Real Life Fall. Real Business Lesson.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 10.09.09 AMEver try to reach an objective, and then experience a sudden fall that causes you to doubt your ability to reach your goal? On a recent rock climbing trip in the Nevada desert this happened to me. Nearing the summit, all I needed to do was climb through the last section -the crux. Instead I fell 10-15 feet. It happened so fast, I barely had time to shout out to my belayer, who reacted quickly, taking slack out of the rope system to reduce my fall.

Lucky for me my gear held. I stopped and assessed my situation – nothing broken – but now I faced a choice. I could be lowered down and deal with the failure or climb back to the point of the fall and attempt to reach the summit. I chose to make the effort and try again. Once I got back to the point where I fell, I reset the gear and rope in case there was a repeat. This time the adrenaline from the fall kept me focused. I needed to concentrate on where I went wrong; solve the problem of working my feet and hands in a sequence to reach the summit and the anchor point. I was successful! What a feeling when I reached the top and clipped in, thus completing the climb.

In our personal and business lives, we get close to the goal at times, and then something happens that seemingly prevents us from accomplishing what we set out to do. At that moment – that crux – we need to assess and make a decision. I knew that I had to complete the climb or forever deal with the regret. I needed to access what went wrong the first time: was it my error, did the gear fail, was my climbing partner to blame, or was it a combination of several factors?

Even though my climbing partner and I were a team, this for me was an ILM or Interesting Leadership Moment and not one of bravado. A choice had to be made with strong consideration for the safety of both parties – ego put aside. As I was going through the steps to resolve the situation one way or another, I realized how important it is to step back and assess when you have a “fall” professionally or physically, not just react with your first instinct. Sometimes it makes sense to climb on, other times, you should get new gear, more experience, or even move to another mountain.

Like most profound lessons, it is a simple one.  As you prepare to assess your business for the upcoming year, what are the lessons you have learned from “falls”? Remember to set aside time to step back, assess, and make any needed changes in your business plan? It is standard operating procedure for all my climbs as well as my business.  I wonder what epiphanies this year’s review at Smart Performance Strategies will uncover that will help us reach the summit?