After years of solo missions in the mountains, I’ve come to realize that the feelings associated with mountaineering parallels the feelings of running a small business. There is the fear of the unknown, the extreme risk taking involved and the immense inner drive it takes to move forward even when I feel so desperately tired.
Before I was a small business owner, I was an outdoor guide and educator. Jumping across the globe seeking adventure around corner. Every moment was focused on exploring new heights with anyone who was down for the journey. One day a friend backed out of a summit attempt and I decided to go at it alone. That was the start of my solo adventuring obsession.
There is something so special about being completely alone in the wilderness. When I am surrounded by the vastness of nature there is a sense of power and at the same time an extreme vulnerability.
My sights have shifted a bit from my outdoor career to my newest obsession of running my own small creative firm.
The lessons I’ve learned from being alone in Mother Nature guide me through every facet of life, including running my own business. Here are a few of them…
1. Have a plan and be prepared
I worked as an outdoor guide for nearly a decade. One of the first things you learn as a guide is to always be prepared. That means carrying the essentials (food, water, shelter, map, compass, etc.), understand the “red flags” of you and your clients (medical history, skill level, etc.), know where you’re going and have a plan B prepared if it’s not accessible.
Snowy mountains have a sweet spot in the day that is best to climb or they literally start melting away making conditions extremely treacherous. So I plan for this by holding myself accountable to a turn around time if I don’t summit. Like for example if I am not on the summit by 11am, no matter where I am on the summit, even if its a few hundred feet away, I turn around. This takes a lot of ego smashing and humbleness to stand by this rule, but I know this is for my own safety.
Just like I would never go try to summit a mountain without being prepared, the same goes for a business…
- Have a plan, know where your going and develop a plan B if it’s not accessible
- Be adaptable
- List your “red flags” – limitations, skill level
- Know when to set your ego aside and reassess your course or simply back down
- Be humble
2. Trust your instincts
After many years of traveling in the outdoors I’ve developed a strong “sixth sense”. It’s the gut instinct or the quiet voice that tells me when something isn’t quite right. When I’m out alone in the middle of grizzly country or in avalanche terrain listening to this intuition is imperative. My instincts act as my inner compass guiding me as I decide which route to take or to avoid or when I need to back-off something.
Same holds true for business…
- If something just doesn’t “feel right” then listen
- You intuitively know what’s best for you and what you can handle, trust yourself.
- Follow that inner compass it will never lead you astray.
3. Take the risk, even when everyone thinks your crazy
I’m a very petite women, standing at 5’0 and weighing in about 100lbs. I don’t look like your average mountaineer, so I get a lot of weary looks when I am out alone in the woods. When anyone comments about how “dangerous and risky” it is for me go out solo, I just think “well just because it makes you uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean I need to be.”
The reality is that everything in life is a risk and honestly one of the riskiest parts of solo mountaineering is driving to the trial-head.
I’ve learned to development my physical strength, but in actuality one of the most important aspects in successfully climbing mountains is the mental and emotional capabilities. My body isn’t what prevents me from the summit it’s usually my mind.
As a small business owner, every fear, every doubt and every insecurity is going to emerge. People may be scared for you in their attempt to comfort you or maybe they are just trying to protect you out of love. But I found that this can turn into excuses – people’s worries can actually stop us in our tracks.
So I try to remember…
- Other people’s discomfort and unease in what you do is their own fears, don’t let them be yours
- The only thing that is in the way of your dreams, goals and summits is yourself
- Life is short and precious, don’t waste time worrying or being fearful
4. Be grateful for the journey even without the summit
I thank the mountains for allowing me to climb them even if I don’t make it to the top. And if I do have a successful summit, the only reason why is because the mountain “decided it was so”.
Besides being prepared, listening to my instincts and actually taking the risk by stepping onto the trail – the rest of the journey is out of my control. There is an extreme sense of faith, trust and letting go and allowing what is suppose to happen, happen.
Being a business owner feels the exact same way. So I just take it one step at at time and keep my eye on the summit. But honestly it is not the summit that’s important, but the journey itself.
- enjoy the ride
- Stay in awe of each moment
- let go of expectations
- learn something on the way
- and then share it with others