reaching the summit. I didn't want to fail. But after a several hours, this goal blurred in the weary struggle to keep going, and my mind became myopic. I began to fixate on small plateaus or crevices just ahead that promised a place of rest. Invariably, these positions turned out to be a mirage of shadow and light, which was discouraging. The higher I climbed, the harder it got, and my mind complained incessantly about the hardship, undermining the positive attitude it takes to reach the top. Thoughts badgered me with: What have I gotten myself into? What was I thinking when I decided to do this? It's crazy to go on. I can't make it. This mountain is going to kill me.
It was making me miserable, depleting my physical and emotional energy, and dampening my decision-making. I realized that I had to quiet my mind, trust the process of climbing, and focus on orienting myself to the step I was taking, here and now, and make it the right step.
It took some time to master this orientation, but gradually my mind quieted down and accepted whatever experience I happened to be having, from the dispiriting fatigue of a steep slope to the expansive joy from the mountain's beauty. The more I opened to my experience, the more attuned I became with the gradual process of moving forward, until it all fell into a rhythm. Astonishingly simple but very important things became obvious, like recognizing that I was literally walking in the footprints of people who'd come before me. Their boots had etched steps into the ice, making the way easier to find, and I was bolstered by their courage that hadn't let them give up. My heart opened wide to the people I was climbing with. By the half way mark, they'd became brothers and sisters to me. I was touched by the way we watched out for each other, slowed the pace at times to let someone catch up, and how we quietly celebrated each other's courage to continue to venture higher.
Eventually, effort transformed into flow, and within this feeling of flow I was carried along by a force or presence of something greater than myself. It was nothing less than miraculous. I had no sense of time or even a sense of self. The mountain and I had become one, without a shred of my ego to separate us.
That year I made it to the summit, weathering fifty-mile-an-hour winds through the corridor leading to the top. I had reached what felt like the top of the world, and I knew it was not ice, altitude, forty-degree snowfields, and fifty-mile-an-hour winds that I had conquered in reaching the summit. It was my fear I had conquered. When I remained open to my experience, without judging it, my sense of self as whole naturally arose. When I engaged the present moment quietly, attentively, and courageously, the strength of what I can be came alive. When I remained calm inside, regardless of the difficulty outside, clarity emerged to point the way. When I connected with my heart and to others, I was transported by a strength and power that was greater than me.
Everyday I call on the wisdom I gained in climbing Mt. Shasta to help me reach the top in my business.
photos: public domain