Believe and Conquer

As I stand in base camp with snow gently falling, I focus on my breathing and look at the sky to the distant summit...

As I stand in base camp with snow gently falling, I focus on my breathing and look at the sky to the distant summit of the mountain. A line of black dots snake their way up the face of the steep path that rises out of camp and stretches high into the distance before disappearing around a corner. I wonder how I will ever make it to the top as I look at the summit, a seemingly impossible distance away. There is a sense of familiarity about the whole situation, the old shipping containers that serve as bunk houses at base camp, the creaking, rickety ski lift that has seen better days and the harsh cold wind that blows a fresh blanket of snow over the scene in front of me. I’ve been here before; I attempted to climb this mountain last year, only I wasn’t successful. I failed to achieve my goal.

Now, almost a year later, I am back in Russia for a second attempt at climbing Mount Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe at 5642m. Having not been able to reach the summit last year, there is an element of doubt in my mind, a little voice eats away at what is an otherwise rock-solid belief in my own ability, a belief that has been built gradually over the years. But even that has been questioned in the days leading up to the summit attempt, thanks to the limiting beliefs of others. My guide has repeatedly suggested that it would not be wise for me to take on a climb of two vertical kilometres from base camp, but instead to take a snow mobile further up the mountain and reduce the amount of climbing involved. In the ensuing discussions there came a time where, despite all other arguments, I simply said I was going to back myself. I knew what I was capable of, I knew how far I could push my body and mind, and I had been doing so every day for the past two and a half years. 

We often think of mental toughness in relation to how we react to extreme situations, our ability to bounce back after going bankrupt, the character to try again after another business idea has failed or holding our life together whilst grieving the loss of a family member. There’s no doubting that these situations will test our courage and perseverance, but the mental toughness we need to come through them is forged on a daily basis. It’s about pushing ourselves in a thousand small ways to ensure that when the time comes, we have the ability to cope with far greater obstacles.

Much like with my physical challenges it’s the constant application to daily training that ensures I can compete and perform on the big stage. So often people see the glory but they don’t know the story behind it, the dedication and commitment when nobody is watching. One of the greatest examples of this is the Olympics where we see athletes competing for a matter of seconds in some cases; we forget that four years of hard work has been involved. It is these four years of hard grind that has brought them to the stage where they can compete at that level.

My goal had been set long before I arrived in Russia. Only now, in the dark of night setting out from base camp on my summit attempt with my climbing partner, it had to be broken down into smaller sections in order for me to mentally cope with what lay ahead. The journey in front of me was too long to simply focus on the end point; I had to focus on one hour of climbing at a time, the air growing thinner with every step that I took, and in doing so building my confidence with minor successes. This accumulation of smaller goals enabled me to believe that the summit was possible as we edged our way further up the mountain until finally we knew we were within touching distance of reaching it.

Much like those starting out on their journey with Forever, it can sometimes seem too big a step to imagine reaching Manager let alone further along the Marketing Plan to Senior, Soaring or Sapphire Manager. So instead we need to focus on the next position in the plan, the first step on the mountain. When I decided to embrace a life of challenges I did so knowing that I would need to develop myself physically, and also to create a mindset that enables me to overcome the greatest of obstacles. I needed to build my belief that I could achieve great success, and the same applies to building a business with Forever. We need to expand our mindset and belief in order to achieve our long-term goals. 

By starting out small and building up I gradually stretched my body in a physical sense, and I grew my mental belief in what was possible. When I started this journey I am now on, this life of adventure and challenges, had someone told me I would go on to climb Mont Blanc and Mount Elbrus, or take on some of the hardest bike rides in Europe, I would not have believed it was possible. But by setting a series of goals designed to continually force me to grow I was eventually in a position to take on far greater challenges than I first thought I was capable of. But, such is life, it hasn’t always been plain sailing and I have had to handle setbacks and major disappointments along the way. 

It may sound strange but I welcome these setbacks for they help me to develop in ways simply not possible by always being successful. They force me to look within, to identify areas of weakness that need improving, to admit that I might not be equipped with all of the skills necessary at this moment in time. It’s from such situations that I am able to grow and develop into a better person; remembering that just because I am not in a position to achieve a certain goal right away, it doesn’t mean I won’t be able to achieve it in the future. Too often we view failures as negatives, when in fact they are the life lessons that enable us to grow into the person that can achieve far greater success.

The more open we are to failure and being wrong, the greater our potential is for improving our knowledge and skill set. Mistakes and failures are an essential element in our development, so rather view them as part of our training in life. I have learnt more from my failures than all of my success combined. It’s often a fear of failing that holds us back in the first place, this results in us developing risk aversion which leads to a scenario whereby we are safely ensconced in our comfort zones for the rest of our lives. In adopting this ‘playing-it-safe’ mentality, we never grow and thus never reach our full potential. I sometimes think about what would have happened had I let the fear of failing for a second time stop me from going back to Russia. 

Those final steps to conquering the mountain were filled with an almighty sense of achievement, not just because of the act of reaching the summit itself, but because of all I had endured along the way. The greatest mountains we must conquer are those within our minds, but once we do so there is no limit to what we can achieve in life – and in Forever.