Mountain Sickness

Slow and steady wins the race.
c. 550 B.C.

Unless you’re into mountain climbing or skiing at high altitudes, you’ve probably never heard of mountain sickness. There are two types: one is rather mild and occurs at relatively low altitudes, while high altitude pulmonary edema can be very serious, even deadly. The basic cause of each is that the rate of ascent into higher altitudes outpaces the body’s ability to adjust.

If a climber took a helicopter and landed halfway up a very high mountain to shorten the time to the top, he’d almost certainly contract the more serious form of mountain sickness. It’s critical that mountain climbers start at the bottom if they want to avoid becoming ill. The body has to acclimate to the higher altitude; otherwise, serious mountain sickness will be the result.

Since there’s probably a good chance that mountain climbing isn’t on your agenda, I’m sure you’re wondering what lesson can be learned from mountain sickness.

Well, I see a parallel in life. I see examples every day of people trying to take a shortcut to get to the top. And more often than not, they suffer, much like the climber trying to get up the mountain too fast. While they don’t develop high altitude pulmonary edema, they do have setbacks that prevent them from achieving their goals.

I think the lesson is very clear: there really are no acceptable shortcuts. The higher the goal, the more you need to spend time at the base of the mountain, getting acclimated to the conditions.

I see people all the time who want to jump to a level of success that it’s taken others years to achieve. I believe this is a result of a society focused on instant gratification. We’re too concerned with immediate results.

I believe you must pay your dues. Overnight success often leads to spectacular failure because the person didn’t spend enough time at the bottom.

And this principle doesn’t just apply to business. All the time, I see relationships that fail because there wasn’t enough time spent building a strong base. The people wanted to skip over the time consuming work — but without solid groundwork, there’s no foundation for a strong relationship.

I think that mountain sickness serves as a great example for us all. No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, you must spend the proper amount of time at base camp. You need to get acclimated to the new climate before you charge up the mountain. Otherwise, you’re almost certainly doomed to fail.

The beginning is the most important part of the work.
c. 428 – 348 B.C.

Copyright © 2018 John Chancellor

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