14,505 Feet of Misery That I’m Grateful For

With a summit elevation of 14,505 feet, Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. Because of its location in the Sierra mountain range in California, it is a popular climb for mountain climbers with a wide range of skill and experience. I’d never been drawn to mountain climbing — certainly not to this degree — but I was curious as to what climbers saw in such an accomplishment. I thought the best way to understand was to try it myself, and maybe I would even discover a new attraction of my own.

I can now safely say that I have no interest in mountain climbing. But I am grateful for the lessons I learned along the way, even if they came through trial and error.

THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SOLID RESEARCH AND PLANNING.

Climbing a mountain seems fairly simple in abstract, right? Not easy, but simple. You get the right equipment and start climbing until you reach the top. But there are countless wrong choices you could make that might have little consequence at Sea level, but could cost you dearly on your ascent. Packing too heavily, underestimating altitude sickness, hiking in snow vs. dirt trail, not properly calculating caloric intake and output…these are all little things that novice mountain climbers take for granted, and often they come to regret it.

I took some of these things for granted myself and made assumptions that only made the trek up Mt. Whitney that much harder for me. Business can be much the same. There are any number of little details that may not seem important before you begin but that you’ll find can have a huge impact on your success. The solution? Do your homework. It’s important to research every aspect of the venture you’re about to begin — whether it’s scaling a mountain or starting a business — so you know what to expect from others have taken the same path before.

Planning and analysis will typically lead you to a more pleasurable experience, and a more successful outcome. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t want to overdo it, as overplanning tends to cause paralysis.

THE POWER OF THE MIND.

There was a moment about one mile from the summit, less than an hour to go, when I felt my body shutting down. I was nauseous with a splitting headache, and I couldn’t seem to take in enough oxygen for proper muscle recovery. Quitting would have been so easy, but I somehow managed to press on to the top. My mind pushed my body further than I had thought possible.

The “body” of your business may suffer threats from competitors, discouragement from naysayers, abandonment from employees or customers, or financial straits. If you’re in a negative mindset, these challenges might prompt you to quit. But with a committed and unwavering mind in their pursuit of the mission, they are speed bumps at most.

THERE IS REAL VALUE IN SUFFERING.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl talks about the fundamental human drive being to find life’s “potential meaning under any conditions.” “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances,” says Frankl, “but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” He goes on to discuss the belief that one’s spirit can rise above his surroundings: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

If you’ve read this wonderful book, you know the suffering described within is unimaginably worlds apart from my experience so there is truly no comparison. But they both offer valuable lessons about what can be gained in the process. Suffering can teach us who we are, and sometimes that knowledge can be one of our greatest resources.

SOME THINGS ARE SIMPLY NOT FOR EVERYONE, AND THAT’S OKAY.

My attempt at mountain climbing was an unforgettable experience with three great friends for which I’ll always be grateful, and there were plenty of people on the mountain having a much better time than me! Even though I felt no enlightening revelation on the summit and it didn’t spark a new hobby, I learned a little more about who I am as a person, and there’s great satisfaction in that.

I was reminded of two things in my professional life as I reflected on this experience. First, if you don’t go for it, you’ll never know…and you may come to regret not knowing and not having tried. And second, it is healthy to be honest with yourself and shed, whether it’s a hobby that isn’t for you, a line of business or a product that didn’t go as well as you hoped.

I would still highly recommend this adventure to anyone even mildly interested. Just don’t skimp on the research and planning!