5 Things I learned in the Himalayas about business – Thing #5


5. The Summit is Awesome, but you don’t stay very long.

Business Translation: When you finally get to where you’ve been focused on for so long, you realize you’re only part way through the journey.

In the back of my mind, I always thought when I finally reached my goal of standing on top of a big mountain in the Himalayas that it would be something like winning the Super Bowl or the World Cup. Huge celebration, loud cheering, fist-pumping, jumping up and down, high fives, horns, confetti – total exhilaration. After all, for a guy from Florida who lives at sea level, to be able to stand on top of a Himalayan giant above 20,000ft has to rank at the top on the list of personal achievements.

Island Peak Summit photo
Our team of 6 climbers and 2 Sherpas on top of Island Peak at 20,310 feet.

Surprisingly, it was much more subdued than that. Don’t get me wrong, we were all really excited we made it to the top, but it was more like smiles and satisfaction than all out euphoria. And it wasn’t very long before we started back down…..maybe twenty or thirty minutes.

Since then I’ve often wondered why that is. I’ve come to believe there’s a good reason for it…….well, maybe a couple reasons. First off, there’s not much oxygen at 20,000 feet so maybe that dims the celebration a little bit. I say that halfway in jest but trust me, nobody was solving calculus problems at the summit.

I actually think the main reason for the subdued and shortened celebration is you realize you’re only half-way done when you’re standing on top of the mountain. I remember looking around taking video from the top, taking in the amazing the view when I looked back down the way I came up. I started thinking about how hard it was to get to the top: I had to climb over car-size boulders at steep angles, through an un-nerving crevasse field, across a glacier, up an ice and snow headwall that was nearly vertical at times. It was nine hours of the most difficult physical challenges I’d ever attempted. And now I was realizing I still had hours more of really difficult physical challenges ahead of me……and I was already tired.

Climbing down Island Peak picture
Heading back down. The beginning of a 7-hour stretch

That’s why you don’t stay on the summit very long. You’re only half-way. You still have a long way to go before you can take your foot off the gas.

What I learned about business from all of this is career goals are like summits. When you accomplish a goal you’ve had for a long time you realize it’s only a milestone in your career journey. You’re not done. You’ve still got more ahead of you. And like summiting a tall mountain, your celebration is often subdued because you know there is a lot more work that needs your immediate attention. In summit terms, you still have to get back down.

So it’s interesting. And in retrospect, a lot of the imagined euphoria of achieving my long sought-after career goals came in little bits and pieces along the way as I moved along the path to my goal. Here’s something to remember: take time to do meaningful celebrations. I’m terrible at that, and I always have been. I know people who are high achievers and are really good at celebrating both theirs and others successes. I look for people like that and I’m always grateful to be around them. It makes life so much better when everyone can smile, laugh, and feel good about their accomplishments.

Celebrate your success whenever you reach a goal. And know that even when you reach one of your goals it may feel like you’re not there yet because there’s a lot still to do.

That’s a sure sign you made it. Congratulations are in order.

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