Alison Levine just addressed a financial group for Gold Stars Speakers Bureau. She shared some of her wisdom learned on the way to the (literal) summit—to help us apply her wisdom to address our own individual summits:
Having spent time in some of the world’s most dangerous and extreme environments (and I am not talking about my time on Wall Street), I have definitely learned some critical survival skills. Whether climbing Everest, the corporate ladder, the requirements for success are strikingly similar.
For starters: You must possess the ability to act quickly and make tough decisions when the conditions around you are far from perfect. Sometimes you have to toss well laid-out plans out the window and take action based on the situation at the time rather than on the plan. Plans are outdated as soon as they are finished in environments that change very rapidly.
Another key to success that applies to both business and the mountains would be empowering everyone to think and act like a leader regardless of title or tenure or experience level, because if something happens to the “designated leader,” the rest of the team need to be able to step up and move forward with the mission. Leadership is not something that is solely the responsibility of senior management or the executive team – everyone within an organization should realize that they should be looking out for the people around them and helping them to achieve their goals.
When you climb a lot of mountains, there will undoubtedly be many expeditions where you fail to make the summit. But failing is not always a bad thing. Society and corporate America are often not failure-tolerant enough, which is unfortunate because a lack of failure-tolerance stifles innovation and prevents people from taking-risks. And a lot of our successes would not have been realized had someone else not taken risks and blazed the trails before us. Previous failure often propels future progress. The key is that you have to learn from the failure and figure out what you need to do differently the next time around.
Getting to the top of a mountain is meaningless unless it provides perspective. And by perspective I do not mean the view from the top. Every mission we undertake in our lives should not only be about reaching the goal, but also the people we effect and the lessons we learn along the way. The journey is where we find perspective. ~ Alison Levine
A little about Alison Levine: Alison Levine is no stranger to risk-taking. She has survived sub-zero temperatures, hurricane-force winds, sudden avalanches, and a career on Wall Street. Surprisingly, Levine was born with a life-threatening heart condition that precluded most demanding physical activities. As a teenager, her health was so unstable that she was not even allowed to do such basic things as drive a car or walk up stairs. But 13 years after her initial diagnosis with Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome, she had surgery that changed her life – and climbing stairs soon gave way to climbing mountains, a passion she continued to pursue despite her health setbacks.
Over the years as she continued to climb the corporate ladder, Levine also pushed her limits on the world’s highest peaks and soon became one of the most experienced female mountaineers in the country. She has climbed peaks on every continent, served as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and skied across the Arctic Circle to the geographic North Pole. You can watch her at: http://www.goldstars.com/obs/AL.html.