This weekend I climbed 3 of the highest peaks in Yorkshire. It was part of a charity fundraiser for the White Stuff Foundation, and involved getting up – and down – three mountains in under 12 hours. Yes…26 miles (41 km) of non-stop hiking across the finest mud, rocks, rain and bogs that the Dales National Park had to offer. It was physically hard…really, really hard. It was relentless…the uphill climb felt never-ending at times. It was also fun…Well, it was when we weren't getting rained or being buffeted by 50 mph winds.
On the journey home, as I sat nursing my dysfunctional knees and wondering if I would ever be able to walk without hobbling, I reflected on the experience. It reminded me a lot of what it's like to work for yourself. Whether your title is ‘self-employed', ‘small business owner' or ‘entrepreneur' – building a successful enterprise does, on occasion, feel a bit like moving mountains. Or wading through a bog, depending on your mindset…
And that got me thinking. Stepping off the corporate ladder can mean you choose to climb a mountain instead. But you have to start somewhere. My 3 Peaks challenge began with the very first step I took as we headed towards Pen-y-ghent (691 m), but the preparation started much earlier. It was something I wanted to do, so I had to make the decision to sign up, and commit time and effort to fundraising, preparation and travel. As with life, so in business. If you dream about working for yourself, there's no place for the half-hearted. You need to fully commit to your ambition. And you need to take the first step.
Action, not thought, moves you towards your goal. As I began the long ascent to the top of Whernside (728 m) I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. As the wind lashed my face and rain dripped down my neck, I must confess, I longed for a winged chariot to fly me to the summit. But, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Counting my steps. Counting the rocks on the path. When you work for yourself, the hard yards are mandatory, despite what those ‘get rich quick' schemes on the internet promise you. Wishful thinking will never make you the main contender, just a ‘might-have-been'. You need to do, more than you need to think.
Even if you work alone, you are never really alone. The last third of my journey got me to Ingleborough (723 m). By this time, my knees had stopped working and the only bit of me that didn't ache were my eyes. I was facing what looked like a sheer wall of rock, so I stopped for breath and looked around. Lots of other climbers were huffing and puffing their way to the top. Some were fleet of foot – others, like me, were feeling a bit tired and emotional at this point. Well, more than a bit… I really wanted to give up and go home, but then I thought of all the family, friends and colleagues who had sponsored me and supported me. I thought of the team of people who were doing the challenge alongside me. And I kept going – all the way to the top. Success as an entrepreneur is always a collective effort – never forget the people who support you, and don't be afraid to ask for help and advice. There is always someone who has been there before you. Learn from them.
I realise this post makes me sound like some sort of mountain masochist. Actually, the 3 Peaks Challenge was a lot of fun. Especially the glass of champagne that was waiting when we finished. And the sense of having accomplished a physical challenge that took me outside my comfort zone. Besides, if it was easy, it wouldn't be called a challenge, would it! You can do anything you set your mind to. In life, as in business.