"It's not the mountain that we conquer but ourselves." -- Edmund Hillary
I was riveted by stories about the Everest and the trek to its base camp (EBC) since my childhood and now here I was, standing under the intimidating peak, marvelling at its beauty. On the last day of our trek as the GOQii Titans, as we conquered physical, emotional and intellectual obstacles, I could not help but see the similarity between the climb and the entrepreneurial journey that we undertake on a day-to-day basis in our unending quest to reinvent ourselves and be the best in what we do.
1. Life is all about scaling heights
Scaling heights has been the quest of humans for generations. When you undertake a trek to EBC, you will be amazed at how people from different nationalities, age groups, backgrounds and fitness levels come together to accomplish a common goal with extreme focus.
At 17,500 feet above sea level, I realized ambition and passion have no age limit.
The youngest person I met on the trek was all of nine years old and the oldest was 70. At 17,500 feet above sea level, I realized ambition and passion have no age limit. The lesson: Do not let other people or your age restrict you from pursuing your goals and passion.
2. Trek to the base camp, if not the peak
People have been trying to scale the Everest for years now. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were amongst the first ever mountaineers who climbed the Everest, inspiring more than 5000 people to follow their footsteps. What seemed like an impossible task became an achievable reality for those who believed in themselves and worked for it. If one is determined enough, one can overcome any fear or challenge. While climbing the Everest is extremely technical and dangerous and involves a high volume of risk, the sense of achievement is worth it all. If the punishing climb to the top is not possible, the trek to the Everest Base Camp is almost as big an accomplishment. I think everyone should do it at least once in their lifetime.
One needs to be dedicated and attain a very high level of mental and physical fitness to make the climb to Everest Base Camp. The same goes for business...
3. Get the big picture
For a small country, Nepal has tremendous geographic diversity. It rises from as low as 194 ft elevation in the tropical Terai -- the northern rim of the Gangetic Plain -- to some of the earth's highest peaks, including the 29,029 ft Mount Everest or Sagarmatha. The view of the peaks from the base camp reminded me of every entrepreneur's dream to visit the Silicon Valley, home to some of the tech behemoths of the world like Google, Apple and Facebook. Nepal truly felt like the Silicon Valley for mountain lovers with beautiful 360-degree views of multiple peaks and a very beautiful trail leading up to EBC. It gives you a vision and a perspective of what is out there.
4. There are no shortcuts
It takes months of training for a climb of this scale. It's not like running a marathon that will get over in a few hours but goes on for days or weeks together. One needs to be dedicated and attain a very high level of mental and physical fitness to make the climb to the Everest Base Camp. The same goes for business: preparation and hard work matter. A lot of times, people while setting up their business will focus more on sales and market than in making a really good product. If you put enough work into making a great product, it will sell.
Being grounded and periodically reassessing your goals, strengths and challenges are key to success in any field, more so when you embark on a tough trek...
5. Go slow to go high
"A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step." -- Lao Tzu
One of the most important factors that to keep in mind while making the climb to the EBC is to go slow. It takes 10 days to ascend to the EBC and just three days to descend back to the starting point. As you gain altitude, your body has to acclimatize to the changes in the weather conditions; else you risk developing altitude sickness which could truncate your journey. Remember, it is not a race and nobody is judging you on how long it took you to get to the EBC. Even the fittest of people, can get hit by altitude sickness if they don't take adequate precautions.
A mistake often witnessed when people build a new product is that they end up scaling too fast. They do not first create the right kind of infrastructure for their product to thrive and sustain. For example, many e-commerce companies in India started offering amazing discounts to pull in users, but because they lacked optimal infrastructure and processes in place, it eventually resulted in poor customer service, quality issues and brand damage.
6. Climb high, sleep low
Being grounded and periodically reassessing your goals, strengths and challenges are key to success in any field, more so when you embark on a tough trek like the EBC. During our trek, we would climb up to 15,000 ft, come down and sleep at 14,000 ft and again get ready for the climb higher than 15,000 ft the next day. It's very important to let the body adjust and regain strength which can be done by coming down and sleeping at a lower altitude.
When you get summit fever, your brain will do whatever it takes to move forward. This could lead to bad decisions that may have a fatal outcome.
Similarly, companies need to grow gradually and steadily instead of going all out in a linear fashion. They need to take a pause, learn from their experiences, reassess their strengths, and fine-tune their strategy for the next phase to ensure that they are fully equipped to manage the transition seamlessly through the growth phase.
7. Be humble
We all need to be humble and at some point need to accept defeat for our own good. There are people who climb the Everest and have to turn back a few metres before reaching the summit due to bad weather or other such factors. Nature is supreme -- if needed, give in.
Success, too, can sometimes be fatal, with arrogance causing one to punch above one's weight. It is important for entrepreneurs to make sound decisions for their business, taking into account the environment they operate in. When you get summit fever, your brain will do whatever it takes to move forward. This could lead to bad decisions that may have a fatal outcome.
8. Say yes to guidance
No one is perfect and no one can know it all. You might be the fittest person or an experienced trekker but you may still need expert guidance from local guides and Sherpas to have a successful and joyful experience. Similarly, at any juncture of your business you need your mentors and you need to mentor others in order to reinforce your core beliefs or critical career and life success factors.
Even the smallest of things and the most seemingly peripheral members of a set-up matter. We couldn't have done the trek without our guides and porters.
9. Don't go solo -- it's an expedition
A trek of this scale requires a lot of people to help and support each other. We were a group of seven trekkers, but we also had a staff of about seven others, including Sherpas, guides and porters. In a company, too, you can't be running a one man show, you need people across departments with varied skill sets and experiences who share your vision for the company and help collectively achieve your shared goals.
10. The little things matter
Even the smallest of things and the most seemingly peripheral members of a set-up matter. We couldn't have done the trek without our guides and porters. Similarly, a business would be in serious trouble without the efforts of the customer service team or members of the help desk. Every person in an enterprise plays an important role in helping to achieve the goals of the company.
11. Always have a Plan B
During the trek, we witnessed the weather changing in minutes from bright sunlight too heavy rainfall to snow. You need to be thoroughly prepared as there is a possibility that you might need to change course. On our way back, the airport was shut due to bad weather conditions, but we had already booked choppers in advance. We planned this because we had foreseen situations and had spoken to people in advance who guided us.
People who move fast on mountains and do not acclimatize [may] eventually succumb to altitude sickness. The same thing happens in companies with high spending.
Similarly, the environment in which a business operates is always evolving. Thus, organizational survival requires that the methods leaders use to learn and to impart operational knowledge must change as fast or faster than the environmental changes that threaten viability. In order to achieve this, the focus must be to look beyond competition and market share to more fundamental questions of survival and sustainability in a turbulent and continuously changing environment.
12. Stay smart. Stay focused
People who move fast on mountains and do not acclimatize have all kinds of problems and eventually succumb to altitude sickness. The same thing happens in companies with high spending -- they think that they will be able to raise money but struggle to get investments due to bad market circumstances which leads to them crashing and burning out.
13. It's the journey that makes it worth it!
In the end it's all about the journey and not the destination, so enjoy it. This, by far, was one of the most memorable journeys that I've ever had. Whether it was walking a treacherous path or withstanding the biting cold with five layers of clothes, the memories that I hold close to my heart make it all worthwhile. Scaling the ups and downs of a business, and weathering the storms to see sunny days, make entrepreneurship just as rewarding.
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