On May 29th 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary stood at the summit of Mount Everest and laid claim to one of the most prestigious mountaineering accomplishments in history. Despite many attempts by teams from all over the world, the English-led expedition was the first to successfully put a man on top of the mountain. The accomplishment catapulted Hillary to a household name, knighthood, and eventually on the New Zealand $5 bill. The reality is Hillary was an amazing man whose accomplishments beyond Everest were very impressive; reaching both of the poles and summiting many of the highest peaks in the world. But had he not been the first man to stand on the summit of Everest he wouldn’t have become the man we all know today.
A standard principle of any adventure is that the journey is far more rewarding than the result. Take time to enjoy the journey, but there is a cold reality—if you don’t stand on top, the world is not as interested in your journey. The journey and your personal growth along the way are critical… but only to you.
There are a number of clear lessons to take from the Hillary’s expedition that are worth acknowledging for any person working to summit their own Mount Everest.
What’s in the name
Conquering the tallest mountain on earth is an incredibly easy concept to pass along. For your results to matter they need to be easy for a common audience to digest. Whatever you’re working towards needs to be provocative and exciting. And the results should be clearly outlined with your goals.
Results don’t come alone
I’ve been lucky enough to be mentored by a few noteworthy managers—one who taught me “you can go fast alone or far together, develop a team and you will go far”. Hillary embodied this concept—he understood that his partnership with Sherpa Tensing Norgay was critical to his success. Hillary and Norgay worked as equals and had to depend on each other with their lives. On the mountain they were quite literally tied together and saved each other’s lives on more than one occasion. If not for this partnership, trust, and camaraderie Hillary would never have made it to the top.
Working relationships are strong but a team of friends is even stronger
Hillary partnered with Tensing Norgay and established a friendship that would last a lifetime. Co-workers can do a lot, but friends can stand on top of the world. Norgay and Hillary didn’t just climb together, and it wasn’t simply a partnership of convenience, they became genuine friends. When setting off on a journey you should go with trusted friends. But it takes more than one partner. Norgay was not the only friend who Hillary depended on—there was a community of friends and associates who supported the expedition both directly and indirectly. For example, George Lowe one of Hillary’s closest friends, carried massive loads of equipment and helped set-up camp before Hillary set off for the summit.
Some goals take skill while others take persistence. A friend of mine said, “Everest isn’t all that hard, it’s just a lesson in suffering.” He has climbed the tallest peak on every continent and is a man I wholeheartedly respect. So when he detailed Everest as technically easy, but emotionally draining I listened. Hillary’s expedition took months, and through years of experience led to the summit push. To accomplish your goal there may be some suffering, but any outcome that big is worth making the push.
Results are the great equalizer
When someone succeeds no one cares where they came from. Hillary was from New Zealand, but was hailed as a hero throughout the entire Commonwealth and the world. When people make it to the top—either literally or metaphorically—suddenly their past is far less meaningful. This is extremely valuable to me because I came from a very different industry and background, however by showing good results and strong contributions my managers and co-workers see me as their equal.
With incredible results comes the requirement to look at what you can do
Hillary became almost as well known for his work giving back to the people of Nepal. The Himalayan Trust bearing his name is dedicated to “improving the quality of life of the Sherpa people”. Hillary’s dedication and feeling of obligation to give back to the group that had given him so much is very similar to the same duty to give back which Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and many others have pledged to do as a part of The Giving Pledge. When you complete an accomplishment look for the opportunity to give back to others.