Seven Tips To Take You To the Top

difficult-pathsHave you ever set out to do something that took longer than you expected and was harder than you ever imagined? Seems like most worthwhile projects are like that.

Last week, on a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, I enjoyed more than a few mountaintop experiences. The fresh air was invigorating and the sore muscles were a small price to pay for adventures that the crowds who stayed on the paved roads missed. It wasn’t just the view from the top; it was the process of getting there that held profound benefits.

I’ve been reflecting on the parallels in the lessons from our wilderness adventures as I strategize a business plan for the weeks ahead. We are on the last quarter climb to the summit of 2014 – the peak from which we can look back and see how far we’ve come while glimpsing the beauty and possibilities of what lies ahead.

I’ve noticed that sometimes the most difficult paths lead to the most extraordinary views. I offer you seven lessons for success, learned both in the crucible of the wilderness and in the process of building the people who build businesses.

Seven Tips To Take You To the Top

1. Do your research. Get a lay of the land before you venture out. Learn from those who have traveled where you are going. I have been known for my “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach, but there are times that can be deadly. Carry a map and a compass, just in case you get off the trail and lose your way. In business, your vision is your map and your core values are your compass. Couple those tools with research and a teachable spirit and you’re on your way.

2. Be alert. Your competitors might eat your lunch but the predators will take you down if you don’t pay attention. We were cautioned by a forest ranger while hiking that there were bears in the area. He advised that if we encountered one to make yourselves look big and don’t run – that would trigger the bear’s predator instinct. We laughed about how to make ourselves appear larger and were happy we didn’t have to test that ability. Standing firm in the face of opposition and not allowing intimidation to put you in flight mode is a skill we can all use daily.

3. Be prepared –  equip yourself with the right tools. I put off the purchase of hiking boots for years, convinced I don’t hike enough to make it worth the investment. After a severe sprain on a hike in Alaska in running shoes, I realized it would be smart to get the proper footwear. What a difference! I also discovered the value of good hiker’s poles. They increase balance and stability – how important is that? In today’s business environment, you need every advantage you can get. Find out what the essential, non-negotiable tools are in your field and find a way to have them. It doesn’t make sense to handicap yourself before you’ve even started.

4. Pace Yourself. Speed is not your friend on difficult terrain. At the onset of our hike, I watched as a teenager took off running on the rocky trail to catch up with his companions, tripping and falling hard on rocks – twisting his ankle. A dangerous move at an elevation where help is far away. The fast pace of the world around us can deceive us into thinking we have to run to keep up. Costly mistakes can be avoided with deliberation and intentionality. Taking time to pause and rehydrate is another tip that will allow you to sustain your energy.

“Unreasonable haste is the direct road to error.”~Moliere

5. Make a plan but don’t fall in love with the plan. When we began our trek to Rainbow Falls, based on the mileage in the guidebook, we calculated a 3 hour hike. We got a little concerned when it took us 3 hours to reach the summit. We talked with a couple of other hikers who also discovered this particular trail to be more than they bargained for in an afternoon hike. As we were halfway down the mountain, we cautioned a team or two on their way up that they might want to consider sunset time and the length of the hike. One team heeded our words and decided to return the next day. Another pair flipped off our caution. I sincerely hope they weren’t trying to negotiate the rocky trail after dark with no flashlight. Sometimes we get our mind so set on something, we disregard common sense. It’s a good thing to have resolve, but sometimes it’s necessary to adjust your plans.

6. Select your team with care. It’s been said that the pace of the leader is the pace of the pack. That is not true in the case of an arduous climb. The leader might be fast but you can’t afford to leave anyone behind. Therefore, everyone on the team has to be fit and able to carry their own weight. Another consideration is personality and attitude of the people you go with. I think it’s a lot more fun like to travel with cheerful people who can keep a good attitude. Whining is tiresome.

7. Enjoy the journey. You can be so focused on the goal that you forget to look up and take pleasure in the process. The uneven ground on our most recent hike demanded that I pay attention to where my feet were landing, so I paused often to feel the breeze, smell the piney fragrance of the woods and marvel at the autumn leaves. It’s said that happiness is not a destination, it’s a manner of travelling.

One last thought…take time to celebrate your success. We ate a full meal with a special dessert (no guilt!) that evening as a way to congratulate ourselves on completing a memorable adventure. Victory is sweet – savor it.

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