I remember reading Into Thin Air by John Krakauer about the tragic climb on Mount Everest of May 10-11, 1996 when 8 people lost their lives going up or coming off the mountain in the event that became known as the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster.
I devoured that book in 2 days, but it wasn’t the tragedy that kept my attention to keep reading. It was the minute-to-minute challenges that rocked my emotions back and forth, feeling the pain and glory of each obstacle overcome. The last part of the climb right before the acme is when the climbers had to dig deep, wear their oxygen masks, and go for it.
After some of the mountaineers celebrated their summit, they had to muster the oomph it takes to make it back down to safety in the midst of a blizzard. That’s the follow-through on the promise of reaching the pinnacle. If we can’t fulfill that mission, we won’t survive. Our only feat will be the summit.
Eight people did not survive that climb on Mt. Everest. Most succumbed to the grueling conditions on the way back down to base camp.
Building a business is not a steady climb but more of a journey through peaks and valleys before reaching a sharp pitch upwards that we must force ourselves to overcome as we approach the final steps of the goal we set. Much like climbing Everest, the mental fortitude rather than the technical knowledge is what takes us over the top. Once we have reached that point where the reward comes for all the hard work, we have a promise to fulfill, a service or product to deliver. We must persevere well beyond the peak in order to survive.
Most people are excited about the journey to go somewhere. You know that feeling we get when we are off to the beach for a week or to the mountains to ski over the holidays? It’s a joyous feeling full of adrenaline and excitement. We take selfies and pictures of our family, food, and new outfits. As the vacation comes to a close, the camera is shoved in a bag, the new outfits are dirty, and we start to feel the pressure, the pull back into responsibilities, deadlines, and 800 unread e-mails.
Starting our own businesses evokes similar feelings of excitement. We are creating something we believe in. We have this inherent need to share our talents with the world. It takes preparation, hard work, an open mind, and lots of pride-swallowing to crest every learning curve before we finally make it across the finish line. Is it the finish line? Is that what we are after?
We all struggle at different junctions. Some of us will begin to approach success then backtrack and sabotage what we have achieved. It’s baffling to others who are cheering us on, waiting to see the flag raise. They don’t understand it when mental blocks arise and halt the mountaineer in her tracks. “Why didn’t she make it to the top? We were all rooting for her!”
Fear of success is not what this is. It is fear of not being able to deliver once the pinnacle is reached and the orders are placed. On the other side of the summit is a trodden path covered in a twisted mess left-over from the climb, waiting to be cleaned up. The responsibilities have mounted. The cheerleaders are waiting for our return. We are afraid to turn back around and face them.
As we approach the 20 year anniversary of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster this May, I noticed that the timing of the launch of my online business school coincides with the remembrance of this event. I have put everything I have into this last year of creating this school, learning new technology, monitoring statistics, building relationships, collaborating, teaching, coaching, crying, screaming, making a complete fool of myself, wanting to toss my laptop onto the honky-tonk streets of Nashville, and meeting some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever known in the process.
My story will have a different ending though. There are no blizzards or harsh conditions surrounding me, perceived maybe, but not like on Everest. I have to bring myself off the ledge of fear that I won’t reach the top or that fulfilling the expectations of my students will snow me under.
Reaching that lofty goal is tough. There is no doubt that I will need a vacation when the sales period is over to regroup and come back relaxed enough to pour myself into the beautiful students, the cheerleaders, followers and fans who have believed in me and encouraged me. They deserve to have me relaxed and rested up to deliver what I so deeply believe in. My gifts of organizing the chaos of social media business strategies and technology are meant to be given to them sequentially, logically, poetically and lovingly, not in a frenzied, scattered rush.
As much as it seems, this is not my Everest. This is my first big summit. I have many mountains to climb. My vision is much bigger than this one accomplishment, and I have to talk myself off the ledge of succumbing to the conditions. You have to do that, too. You may not see it yet, but you are looking at one of the photos in your album, one of the pages of your journal. Do not allow the perception that this is your entire life’s achievement. Narrow it down to the chapter it deserves. I will do the same, and we will move to the next mountain range together prepared, ready and willing to survive and thrive.
Sally Hendrick of Nashville, Tennessee, is the founder of Social Media Traffic School, an e-learning center that teaches strategy, technology and analytics to drive traffic to products and services using social media. Enrollment for this lifetime access program is May 1 to 16. Live strategy classes with Sally and her tech savvy faculty for summer session begin June 1 in the Lecture Hall, are recorded and housed inside the library. E-courses with step-by-step video tutorials, check lists, flow charts, and course maps teach the technology needed to implement the strategies. Visit SocialMediaTrafficSchool.com for more details.