Lost in the Mountains: Business Lessons Learned

March 10th 2014

Recently, my friend and I went hiking, as we often do. It’s not unusual for us to get a little bit lost on our hikes, because neither of us has one ounce of directional ability. But this time was different. This time we were utterly without a clue as to where we were. There was nothing but mountains and canyons. A two-hour hike turned into four hours, where we didn’t see another soul until the last 15 minutes.Our water was nearly gone, as was our energy. We ended up having to call 911, where Joey the Fabulous Dispatcher was able to locate us and guide us out. So the story truly has a happy ending, with many lessons we can apply to our professional lives. Here are just a few:


If you’re going somewhere new, prepare for things to go wrong. For example, we had plenty of food, but not enough water. We planned for an average hike, not an emergency. We didn’t prepare for anything to go wrong, which was a mistake. As the adage says: hope for the best and prepare for the worst.


Know what you’re not good at, and find a way to adapt. Neither my friend nor I are capable of reading a  typical map. That puts us at a distinct disadvantage in the mountains. Before we hike somewhere new again, you can bet we will have found a trail guide we can read, or we will stick to marked trails, or we will hike with people who have directional skills. There’s no shame in not knowing something. The folly lies in thinking we can continue to operate successfully without shoring up our weaknesses. In business and in hiking, always be looking for tools and team members who make you more likely to succeed.


Know when to ask for help. Plowing ahead without help might get you more lost. Thanks to my friend who had the sense to call 911, we were guided out by a caring and competent county employee. If you sense that you don’t know which way to go next, listen to that instinct. It means you need help, and you are not made weaker by asking for it. 


Consider that you might have veered off the path. While we may want to go forward with boldness and courage, there are times when that’s just bad strategy. In those times, it’s better to backtrack and lose a little time and mileage than to waste daylight and energy stumbling forward into the unknown. 


Express gratitude to people who help you. Say thank you regularly and sincerely. Don’t just email or text it. Seek out those who helped you, look them in the eye, and thank them. As soon as we got out of the mountains, Joey the Fabulous Dispatcher was greeted by two tired-but-happy hikers who brought him big smiles, huge hugs, and a couple of giant cupcakes. 


Finally, surround yourself with people you love and who love you. Getting lost with someone with whom I have a strong friendship made every step doable. We supported each other, challenged each other, and trusted each other’s judgment. We got through it together. If you can build a team with that kind of strength, you can weather almost any challenge.


professional development, communication, motivation


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05/30/2014 8:00pm
I enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing this story.
Phill Jester
03/18/2014 3:36pm
Excellent thoughts on this subject. I especially think the "Express gratitude" is really important. Thanks for the blog. Phill - Security Source, Inc. / Diebold