Last month I took a much needed vacation to one of my favorite environs, the desert, and spent some time in Zion National Park, Utah. At the time we planned the trip, we had no intention of tackling one of the park's crown jewels, the Angels Landing trail. We had read about it (strenuous, not for the faint of heart) and heard about it from others ("I was never so scared…" and "...unlike anything else I have ever done…") and decided to embrace being chicken and play it safe and stick to more moderate hiking. However, about two weeks prior to the trip, I got the bright idea that we should do the hike and use it as a metaphor for life. Needless to say, this brought sideways glances and "you've got to be kidding" looks from my partner.
Let me start by saying Angels Landing is not a Mt. Everest and plenty of people hike it each year. That being said, however, it is one of the most challenging and unique pure hiking experiences in the National Parks. Angels Landing is one of the 6000+ foot peaks within Zion. In order to get to the top you must hike 2.5 miles one way to the top and climb almost 1500 vertical feet. What makes it most special is the last ˝ mile of the climb which rises 500 feet on what seems to be a razor's edge on the backside of the peak. It involves a lot of rock scrambling, the use of chains driven into the rock, and navigating a path that at times is as narrow as 3 feet wide (go ahead, measure that out now) with a 2000 foot sheer drop on one side and a 1700 foot drop-off on the other side. That is a lot of air and a long way down. Even the hiking guides and signs state that this trail is not for the faint of heart, anyone with vertigo, or a fear of heights. Considering I cling to the walls of 100 foot lighthouses, sob on Ferris wheels, and death grip the lap bar on the calm sky rides in amusement parks, you'd wonder…"what makes you want to do this?"
To cut to the happy ending, we made it. It was tiring and heart stopping at times, but we got to the top and actually had a fun time doing it. It was a wonderful exercise in staying present in the moment and letting everything else just melt away. Coming back down certainly gave me a new perspective on what it means to stay balanced, keep your center of gravity low, and focus on where you want to go (and not the vast amount of air space and hang time just waiting for a wrong move).
What I learned on this little journey is that sometimes you just have to get very clear on what success means to you, set your sights on the top, and move up and onward in spite of the fear. While my whole metaphor for life crusade was originally more a motivating mantra than anything else, I confirmed that there really is a lot of truth to it. I found 10 key success factors that got us up and down in a safe and fun manner. These same key qualities and characteristics are needed for success in life and business.
While we decided almost last minute to hike this trail, we would not have had a prayer of hope (and would have been downright irresponsible and dangerous) had we not already spent many months of obtaining and maintaining excellent physical conditioning. A little due diligence, foresight, and planning gives any endeavor a higher probability of success.
If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there? In this case we had a clearly defined path and summit which made this piece of the puzzle very easy. Do you have a clear vision of what you want your life or business to be about? If you don't, how will you know if you're heading in the right direction?
Judgment and Common Sense
The world is an unpredictable place. The weather is even more unpredictable, especially in the canyons. En route to the summit, we had to pass through Refrigerator Canyon, a small slot canyon. Part way through we heard a large crack of thunder reverberate all around us. We stopped and wondered if that would be the end of the journey because in the desert, even a little water creates floods; on exposed cliffs lightening danger is extreme. At that moment and with every step along the narrow path, we had to use common sense and judgment to assess the situation and risk. How do you periodically assess the steps along the path within your life and business?
Perspective and Focused Vision
There is nothing like standing in a canyon between massive cliffs or being atop one of them to gain a little perspective. Grasping the bigger picture is crucial. Just as critical is the perspective you bring to any situation. Both can make or break your efforts. Focused vision is required to tap into a laser like focus removing all distractions from your attention and staying in alignment with your goal. Do you have an idea of your big picture and are you focused on the goal? Or, are you doing today the same thing you did yesterday just because it is what you did yesterday?
On the edge of 2000 foot drop-offs is no place for someone with two left feet or a tendency to be klutzy. The margin for error is too small. Balance is important not only in the physical sense but also emotionally and internally as you move through your journey. There will be highs and lows and the ability to maintain an inner calm and a faith in a higher power is critical to personal mastery. The same balance is needed in our daily lives if we plan on living fully and being effective at the things we want to do.
On the mountain it took the form of being able to stretch and contort our bodies to fit the spaces given to us. At times I simply shouted to my partner who has shorter legs than I, "just grow, will you!??" In life and business flexibility is needed to go with the flow and respond to the constant and never-ending changes and challenges in today's environment.
It takes a lot of inner strength to achieve a goal. In our case it took a bit of physical strength as well. Keeping yourself strong by giving yourself attention and care on all levels - body, mind, and spirit - will allow you to have a stronger foundation on which to build the life and business of your wildest dreams.
Having a deep well and the resources to tap into are important for the long haul. Treat your life and your business like you would a distance run. Pace yourself, take breaks along the way, and remember to stop and refuel.
Keep at it and put one foot in front of the other. On the hike, there were definitely times when fatigue would set it, muscles would burn, or a moment of fear and anxiety would take over. Our life is not defined by any given moment. We do not achieve success nor fail in any one moment. Rather, it is our ability to string successful moments together and make consistent empowering choices over time that allow us to experience the exhilaration of the moment when it all comes together.
The people, places, and things in our life when combined form the environment and support system so vital to keeping us alive and well. On our hike it meant food, water, layers of clothing, and connecting with people along the way. It looks a lot like that in real life as well in that we need to meet our physical needs and our emotional needs as well. The relationships we cultivate with ourselves and others whether business or personal create the ultimate supporting structure upon which we build our dreams.