What climbing Everest taught me about ... Staying in Your Lane

1. Chase your own best!

I was extremely competitive when I was young. I wanted to win at everything! I wanted to be on top, number one and the Gold Star!

2. First, work out which lane you're in.

My problem was, that I looked at people around me who were naturally talented gold stars and I wanted to beat them at the their game. As you can probably guess, I never succeeded. It never ended well for me. In fact, I suffered more humiliation than I could bear. Every single time. You would think that I was going to stop after the first humiliation, but I kept trying. That's just how I roll. I always keep trying.

But, what happens if one keeps trying when you're not in your lane? In my case, I ended up feeling inadequate. The sense of failure used to depress me so much that I didn't want to go back to school and face the person who beat me the day before.  It always took me a very long time to recover from the sense of defeat.  I remember entering a few running races in school. I've always loved participating in sport, so running seemed like no big deal. After all, everyone can run, right? Well, a particular race comes to mind. I was 9 years old.  It was a hot summers day. There was a huge air of excitement as all the kids in the race bounced up and down, willing themselves to go! I was extremely nervous. I really wanted to win. Already I was right in front at the start. That's the best position to be in if you're setting yourself up to win, right?

I'll cut the story short by telling you how it ended for me. Yup, you guessed it, badly. In fact, very, very badly! I was almost the last person across the finish line. Behind me was a nerdy, completely un-athletic looking kid, who was much smaller than me.  After crossing the finish line I fainted from heat stroke and dehydration. It was on everyone's lips! Some kids laughed at me, because they knew how I enjoyed winning.  I wanted to be swallowed by a dark, endless hole.

Little did I know at the time that I was not in my lane. Firstly, heat stroke is something I suffered easily and frequently as a youngster. I was always called out of the direct sun and forced to play in the shade.  It was frustrating for me, because all the best games were played on the fields and in full glare of the African sun.  Secondly,  my heart rate is unusually high, which means it speeds up faster for the same intensity and distance as another person of my age, weight and height. Because I didn't know this, I kept competing against those who we naturally gifted in running and who didn't have the same medical conditions. It wasn't that I was not capable or even competent in running, I just had to run my own race, not someone else's. Well, three decades later I finally understand what it means to run your own race.

4.  Figure out where your lane is.

At this point of reading my blog you're probably asking yourself: "wait a minute, doesn't this blogpost say 'climbing Everest?'" Yes, it does. You see, when I first started climbing 21 years ago, I did the exact same thing that I initially did with running. I tried to climb like someone else. I reckoned that high altitude climbing is a man's sport and therefore I need to climb like, well, a man! In 1996 the male/ female climbing ration was 1:67! It was hard enough to find another woman on any given expedition but finding female climbing gear really brought the point home! It was a man's sport. There was only one way to do it. Hard energy, extreme focus and a 'take no prisoners' attitude. Well, in the words of Dr, Phil: "how's that working for ya?" It didn't. That climbing approach made me feel inadequate.

After 7 years of climbing the wrong way and feeling like I'll never be a good mountaineer, I finally decided on enlisting the help of mind coach. I had to get this right! I was preparing for my second expedition to Mount Everest and getting really nervous about failing. After many conversations and prioritising the things that require energy in my life, Sean Page (who sadly passed away a few years ago) came to the conclusion that my climbing style did not suit who I am. I am a woman, I have latent skills which have been suppressed by trying to climb with 'masculine energy'. It basically took this man to teach me how to stay in my lane as a woman! We went through a number of sessions to re-familiarise me to my feminine self. Climbing with 'soft energy' would have never occurred to me! What happened next is a thing of beauty. As I embraced staying in my lane as a female climber, my mountaineering skills improved, I climbed with better confidence and I reached greater heights than ever before! In 2003, I ended up out-climbing one of my male team mates (who incidentally spent the entire expedition alluding to how weak I was compared to the rest of the team - of males)! To this day, he avoids my gaze.

By staying in my lane I increased in confidence and skill and I got better every time I went back to climbing. I have found this principle to be the same in my business. I spent many years chasing after a market, which kept my business in gasping for air mode. Not an ideal situation if your ambition is growth. The truth is, I was trying to avoid the market I'm now in. After changing back to the correct lane by aligning the business more to it's real market,  we opened up  fresh new ways of thinking and placing our message; which in turn opened new, more sustainable opportunities.  

Staying in your lane does not mean that you won't suffer set-backs, it simply means you can concentrate your efforts on improving your unique strengths and learning better ways of doing things your own way.


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