Life is full of lessons. The universe throws challenges, obstacles, and rewards your way constantly as if there were some pre-determined life curricula of study you are supposed to take and master. Only you have no syllabus to follow, no agenda, no list of assignments to be completed.
You may find yourself flying by the seat of your pants, hoping for an A but winding up with a C, D, or an F more often than not.
Then it’s back to life’s classroom. I have often wondered why we get the set of lessons that we get. It’s like we become magnets for a certain set of lessons, almost like a kind of fatal attraction. But why?
What I do know is if you don’t learn the lesson being presented to you, you will be forced to deal with it again and again, at ever-increasing intensity, until you finally get it. Unfortunately, by the time you start to master some of life’s lessons, your time is already counting down.
Your lessons will come from every area of your life: your health, your family, your kids, your friends, your business, your teams. As you are a student of life, so is everyone else. Sometimes the lessons will be the same, but the timing will be different. Sometimes the lessons themselves will be different. Think of it as being in a one-room schoolhouse where everyone is learning at their own level and pace. And if the whole of your experiences is like a school, the good news is that you have teachers to fall back on, and the better news is that YOU are also a teacher to others who have yet to learn the lessons you’ve mastered.
I firmly believe our purpose, as leaders, is to do just that. It’s to master the lessons and then pass that knowledge on to others so that they might accelerate their own learning journeys. That as each generation of business leaders, community leaders, thought leaders, spiritual leaders, health, wealth, and happiness leaders learn through trial and error, we empower those on our teams and within our circles of influence to reach even higher levels of achievement, growth, and happiness.
A remarkable person I met years ago, whom I consider a great teacher, is a man named Po Chung. He is the co-founder of DHL International.
One day, in his Hong Kong office, we discussed the importance of ‘Leaders being Teachers.’ I feel he hit the nail on the head when he said, “It is a business leader’s societal responsibility to teach whatever they have learned in their careers to others.” This is what moves our civilization and species ahead.
I have committed this part of my career and life to training the best teachers and leaders in the world to expedite the transfer of knowledge and fundamentally change the way we learn and grow, particularly in the marketplace.
In 2012, I had a unique opportunity to travel to Africa with my then 16-year-old son, Ben, and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I’ve been back eight times since. I didn’t go there expecting to learn leadership lessons, but that’s exactly what happened. Each trip up the mountain taught me something unique and transformative about true leadership. This doesn’t happen for everyone. It happened for me, and it happens for those I take up the mountain each year because I had excellent teachers in our mountain guides Kevin Cherilla and Kristen Sandquist of K2 Adventure Travel. Those first few years of climbing with them, I’m not even sure they knew how valuable their lessons were.
The thirteen-day trip to Africa and the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, is one of the most exquisite, intense, and profound microcosms of a person’s life. The trek up the mountain forces you out of complacency, out of the hypnotic rhythm of everyday life, and makes you acutely aware of everything around you. The weather, your physicality, even your mental state can change in a heartbeat. You must make decisions and adapt quickly or fail. The lessons of leadership come fast and furious. They are embedded in every step, every breath, and every connection with your fellow hikers, with nature, and your inner being. So much so that the only guarantee I give to those who trek there with my team is that the person who comes off that mountain will be the biggest and best version of themselves.
As leaders, we all have mountains to climb in our business and our personal lives. And while you may not be able to ascend to a physical summit and back, you can still reap the benefits of the lessons from Kilimanjaro. You can kick it up a notch. You can become acutely aware. You can come full circle from being a learner to being a teacher and bettering your team. That’s why I decided to write this book—to share the leadership lessons I’ve learned on the mountain with all of you who are ready to tackle your summit, whatever that may be.
Building or running a business is more than a journey. It’s an adventure. Adventure assumes there is risk in the air. For many business owners, the adventure of building a business is a long one and there are many lessons to be learned over that extended period of time. That takes unwavering commitment, a serious dose of tenacity, and the ability to embrace adventure.
Using the experience of successfully summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro drives years of business building into a 7-day mountain leadership adventure where the pinnacle, as well as the sometimes harsh lessons of the mountain, track exactly with the building of a business. From the moment your spirit is engaged when you commit to the climb until you return home safe and successful, Summit Leadership mirrors the same trail of mission building and ultimate business team victory that entrepreneurs strive for.
The multi-faceted challenge we faced in scaling “Kili” was a microcosm of all that owning and growing a business entails. Those who have experienced the exhilaration and challenges of it have gone on to build amazing businesses and become legendary leaders. With each ascent in altitude with the author, this guidebook explores the critical lessons to lead you and your teams to the summit and beyond.