Last week, I was privileged to attend the Chick-Fil-A Leadercast, among 85,000 other people across the country. Our speakers included some of the very best experts on leadership - including John Maxwell, Seth Godin, and Dave Ramsey - as well as some other names that are not yet well known but are up and coming in the leadership realm.
I learned that it is good for my heart when my mind is thinking and my hand is taking notes.
Alison Levine led one session in the afternoon, and she said at the top of her talk: I have never run anything except errands. She was admittedly no CEO, Fortune 500 businesswoman, Secretary of State, or expert manager of finances.
But she was born with a heart condition that made it risky for her to climb a flight of stairs, and yet she trained, led, and accomplished the American Women's Expedition of Mount Everest.
She shared with us the things she learned through her journey to the summit of Mount Everest. While the businessmen in the room may not have found her principles especially applicable, I found myself identifying in careful parallel with her analogies.
Alison told us that some people think that the expedition of Mount Everest is a straight shot to the top. That while they allow for the fact that climbers must stop and rest at Base Camp, then Camp 1, then Camp 2, and so on, they believe it takes just a few days to acclimate and then the climbers can continue upward.
As I learned, the climbers spend several days climing to Base Camp, and then they settle in for a few days to allow their bodies to acclimate to the new altitude. When the time is right, they ascende to Camp 1. Then they settle in for a few more days.
But on the third leg of the journey? They go back down to Base Camp. Their bodies must reacclimate to the altitude, bit by bit, slowly and carefully. So back down they go.
After a few days at Base Camp, they return to Camp 1, settle in for a few days, and then ascend to Camp 2.
And then guess what? All the way back to down to Base Camp. Reacclimate.
After a few days at Base Camp, they return to Camp 1, settle in for a few days, ascend to Camp 2, settle in for a few days, and then ascend to Camp 3.
And then guess what? All the way back down to Base Camp. Reacclimate.
She said that the human body simply cannot adjust to extreme high altitude quickly; if somehow one were to take a helicopter to the tippy top of Mount Everest, the person's head would likely "pop off." (These were her word choices. Then she corrected herself. Okay, no, not literally. But yes, the person would die within minutes because of the extreme change in oxygen and air pressure.)
So you can see the pattern. Up. Up. Down. Up. Up. Down. Up. Up. Up. Down. And not just a little down each time... all the way back down. Back to Base Camp.
She said, "For some reason, we believe that progress only happens in one direction. Sometimes you have to go all the way back to where you started in order to ultimately get where you want to be."
Oh, the parallels.
She told the story of this journey of my life. Up. Up. Down. Up. Up. Up. Down. Sometimes, seemingly all the way back down to where I started.
But I keep climbing. And progress doesn't always happen in one direction.
Just keep climbing.
There's a mountain,
here before me.
I'm gonna climb it, with strength not my own.
And He's gonna meet me where the mountain beats me,
and carry me through,
carry me through.
~Dave Barnes, Carry Me Through
"I am no longer the woman I was, but I am not yet the woman I will become."
~ Suzy Welch