COO, N. America for Railsbank | 3X BaaS FinTech Exec | @Currencycloud @Green Dot BaaS @Railsbank
Let me tell you a story that changed how I approach taking on tough challenges in business. Five years ago, I was in the Raglan Range of New Zealand with only a paper map and 60 pounds of gear in my pack. We had been hiking 12 hours a day for three days into the middle of the wilderness on a backpacking trip that would have us summit the mountain range and come out the other side.
On the fourth day, we began our climb to the summit. There wasn’t a trail so we had to choose an entry point into the dense forest using a topographical map to maximize our chances of finding a passable route. The climb was steep, each step requiring you to bring your knee to your chest, and with each step sliding half a step back — the combined result of a 60-pound pack, mud and gravity. Two hours in, we hit a solid limestone wall with no way up. Panic started to set in; there was no way we can go back down, but we were committed. This had to work. We dropped our packs, got into buddy groups and canvassed parallel paths in either direction looking for another way.
After what seemed like ages, we spotted an insanely steep path up the side of one of the limestone ridges. Being the best of bad options, we started what would turn out to be three hours of hands and knees crawling. You couldn’t move up without grabbing a branch or rock for grip or footing. Half the time your grip would come loose and throw you face down in the mud. We had to quickly spread out our arms and legs out so as not to slide down the mountain. We literally had no idea if and when this would end.
When it finally did, we found ourselves in a valley with 12 waterfalls coming from all directions and snow-capped mountains forming a bowl all around us. It was a view reserved only for those adventurous enough to traverse the ridges, as no roads could take you there. And we got to enjoy in absolute privacy.
As we live and breathe the world of startups, we’re all mountain climbers entering steep and unknown mountain paths. The thrill of building something entirely new is that nobody else has ever done it before. We carry the weight of commitments we’ve made to customers, colleagues, investors and family. Every week we charge forward dreaming of what that perfect view will look like and every week we hit another wall that we work with our teams to figure out.
So if you’re on that journey, here are some tips I learned from my hiking trip that may help you on your journey:
1. Learn the difference between perceived risk and actual risk. Perceived risk is the mind’s way of tricking you into not doing something. Actual risk or calculated risk is the far more likely outcome.
2. Work with great teams. When you hit a wall, it’s a lot less scary when you’re in it with others. Plus, diversity of ideas increases your chances of finding an alternate path when you hit a brick wall
3. Find yourself a great guide who has done it before. They can help you make informed decisions on tolerable risk-taking and provide guidance on best practices to ensure your chances of success.
4. Remember the positives. Charting unpaved paths is exhilarating. And the views from the top are way sweeter when you hike instead of taking the tram.