We are often bombarded with advice from top businesspeople, multimillionaire entrepreneurs and motivational speakers, but how often do we really listen to our own inner voice?
Life often throws lessons our way, which are not necessarily solved between the pages of a book. Sometimes our own life experiences teach us our lessons.
Whether you are an employee or a business owner, on a regular basis you are required to manage people, teams, tight deadlines, uncertainty, and challenges. Everyone has a capacity to deal with adversity, but how often do you learn from the challenges that are thrown your way?
Chris Bischoff, reputation manager at Reputation Matters, has taken the opportunity to look at the basic lessons that he has learned from rock climbing since he started this new hobby eight months ago.
Focus on what is directly in front of you. “Standing in front of a sheer cliff face, it is very easy to get overwhelmed, nervous and tempted to quit even before you have started. Most of the times, just the act of starting is what you need to do. Once you are on your way, the most important approach to keep on making progress, is to only focus on what is in front of you,” says Bischoff. “Use what you have at your disposal, physically and mentally to focus on the task at hand.”
“In our professional lives, the same lesson applies. While it is good to have a greater plan or strategy, it is the day-to-day operational tasks that keep a business going and your clients happy. Focus on achieving the best quality outcome for those small daily tasks; ultimately the accumulation of small daily wins will help you progress towards achieving your greater goal.”
Small step, big step. “When climbing a challenging route with a limited amount of hand holds, places to grip on to, taking small steps upwards can open up more opportunities. This is one of the best pieces of advice I have received since I have started my climbing journey. On a number of occasions as I was learning new techniques to ascend a particularly difficult rockface, I would feel stuck as there was no obvious place to grip to make my next move. But by moving my feet up slightly, even as little as 10cm, potential new hand holds and cracks in the rock would enter my line of sight. This would then just be enough to get through a difficult section.”
The lesson: projects very rarely go exactly according to plan, there is always a probability that you may reach a bottleneck with any project that you are working on. Think about what you can do, that is immediate and easy to implement, that will help you progress forward. “At Reputation Matters, we rely on small team huddles and brainstorms to get us through tight deadlines, big projects and bottlenecks. It’s a very brief and simple level of team communication, but very effective to coming up with solutions and new ideas to tackle challenging work,” shares Bischoff.
You do not have a fear of heights, you have a fear of falling. This is a lesson of trust. “I remember facing my first outdoor climb and looking at the wall and thinking that it was just too high for my level of experience.” Professional climber, Alex Honnold put this into a great perspective by pointing out that people standing within the top floor of a skyscraper generally do not have a fear within themselves, meanwhile, put them on a ledge and they will be overcome with fear. Even though they are higher up in the skyscraper, the reality of falling does not exist to them, they trust the concrete that they are standing on. For people standing on the edge of a cliff, that fear is very real, it is a fear of a catastrophic fall.
“When I was just about to reach the top of the wall that I had said to myself was out of my level, I fell! Only to be caught by the rope and anchor at the top. After many falls at a similar height, and being safe, the fear became more manageable. It was the trust in my equipment that was making me progress up more challenging and higher walls.”
While my harness and the top anchor may be my most important safety parts of climbing, at work, the biggest assets are our team members and our tried and tested methodologies. We know that we individually have a big role to play with our projects and we trust each other to show up the next day with our parts done. “I know a climbing anchor and a fellow colleague may be a far-stretched comparison, but we all get a sense at some stage that we are just completely overwhelmed and having a knowledgeable and supportive colleague is an important ‘anchor’ that we need in our professional lives.”
It’s all about trust and consistently doing things in the right way, and continuous improvement.
A company’s reputation is also built on trust, consistently doing things in the right way, and continuous improvement. As with learning a new skill like climbing, it takes time to build.
Next time you are outdoors, embarking on your favourite weekend activity, think about the subtle lessons that are in front of you. Books, webinars and podcasts can be rich sources of information, but life experiences can be just as valuable.