Recently, I watched An American Ascent, a documentary chronicling the first African American expedition to tackle Denali, North America’s highest peak. I found the film compelling. Why? Because I love things that people say “you can’t do” and because mountains absolutely fascinate me. They represent challenges, aspirations and the spiritual draw of nature.
That’s why, following the screening, I was delighted to be introduced as a “real mountaineer.” My heart leaped — no, it soared — because I’d never expected to hear that description of me. But the descrption was accurate: I’d personally experienced the same as those Denali adventurers when I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania — Africa’s highest peak — with GAdventures. Yep, the girl who shouldn’t have, did!!!
I was from an Indian family, after all, and mountaineering wasn’t the kind of thing a girl like me was supposed to do (that’s another story). An American Ascent was similarly about breaking the rules and the bravery of seriously stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
Now doesn’t that sound like the life of entrepreneur? As professional mountaineer Adrian Ballinger has said, “Running a business is a lot like climbing a mountain.” So, what lessons can we apply from mountaineering to climbing our own “Mount Entrepreneur”? I can think of eight.
1. Ignite your mission.
True entrepreneurs are about more than the pure desire to succeed. It’s not just about “reaching the top of the mountain” for them. Their life has a mission: Design the next best technical product! Find a solution to a problem the world faces! As Peter Diamandis of XPRIZE has said, “If the risk is fully aligned with your purpose and mission, then it’s worth considering.”
Climbing a mountain has always been on my bucket list. Each time I thought of the milestone birthday coming up, I knew I just wanted to be on a mountain. Being there, that day, or in the process of climbing it was what mattered.
I had desperately wanted to do the things that weren’t prescribed for kids from my background; that became my mission and driver. In business, it’s the same, I’d never fitted in as a kid; I was awkward and different; I wanted to follow my own path. Today, I have a company that “unleashes the crazy” in people.
Image credit: GAdventures
Its mission: to help the world better understand different thinkers. That same kind of innate desire to be bigger, better stronger is what drove me up the mountain, just as it does in my business life.
That’s the entrepreneurial spark: As motivational speaker Simon Sinek has said, “Start with why.” Be crystal-clear on your why and be able to describe it in a one-to-two sentence elevator pitch that emotionally ignites you.
2. Accept the challenge.