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01/26/2021 05:14:21 PM


A Lesson from Mt. Everest

At 29,028 feet high, Mt. Everest’s weather is seldom ideal for long, but the longest windows for ascent normally occur in the spring, from late March to the first week in June. This means that all those who want to climb the highest real estate on earth need to make their attempts within that timeframe. The extended time near the summit also increases the likelihood that people will succumb to other maladies related to high altitude, such as cerebral edema.

When climbers are near the peak—and often have spent tens of thousands of dollars on the expedition— some persist in their summit attempt despite the threat—or actuality—of dangerous changes in weather conditions and the warnings of guides. They expend so much energy getting up there that when conditions turn against them on the descent, they don't have enough energy to deal with getting down.

In his book, Great By Choice, Jim Collins recounts the story of the IMAX team that was filming a movie on Mount Everest.  In 1996, when many climbers died during a freak storm, no one in the IMAX crew was killed.  Why not?  Their leader knew that making this movie was very important, but he also realized that keeping everyone safe was more important.  When he had to make a choice between risking the movie or his people, he relinquished the pursuit of the movie.  At 2 pm (a previously determined time), he ordered everyone down from the final approach to the top.  The weather was picture perfect and millions of dollars might be lost if the team did not push on to the summit.  The team leader, however, knew that what mattered most was the lives of his crew, so he said no to any other desire.  No really meant no.  It could not have been an easy call.

The discipline to say no when you really want to say yes is a difficult art to master but it is crucial. I wrote a book about this challenge and will be speaking about it next week. Please feel welcome to join!

Sat, September 24 2022 28 Elul 5782