Planning Your Ascent

If you were watching the news recently, you probably saw those “wackos” Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson free climb to the summit of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park. (Click here to see if you can spot him on the wall.)  They spent nineteen days living on the face of the huge rock to become the first people ever to accomplish the feat, assisted by nothing but their own bodies and tiny cracks in the face of the granite wall.  Their only safety was a 200-foot rope that was used to break a fall.  Truth be told, I could have easily done it with only two additional items. 

A diaper and an elevator.                                                                                                                     

No doubt the two will spend the next few months on the media circuit, recounting their incredible tale of success, answering questions such as:  What was it like to live on the wall for two-and-a-half weeks?  How did you continue when your fingers were bleeding and your forearms fatigued?  What was the most difficult part of the climb?   

And we will be hanging on every word, awe-inspired by the feat. 

But like any great achievement, the 19-day ascent is just a small part of the story.  There is much we can learn from Caldwell and Jorgeson about how stratospheric success is actually achieved.

  1. Success Is Often Boring:  Caldwell spent the better part of a decade planning this climb.  It was a meticulous, painstaking effort.  There were no cameras and media to propel him. Just a clear vision of what could be achieved, and an incredibly long list of small steps to finally get there.   To achieve a very large goal, there really is no substitute for planning.
  2. Failure Happens:  Beyond the planning and preparation, Caldwell and Jorgensen had five other attempts over the past decade – failing each time.  But Caldwell’s mindset was one of positivity and learning, using each failure to learn and propel the two to success.  And in this final, successful attempt, Jorgeson spent seven days on one small section of the climb, falling eleven times, having to start over each time.
  3. Teamwork Matters:   Caldwell started this journey solo a decade ago, but it wasn’t until six years in that Jorgensen joined the team.   In addition to the team that transported supplies up to the climbers, there were countless other strangers who helped the team map the most difficult path up the mountain, relaying information from a variety of climbing perspectives.

At Action Management, we have been helping organizations achieve impressive successes for over 35 years.   If you would like help scaling your own mountain by developing your team’s innovation and execution skills, just give us a call at 1-800-386-5611.  We would love to help!














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