Having just gotten back from climbing the highest mountain in all of Africa, I can say that the journey on Mt. Kilimanjaro taught me many lessons. What was the most important one?
Set crazy, big goals that scare you and excite you at the same time…then focus on taking one step at a time in the direction of the goal.
As we began our ascent toward 19,341 feet, the guides would constantly repeat, “Pole Pole” (pronounced poh-lay poh-lay). This means “slow, slow” in Swahili. Honestly, I trained hard before our trip, but there’s just no way to train for how slow they encourage you to walk. Naturally I, and everyone else, just wanted to get to the summit as fast as possible. But going 42 miles, uphill, across every type of landscape you can imagine, with less and less oxygen available as you climb in altitude, requires you to slow down. The advice of “pole pole” forced me to concentrate on the task at hand, one step at a time, and not get too overwhelmed with how far I still had to go to reach the summit.
Every once in a while I would pick my head up, look to the peak of the mountain for inspiration, and then back to my feet. Minutes would go by, and eventually hours. But as long as I knew my steps were in the direction of the primary goal, I was happy.
In business, and in life, we must have goals. Big goals. They push us to grow and get outside of our normal comfort zones.
The secret is to not focus on how far from achieving your goal you are, but rather turn around, and focus on the progress you’ve made. As long as your daily actions are in alignment with your vision of where you want to go, you can be happy and confident.
Pole pole! Sometimes we just need to slow down. It’s not a race. If you know where you want to go, you WILL get there, step by step, if you stay focused and confident.