I just got back from quite the adventure at the foot and summit of some Appalachian Mountains and on an epic coffee-fueled road trip adventure to Maine and the East Coast with a close friend, Matt Hanks. While I was climbing the mountains it was made very clear to me I’m a flatlander. The other numerous hikers who were on the Appalachian Trail for 6 month stretches put me to shame, but I trucked it up an almost mile high summit, and 5 other mountains as well.
Here’s a shot of me on Bond Cliff.
Here are 6 Insights I can glean from my time climbing mountains, where everything seems like a (sometimes overwhelming) analogy.
1. Only carry the essentials
I realized about half-way in that my blanket was a little much for the climate, and I could have traded it out for some food in my pack. Well traveled backpackers will tell you, you don’t need much more than a sweater and some extra underwear and socks in your backpack for even longer trips; you’re going to stink no matter what.
2. As much as possible be a self contained entity
I carried a tent, but my friend Matt lugged the food. If I was to do it again, I would have skipped the tent and maybe packed a light tarp and a hammock. We stayed in a hut on the leg of the trip we were on and could have the other night. If I could have I would have packed my share of the food and felt a bit more autonomous. There was a little anxiety when my hiking partner would get too far ahead of me, and I’d rather have not had to think of it.
It’s nice to be interdependent with people, and most of us are (unless we’re sociopath’s) interdependent at least emotionally. Life is better this way, but you always have to be ready to go down to survival mode and have everything you need at certain times.
3. Don’t rush out the door, bring a raincoat and a dry change of clothes/socks
Well this makes me look a bit foolish, I forgot a poncho on my trip and it rained pretty hard one day. If I would have respected the elements I was entering a little more, I wouldn’t have rushed out so fast on my trip and stepped back a second to make sure I had these essentials. Sleeping with a 65% wet blanket one night and not having dry socks the next day reiterated that fact.
Before rushing into a new adventure, check your pack. Do I have everything I need to be dry, hydrated, fed, and insulated from the elements if push came to shove? I know you wouldn’t think of doing otherwise, but some of us are foolish. 😉
4. Clarify your one most important thing you need to have
I brought a book on being a better photographer. That space could have fit 4 cliff bars or a package of tortillas, and I wish I had left it behind for that reason. But in the end, the one most important thing from my point of view is water and places to keep it. I think I’ll have a bit more space for water in my pack next time I take a hike like this.
This is where the analogy starts to hit home a bit more for my current working life. I need to simplify and emphasize my priorities. Cutting the fat around the habits I have in my work life that aren’t producing results anymore, and spending that time on the few main items that matter. For me that work is confined to a few key areas:
1. Writing my Beginner’s guide to WordPress Development book (Next Step: Write the next chapter)
2. Recording the next episodes of my Digital Marketing podcast (Next Step: Write the Outlines for the next two)
3. Define 5 habits for lead generation to do on a regular basis.
You of course will have your own, but I encourage you to define what your most important next step is, “what’s the one next thing that I could do right now for my business and work career that will propel me forward and provide value to others?” Outline the 3 next small steps towards accomplishing that.
5. It always gets harder towards the top
I like to think I’ve reached a couple summits in my work career so far, but one thing seems to be true: before getting to something awesome, there’s usually a handful of times where you’re highly discouraged first. On the mountains there was always a sharp incline right towards the top. For whatever reason the way these mountains work, that incline seemed to always tip of the end of the climb and the beginning of a descent. So in a way when stuff starts getting hard, you may just be on the verge of something good.
6. Beware of false summits
In the mist I would approach what felt like the top of the mountain. This happened 6+ times on the last mountain we climbed. I thought I had reached the top, but I had no idea. By assuming it was the final summit because it kind of looked like one and couldn’t see very far in the distance, I put myself in a position to slow-down and decrease my efficiency. It’s important to not give up when you’re close! Or as a friend of mine says ‘don’t give up before the miracle happens.’