“CLIMBING MOUNT EVEREST”
I have always been in awe of people who have attempted to climb Mount Everest. One day at a retail conference I listened to Sibusiso Vilane, the first black South African to climb to the top of Mount Everest.
In his presentation he spoke about the careful planning that goes into such an attempt. He spoke about the psychological as well as the physical requirements. It was truly motivational.
He also said something that surprised me at the time. I had always thought that you plan for the trip, go to Mount Everest, climb the mountain and either fail or succeed. He noted that during such an expedition there is one key element to consider – Acclimatization.
This meant that once you arrive at the base camp you climb the mountain up to a certain point and then return to base camp. Once you are comfortable with the thin air you climb a bit higher every time, climbing up and down certain areas to different camps several times. This acclimatizes your body to the extreme conditions. There can also be more than one attempt for the summit and it may fail due to sickness, injury, weather and sometimes death.
He noted that this process gave him a particular insight into how business (and life) works. No one likes failure. We avoid it. In business failure is part of every day. He learnt that taking a step back (or climbing back down) is not a sign of failure but part of the process. It makes you stronger each time you do it and leaves you better prepared and conditioned for the next attempt.
I found this particular insight very significant. We tend to try something once and then give up. In business, you may run a promotion, visit a specific client, implement a new procedure and then it doesn’t work. What Sibusiso suggested was that you should see each attempt as part of the acclimatization of your business. You are increasing your chances of success the next time you try.
Once you are comfortable to operate your business at a certain level the next target will not be so far away and your employees, systems and procedures will be acclimatized to operating at that level.
This is a critical part of setting targets and meeting them. If your site pumps 300 000 litres and you want to get to 400 000 it is a major gap. But, if you approach it like Everest you might consider:
– Breaking the gap into more achievable steps (setting a base camp, camp 1, camp 2, etc)
– Acclimatizing as you progress (training staff, better procedures, more employees on a shift, etc)
– Improving your ability to operate at a new level e.g. 350 000 litres (climbing up and down until your business is comfortably operating at that level)
– Lastly, attempting the summit (making that final push to reach 400 000 litres)
Just keep acclimatizing your business.
DON’T see a failure as the end. If you’ve missed the target you’ve inherently become stronger just by trying. Make everyone aware that the chance of success next month has improved.
DON’T focus on the failure, focus on what you’ve learnt by failing. Edison found 1000 ways NOT to make a light bulb before he was successful.
DO keep trying. Perseverance is the most important personality trait any business person can have. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.
DO realise that you will have days where you really can’t do it. Be careful that you don’t “cancel” your plans completely because of one bad day.
Our memories fail us every day on many things. Don’t convince yourself that you have your plans neatly organised in your head and that you will remember it all clearly. Write your plans down and make them visible. I use Microsoft OneNote, it forces me to simplify any complicated plan into a few key ideas that are easy to explain to someone else.
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