“It’s not the mountain that we conquer but ourselves” – Edmund Hillary
Having read about Everest and the trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC) since my childhood days to finally, standing under the intimidating peaks of the Everest marveling at its beauty was a dream come true for me. The view of the mountains was a cry out to those brave enough to scale her unforgiving slopes, beckoning them to claim the world’s highest of thrones if they dare. On the last day of the trek the GOQii Titans and I stand at the end of our journey overcoming obstacles – physical, intellectual and emotional. I could not help but see the similarity between this arduous trek 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.
If words could describe the 14-day trek to the EBC, the journey by far has been one of the best experiences of my life.
Life is all about scaling heights
Scaling heights have been the quest for humans for generations. When you undertake a trek to EBC, you ‘will be amazed at how people from different nationalities, age groups, background and fitness levels come together to accomplish a common goal- not delusional and extremely focused. The youngest person I met on the trek was all of 9 years old and the oldest was 70 yrs. 17,500 feet above sea level, I realized ambition and passion, has no age limit. Hence, do not let other people or your age restrict you from pursuing your goals and passion.
You must do the trek to the base camp
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 might have initially looked like a daunting task saw the light of dawn for the ones who believed in themselves? If one is determined they can overcome any fear or challenge. While I agree, climbing the Everest is extremely technical and dangerous and involves a high volume of risk, the sense of achievement that follows is worth it all. I strongly recommend everyone to attempt the Everest Base Camp at least once in their life.
Entrepreneur’s Silicon Valley
For a small country, Nepal has tremendous geographic diversity. It rises from as low as 59 metres (194 ft) elevation in the tropical Terai—the northern rim of the Gangetic Plain, beyond the perpetual snow line to some 90 peaks over 7,000 metres (22,966 Ft.) including Earth’s highest 8,848 metres (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.
Invest in the product not in the market alone
Many a times people while setting up their business do not focus on training and invest in marketing and R&D of their companies. If it’s a good product it will sell, one should focus on their product/service rather than marketing & sales. Similarly for the base camp, it takes months of training for a climb of this scale. It’s not like running a marathon that will get over in 2 -3 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 Base Camp.
Go Slow to Go High
A journey of thousand miles starts with a single step; Lao Tzu
One of the most important factors that need to be kept in mind while trekking to EBC is to go slow. It takes 10 days to ascend to EBC and just 3 days to descend back to the starting point. As you gain altitude, your body has to acclimatize to the changes in the unfriendly weather conditions especially, altitude sickness caused by low levels of oxygen. Remember, it is not a race and nobody is judging you on how long it took you to get to EBC. Also, bear in mind, even the fittest of people can get hit by altitude sickness if they don’t take adequate precaution. A mistake often witnessed when people build a new product, they end up scaling too fast without creating the right kind of infrastructure for their product to thrive and sustain. For example, many e-commerce companies in India started offering amazing and attractive discounts to pull users without having optimal infrastructure and processes in place which eventually resulted in poor customer service, quality issues and brand damage.
Climb high, sleep low
Being grounded and periodically reassessing your goals, strengths and challenges is the key to success in any field, more so when you embark on a tough trek such as the EBC. During our trek, we would climb up to 15000 ft, come down and sleep at 14000 ft and again get ready for the climb higher than 15000 ft the next day. It’s very important for one to let the body adjust and regain strength which can be done by coming down and sleeping at lower altitude. Likewise, 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 strength, 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.
Be humble – Nature is supreme
We all need to be humble and at some point need to accept defeat for the better. There are people who climb the Everest and have to turn back few meters before reaching the summit due to bad weather or other such factors. Nature is supreme – if needed, give in. Success can be fatal, thus making it important for entrepreneurs to make sound decisions for their business taking into account the environment they operate in. When you get the summit fever, your brain will do whatever it takes to move forward which leads to bad decisions often resulting in people collapsing or resulting in deaths.
Say yes to guidance – We all need a mentor
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.
Don’t go solo – it’s an expedition
A trek of this scale requires a lot of people to help and support. We were a group of 7 people but we had a staff of about 7 or more people which included Sherpas, guides, and porters. Hence in a company 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 the same.
The little things matter
Even the smallest of things and smallest members of the team like the customer service team, people at the help desk, play a crucial role while running a company. Realizing the same, the trek was a success courtesy the help we received from a lot of people such as the porters who carried our luggage to the sherpa who guided us at every step. Thus, every member of the team plays an important role helping collectively achieve the goals of the company.
Environmental factors – Always have a Plan B
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. Similarly, during the trek within minutes, we witnessed changing weather from bright sunlight one minute to heavy rainfall and then snow within a matter of few minutes. As a result, one needs to be thoroughly prepared as there is a possibility that you might need to change course. As luck may have it on our way back, the airport was shut due to bad weather conditions, but we had already booked choppers in advance as an alternate plan. We could only plan this because we had foreseen situations and had spoken to people in advance who guided us.
Stay smart. Stay focused.
People who move fast on mountains and do not acclimatize get all kinds of problems and eventually succumb to altitude sickness. 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 lead them to crash and burn out.
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 my most memorable journeys that I’ve had or will experience. Whether it was walking a treacherous path or withstanding the biting cold with five layers of clothes, it’s memories that one holds close to the heart that makes the trek worth it all.