Last post I wrote about how my passion and success in climbing had turned into a powerful lever that I could apply to all the challenges in my life. It led directly to many of the other successes in my life including the summit of Mount Everest, founding several successful companies, and becoming an executive MBA professor. The process of connecting career to passion began for me at Lakehead University twenty years ago, and it was there that another important dimension also took shape: the human one.
I was, and still am, a very keen climber. Some might suggest I am obsessed at times. (That’s another story). But for really big projects, it can become difficult for an individual to maintain passion and energy over the long period of time that it takes to achieve the goal. At University, what sustained my passion for climbing and academics when I had doubts or lapses were the kindred spirits around me. These were people who understood my goals and would help me achieve them. If climbing was the lever for me, this was akin to recruiting many capable and willing hands to its business end. On Mount Everest in 2008, our team dealt with a constant stream of issues and changes that went far beyond “normal” mountaineering challenges. The presence on the mountain of the very high profile Chinese Olympic Torch Relay resulted in political interference. Many permits were cancelled, climbing restrictions were invoked, dissenting climbers were deported at gun point and snipers were placed at key points to ensure compliance from those who remained. It would have been very easy for any one of us, far from home and immersed in a strange (to us) culture, to simply abandon our dreams of the summit. In fact many other climbers did just that. However, because we shared our passion and our goals, we were able to create an emotionally and psychologically supportive environment around us and keep each other focused. This was one key factor in our success on Everest.
Mountaineering has taught me the value of connecting to communities of like-minded people. Few people climb mountains alone. Those who do run great risks and sacrifice the enhanced joy that comes with shared success – that exhilarating feeling that “we did this together”. The same is true in raising a family or running a business. In one case, our extended families are there to offer advice and support when we need it, and to share the joy when we have it. In the other, our professional colleagues and employees, when they truly resonate with us, also offer their ideas and support, and share our successes when we earn it. They raise our energy by sharing theirs.
So, I think it is important to develop and sustain relationships with those people who will join us in achieving goals we are truly passionate about. They will help get us through those inevitable rough spots.