What Climbing Kilimanjaro Taught Me About Running a Business

One of my biggest achievements in life has been climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro. On reflecting on this experience recently when chatting to a client about overcoming challenges, I realised there were many lessons I’d learnt on this experience that I can relate to business.

The first reflection came when I explained how climbing this epic mountain wasn’t actually a lifelong ambition, but happened on a whim after a chat with a friend, when we decided that it would be something fun to do! Often starting a business isn’t something we’ve dreamt of for years, but comes from a desire to do something different, often in what we consider to be ‘a moment of madness.’

Once I’d committed to the climb, I was all in - so, I downloaded a training plan from the internet and set to work on turning my little legs into mountain climbing warriors. I like a plan, and I like a process to follow.

I thought it would be an experience, but I had no idea what a life changing one it would be.

I still remember, turning around to look down at how far I’d climbed, seeing dawn breaking to ask is this really me? Am I actually doing this?

Little did I know, right at that very moment, I was receiving life lessons on how to run a successful business.

Here’s what I learnt that can help you to grow your business.

What Climbing Kilimanjaro Taught Me About Running a Business - My Top 5 Insights

Everything is flipping mindset!

We all know that mindset is a biggie when it comes to overcoming challenges - we hear this a lot but it is never more true that you need to have total control over your mindset than when you’re about to summit a mountain or start a business.

Because you’re going to want to give up, lots.

I remember at one point during my climb, it was only the promise of a Mars bar that kept me climbing when all I wanted to do was lie down and have a little disco nap.

Business is no different.

A lot of business is sheer graft, it’s hard work, some of it as monotonous as putting one step in front of the other for days on end.

Especially in the early days, successes are few and far between, sales are light and sometimes non existent. But somehow you have to dig deep and keep your eyes on the prize. You have to focus on keeping going - getting to the top (whatever that might be in terms of your next goal) - so you can experience the thrill, the pride and the exhilaration for reaching that summit, which will then drive you on for your next challenge.

Don’t allow the “experts” to derail you

Climbing Kili took me 7 days. At times I questioned if I’d gone mad. I signed up for the longest route possible, so over the course of a week we hiked up, then down again, up and down again, until we were ready for the big climb.

The idea being, your body gets used to the thinner air and lower oxygen. It means you’ve more chances of making the summit during your last day on the climb.

People told me I was daft.

Brian, an overweight IT technician from Portsmouth told me “Just head straight to the top and get it done.”

Maybe he was right?

I question how experienced Brian was as I saw him in the hotel 4 days later with altitude sickness, very unpleasant.

In business, it’s no different.

People will question your methods, tell you that you’re doing it wrong. You’ll get sidetracked by all the gurus on the internet who tell you to build your business this way, or that way, leaving you confused if what you’re doing is the right thing.

The honest answer is, there’s more than one way to make sales and grow your business, but you have to stick to one plan like it’s your new religion and ignore the Brian’s in this world!

Be in it for the long game

Walking for 7 days rather than Brian’s chosen 4 days increased my chances of success. Talking the longer route meant I made it, where poor Brian consoled himself with a local beer.

In business, success takes time.

It can’t be rushed, no matter how much we’d like to. That’s because creating a successful business is based on relationships and they take time to build.

So, don’t be surprised if during the first few months you’re not issuing too many invoices. You have to be prepared to stick at it to get to celebrate the successes.

You’re capable of way more than you think

At midnight we were woken up by our guide to start the summit.

It was cold, ice was hanging off our tent, our legs were tired and even the rock bed we were sleeping on seemed more appealing than spending the next 15 hours climbing to the top of the mountain. A warm tea and some porridge was our only motivator.

After about an hour, my mind took over. My pace slowed down and I was ready to go home. I was at the back of the line. “I want to go home,” I shouted. Irrational behaviour takes over at times like these and you turn into a 3 year old having a tantrum.

So, I had a Mars bar.

It’s amazing how a sugar rush and a stern talking to can get you kicked back into action. But that’s the thing. We are way more capable than we give ourselves credit for. We have the power to keep going, when all we wanna do is chuck in the towel. You’re going to second guess yourself every day. You’ll wonder why anyone will want to work with you, never mind pay you. You will tell yourself that you’re no good and that you’re not an expert. Impostor syndrome will have you believing all sorts of claptrap.

Yet when we power on, we realise that we’re awesome human beings who are capable of anything, including making a living selling our own services and it’s a feeling like no other.

The end result is more than worth it

If there’s one thing that climbing Kilimanjaro taught me above everything else it’s this:- The journey and the end results are both brilliant!

The journey, on reflection, taught me a lot, and there were so many amazing experiences along the way, then the feeling of reaching the summit was something else. It was the same feeling I had when I made my first sale, and had my first £10,000 month.

The hard work pays off.

At times you want give up, you don’t believe it’s possible. But, keep going because that view from the top, that incredible feeling that comes from achieving your goal is like nothing else - it’s addictive - and once you’ve experienced it, there’s no going back - you are now ready to keep moving forward, to keep challenging yourself and to keep riding high.

What if you never experienced this because you’d given up too soon? Don’t say no to the climb….it’s soooooo worth it!