Summer is THE time to get your hike on in the Pacific Northwest. The rest of the year is pretty good for hiking too, but summer days are often clear and have the best views.

Like all great plans for fun they seem to take a back seat to other plans. As such… my son and I had a long list of hikes we wanted to do throughout the summer. As it turns out we didn’t get to start on them until late in the season.

However, we did a few that had been on our list. Some were easy, as expected. Some were hard, as expected. Some were EXTREMELY HARD… just as we were told and read.

What I learned from these outings are what drove me to write this post. I realized that there are similarities and parallels to business and hiking. Some of these points, perhaps all of these points, may help you as you go back to school, start a new job or seek to excel in your current role.

“Some of the skills from hiking include working with other people, setting goals – individually and as a group, and being able to both take the lead and take directions when the time is right.”

My tips are in the format of Hiking Points & Lessons Learned and a Business Tip (BizTip) to wrap it up:

Planning, sharing and goal setting

  • Figure out what you want to do and where you want to go.
  • Set high goals
    • Don’t worry if they are not accomplished on the first outing.
    • Not every peak can be scaled in one burst.
  • Don’t forget the 10 Essentials for hiking… there are analogues for business here too.
  • Sharing your plans is critical in the event of an emergency.

BizTip: Planning is critical. When, Where, Who and How Long are all important to know. Also, a good reality check is to try and identify some of the challenges before you go. Doing so can save a lot of time and heartache down the road. Trying to anticipate challenges beforehand will allow you to try and ask questions that may allow you to avoid them. The benefit of sharing your plans is that you empower others to help you along the way.

Fuel & re-fuel

Think before you go. From your Planning & Sharing session think about how long you will be gone and decide what you will eat – Before, During and After the hike. Also, think about what else you may need to “consume” — maps, plans, routes, waypoints, etc. before and during the hike.

On one of our hikes that was particularly grueling we realized we need a little more oomph during the hike. We now have added 2 Gel’s on the way up and 2 Gel’s on the way down philosophy. This is in addition to the food we bring for lunch and any other snacks. We realized our bodies were talking to us and adjusted.

BizTip:  We adapted our plans and learned. Things can change.  We need to adapt with them.

Thinking time

During each hike there are long sections where you are walking with your own thoughts. I find these to be great times to reflect on a lot of different things. I try not to let the drudgery and challenges of the hike weigh me down. Effectively some of these hikes are solo efforts within a group. However, the goal is always the same.

BizTip: Even though the players may be separated everyone should still know the goal. Good communication matters.

Ask questions, be social and give back

By my nature I’m a pretty social guy. I will say hello to other people on the trail. I’ll step aside and let them have a clear path past me. Even when I’m dead tired… I make the effort.

On a recent hike I was developing blisters on my heels. As I thought of ways to fix this myself I dug into my pack and realized that I did indeed have band-aids, but upon pulling them out they were defective (from being in the pack for a long time). So, I asked everyone that went by me if they had any band-aids. There weren’t many people on the trail on this day, but eventually hikers came by and had some. They were nice enough to share (think give back).

We often encounter other people on the trails. When I encounter them on the way down I always say hello, interact and depending upon where we are I offer to take pictures of them. Everyone loves pictures to remember their hikes and who they are with – especially on the tough ones.

BizTip: It’s common sense. Be nice. If someone needs help… offer it. If you need help… ask for it. Everyone wants to be successful and to commemorate those moments of success.

(Never) give up

There are times where it may be logical to give up, but my suggestion is… NEVER Give Up. Yes, you can make changes and retreat, but if you are truly committed… you will NEVER Give Up.

On the hike to Mailbox Peak, which is often stated as one of the more difficult climbs in the Pacific Northwest, I was close to calling it a day a few times.

The three main reasons I can see for giving up on a hike are:

  • Mechanical – There are times when your gear fails. In my case I had gnarly blisters on each heel. Was that a good enough reason to give up? Not to me… I pressed on.
  • Mental – During the hike I was not sure how much farther it was to the top. My mind was telling me to quit, but I knew my son was ahead of me and waiting. I pressed on.
  • Physical – As I approached the summit my left leg was starting to cramp up. It was a temporary inconvenience. Again… I pressed on.

BizTip: We can always find excuses to stop, turn around or quit. There will be times to re-adjust the goal posts, but for the truly committed… NEVER Give Up. Keep your eyes on the prize.

“People say you can’t go back but what happens if you get to the cliff and you take one step forward. Or you turn 180 degrees and take one step forward…. Which is progress?” – Doug Tomkins in 180° SOUTH

Key points to remember

  • Leave something in the tank
    • In the case of hiking… enough energy so that you can get down the trail.
    • There are people trained in the art of search and rescue. My son happens to be one of them. However, I would prefer they help the people that really need it. Plan wisely.
  • Reality Check:
    • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Yes, push the envelope. Yes, set high goals. However, don’t let your ambition risk your overall goal.

You have a choice

As you set your hiking goals and business goals remember… no one forced you to be here. You do have a choice. Smile and move forward. Choose Wisely.

When done right and everything goes as planned you will be successful. This is a good thing. When done slightly less than right… you will learn a lot along the way. This is OK too. The “learning lessons” are what make you valuable as a hiker and and a business person. The adversity and challenges you face make you stronger. People you hike with and work with will realize that you know how to adjust, adapt and succeed.

See you on the trails or in the boardroom.


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.