How Your Vacation Can Make You a Better Leader
Listen to Episode 72:
Episode 72 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Inc. − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of Success. On the web at businessadvance.com.
And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, founding partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and with me is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s always great to join you for another episode, and if this is your first time listening to Growth Igniters radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders like you to accelerate yourselves − and your companies − to the next level of growth and success. So Pam, what are we talking about today?
Pam Harper: How vacation can make us better leaders. How often do we hear people talking about business and life as if they’re separate entities, right?
Scott Harper: Yes, a lot.
Pam Harper: The truth is, we need to be true to ourselves as people on and off the job. It shouldn’t be one or the other. It has to be a smooth flow. There’s a lot we can learn about ourselves during vacation that can help us on the job. For example, you and I both enjoy traveling. What do you get from travel that makes you better as a leader?
Scott Harper: Well, whether it’s adventure travel when I’m going out and really challenging myself and my resourcefulness and my endurance, or a trip abroad where I’m learning about new people and new environments and new customs, I always enjoy really expanding my horizons and deepening my appreciation for the world around me in new ways.
Pam Harper: I’ve learned that being able to see how others live, and going off the beaten path especially, gives me a much better appreciation of the perspectives of the people of that country. For example, to me, there’s nothing like communicating with people in a totally different language where we’re both dealing with broken English and sign language, to be able to see that the world isn’t set up from my perspective alone. We have to come up with not a “my way or your way,” but an “our way” of doing things. I think about that a lot in the course of being the CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated working with clients, and just between you and me, on a day in and day out basis.
And one of the other people that we’ve met as a guest on Growth Igniters Radio who thinks very much along these lines is Tim Hebert, CEO of award-winning Atrion. We first met Tim on our episode about fusing business and technology, and at the end of that time, he told us that he was about to go off on a dream vacation to scale Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. We challenged him to come back and tell us about the leadership lessons he learned from the experience of scaling Kilimanjaro and how that’s impacted him for scaling his rapidly growing company.
Scott Harper: That’s right, and he did bring back some very interesting stories and insights, and so let’s go ahead and listen to a reprise of that episode, and we’ll be back next week with an all new episode of Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper.
Pam Harper: Let’s set the background, Tim. You had to make a decision to pursue a big dream. Why did you decide to embark on the adventure of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?
Tim Hebert: There’s two reasons, Pam, why I chose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. First of all, I love to climb mountains in general and I think climbing mountains allows me the opportunity to explore who I am and what I can become, and I get a lot of satisfaction − a lot of pleasure out of doing that. But Kilimanjaro has held a special place in my heart for a long time. When I was a young child, my grandmother, who lived above us in an apartment complex, would take me one night a week and I would spend that evening with her, and one thing that we did was we watched a TV series show called Tarzan.
During that time we spent together, we’d watch Tarzan and she would talk about Africa and tell me all these wonderful things about Africa, and show me pictures. I was about eight years old, and I made a decision talking to her that I was going to climb Kilimanjaro one day. It’s been this dream I’ve had since I was very, very young and finally this year, I decided that I was going to pursue it.
Scott Harper: That’s amazing and it’s a real feat. There are multiple paths up the mountain − multiple routes with different types of challenges. How did you make your decision about the particular route that you took?
Tim Hebert: Yes Scott, I think it’s one of those things in life that when you have a dream that’s so big, you spend a lot of time preparing for it. I studied a lot of books and a lot of information about Kilimanjaro before I actually set out to do this goal, and what I wanted to do is I really wanted to absorb the experience. When I looked at all the paths, there are seven paths to get to the summit; there are a couple of paths that you can do in four days, and it’s a straight up path, but the scenery is not as good; it’s not as challenging along the way. So when I made my decision, I was looking for three things.
The first thing is that I wanted to spend the longest amount of time I could on the mountain itself. The second thing is I wanted was something that was going to challenge me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and I felt this trail would allow it to do that. And the third is that I wanted the most scenic trail that was available, and the Shira trail which I ended up taking allowed me to have all three of those experiences during one trip.
Pam Harper: What is the height of Kilimanjaro?
Tim Hebert: Yeah, Kilimanjaro at the summit, the peak of it is 19,431 feet. It’s almost three times the tallest peak we have in the New England area, which is Mount Washington. It’s three times the height for that.
Pam Harper: Wow, that’s quite ambitious.
Scott Harper: It’s a big climb.
Tim Hebert: Yeah. It’s a very big climb.
Pam Harper: We’ll have some information on that on the Growth Igniters Radio page for this episode, but one of the things that I saw was that the success rate for all climbers, all routes was 45%. So how did you determine what a successful outcome would look like for a goal like this?
Tim Hebert: That’s the challenging part. I think when you take on goals, whether it’s in your business life or personal life, there’s a high rate of failure in doing those. How many people have set new year’s resolution to lose 10 pounds and never have done it, or a business is trying to change their direction and they never accomplish that. Defining success is really important, so when I was planning to do this, and I read the failure rate for this, I knew that I had to look at my success differently.
I had to be prepared, so I really created a very detailed plan of how I was going to prepare for this journey, and I broke it down to three things I needed to be successful. The first thing was I had to be physically strong. The second is I had to increase my endurance and third, I had to increase my cardio. I had to be able to breathe at 19,000 feet, have my heart still run, so I focused on those and what I did is a created a detailed plan to actually allow me to prepare for all three of those elements.
Pam Harper: That gave you the ability to have a higher probability of success − but going into this, did you ever allow for the fact that getting to the summit −which you did but might not have − happened was a possibility?
Tim Hebert: I think that is something I definitely considered throughout the process, Pam. I think when I began this, I knew there was a high risk of failure just like when I started my business 30 years ago. I knew there was going to be a high rate of failure potentially with it, but what I was focused on wasn’t necessarily the ultimate goal of summiting. It was really about the journey to get as far as I could get and hopefully I would do enough stuff in my preparation to be prepared for it. So I went in okay then went “I may not make it to the top − something may stop me from getting there, whether it was the weather, my health, my training and preparation but it would be a way to challenge myself and see where I was.”
I knew that; however, I’m an achiever by trait so I knew that I was going to work hard and it was going to take a lot to stop me from making that summit. If I had to pull myself up by my hands for the last mile, I was going to do that, but I did prepare for the journey more than the actual outcome of having my picture in front of the sign at the summit.
Scott Harper: That’s very important − preparing for the journey and recognizing that there are many different types of success.
Pam Harper: When you make the decision to pursue a dream and you can identify what your success is going to look like and prepare for it like you did, it really makes it much more possible to live into that dream and make it work for you.
This is a great place for us to take our first break, and when we come back, we’ll speak more with Tim Hebert, CEO of Atrion and intrepid trekker, about the leadership lessons he learned from pursuing his lifelong dream to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper − brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, on the web at www.businessadvance.com. We enable successful companies to accelerate to their next level of innovation and growth. And if you like what you’re hearing, spread the good word. Go to www.growthignitersradio.com, select episode 45, and use the share links for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at the top right of the page to tell your social media communities all about us. Use hashtag Growth Igniters. This will help us extend our reach to all of the people who can benefit from this series.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Today, Scott and I are speaking with Tim Hebert, CEO of Atrion, about what climbing Mount Kilimanjaro taught him about getting the most from business as well as from life. Tim, how can people find out more about you, your journey and Atrion?
Tim Hebert: Yes, I think there’s a couple of ways. First of all, they can go out to www.atrion.com and they can learn about our company. We have an Atrion blog site, which is www.blog.atrion.com, and they can also follow me on LinkedIn, where I have a blogging platform. I have a tremendous amount of blog content I put about leadership and my trip to Kilimanjaro.
Pam Harper: That sounds great. And of course, we will have information as well links on the Growth Igniters Radio Episode 45 page. Now let’s get back to our conversation here. There were a number of things that you said you learned about yourself and leadership from this climb on Kilimanjaro. What’s something new that you would say that you learned about the discipline involved in transforming dreams into reality?
Tim Hebert: Pam, I’ve always been an achiever, I’ve always been able to accomplish my goals and to be able to have the discipline to do the things necessary to see the goal to competition, but when I climbed Kilimanjaro, one of the things I realized was the importance of doing all the dirty work − all that work you have to do day in and day out to achieve a goal. When I started out, I created a plan that was really going to have me run, walk or hike five to seven miles every day from January till October. During my training, I actually did that 96% of the times.
For people that are in the New England area, or heard about the New England weather this year, you can think about what January and February was like − hiking through sometimes six to 12 inches of snow, snow plows nearly running you off the road, getting drenched when we had nearly torrential rains that almost flooded the area − but I ran or walked or hiked every single day. When I got to Kilimanjaro, we started hiking the first four days. It was unseasonably cold; it was probably 20 degrees colder than it normally was, so it dropped the temperatures to about 20 to 30 degrees on average during the day.
During the first four days, we had rain, snow and sleet. I had no problem making the climb. I was prepared for it; I enjoyed the experience. Everyone else with me was miserable; they were underprepared, they weren’t ready for that kind of difficulties. It just shows the importance of how much that discipline every single day prepares you for the difficulties you face when you’re really trying to achieve that goal.
Scott Harper: Tim, something that you just said is interesting, especially from the leadership standpoint − because you were prepared, but some of the people you were hiking with were not. Can you speak to the fact that you were in essence an impromptu team with different levels of ability and achievement − how did you manage to get through that part?
Tim Hebert: Yeah you’re absolutely right. It was an impromptu team. When I left the United States to go to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro, I didn’t know any of the hikers I was hiking with. We all met the day before the hike for dinner and we started to hike … It was all different experience levels. We had a group of 16, and out of the 16, three did not make it. There was another group that was hiking beside us as we were going through. There were 15 people, and none of them made it. What made our team work was the fact that the group came together as a team, and we worked together and we helped and supported each other.
There were times when people needed motivation and cheering up − that “we can do it,” and we all chipped in to do that. The real key was we all worked together towards that common goal and vision of climbing and achieving Mount Kilimanjaro. We did have three people that failed − two people that were just underprepared for the strenuous nature of the hike and then we had another person that suffered a little bit of altitude sickness and couldn’t make the summit, but made the rest of the journey with us. But it was all of us sticking together, working together, motivating, [that made the most of successful].
I would say during the rain … The first four days, it was strenuous and it was raining and cold, I was the cheerleader. “This is not that bad. It could be worse, we could be back in the office entering a thousand emails.” I kept that positivity there, trying to keep people motivated. At the end I think they were a little sick of it, but we got through together with it.
Scott Harper: One of the things also that you talked to us about earlier offline was the importance of pacing − not too fast; not too slow. What surprised you about need to pace yourself, especially with the other people?
Tim Hebert: Scott, this is something I never thought about when I left to go to climb Kilimanjaro. When I got there, the people we were talking to that were preparing the group kept talking about this Swahili term called “pole, pole.” It means slowly, gently, slowly. They’re talking about their pace, going slow. Now I’m an achiever − I’ve climbed hundreds of mountains and all kinds of altitudes, so I get out there the first day and I’m ready to go. I’m an achiever. I want to go as fast as I can possibly go, and they keep saying “slow down, slow down, slow down.”
We’re at 8,000 feet, I was in great shape; I was prepared for it. My challenge occurred when we got close to the summit. Normally from base camp to the summit is about an eight hour hike. I get to the summit in five hours and 45 minutes. It was two hours plus faster. I went too fast, and when I got about 500 yards from the summit − I couldn’t see the peak or the summit − I got altitude sickness, and it was at that point I realized a couple of things; I was probably slightly dehydrated, my pace was way too fast for the altitude, and I hadn’t slept in almost 30 hours. At that time the lack of sleep, the lack of hydration and the pacing almost jeopardized my whole journey, and I realized that as a leader and a person chasing their dreams, you have to have the certain level of patience. You’ve got to pace yourself correctly. As they would say in Swahili, “Pole, Pole” − slowly, gently, slowly. Consistency was the key here, not speed.
Scott Harper: Don’t outpace your resources.
Tim Hebert: Exactly.
Scott Harper: It works in business as well.
Tim Hebert: I want to do that all the time. I want to go faster, right?
Pam Harper: That’s right; after all, that’s what we all want, right?
Tim Hebert: Yeah, we all want to grow, but we’ve got to grow at a smart rate.
Pam Harper: Keeping all of that in mind, and helping people who haven’t been through that to be able to deal with it, also I’m sure is it’s own challenge too.
Tim Hebert: Absolutely.
Pam Harper: That would take us to something else you were talking about. Obviously when you’re climbing or making this kind of ambitious journey, there are going to be all types of difficulties. What did you learn about seeing through some of these difficulties − something that was new to you?
Tim Hebert: Pam, I think one of the things that really stood out to me is when I was climbing the summit portion. The night that we started the summit, we started at midnight and about 5:30 in the morning, I started feeling sluggish. It felt like when people use the term when you run a marathon, you “hit the wall” − I felt that way. As I started feeling sluggish, I also started feeling − I don’t want to say disoriented, but almost wobbly. I’m really surefooted, especially when I climb, but I felt like I was tripping and stumbling over everything and it dawned on me at that point in time that I’ve probably gone too fast and I was probably on the verge of getting altitude sickness.
As soon as I came to that recollection that I may be having altitude sickness, I got a severe headache, and as the headache set in, I knew that altitude sickness was setting in on me. I slowed my pace down, I was trying to get my breathing under control and my mind is going through all of these horrific thoughts − “I’m not going to make it. I’m going to get altitude sickness. I’m going to get pulmonary edema, cerebral edema, and I’m going to die.” All those kind of things are going through my head, and finally I started getting an upset stomach and I ended up getting physically sick. And for about two minutes I was sick, and I’m thinking, “Boy, I’m going to have to end this.”
I got done being sick and I looked up, and as I looked up, I could see the summit − the top of the mountain. Like I said, I was 500 yards from there. When I looked up over the summit of the mountain, I could see the sun starting to rise. I could see a red dot on the horizon, and as I was watching, I could see a red line start to form across the horizon, and when I looked up over the sun where it was coming up, I could see Jupiter and Mars aligned, and it was such a beautiful sight. It’s almost like I forgot about being sick and the adrenaline hit me.
There were two people that were with me and I said, “Come on, let’s go.” I started … I took my camera out, started taking pictures, then I just made it to the rest of the top. But what I learned is important is that you can never lose sight of what the ultimate goal and outcome is. As soon you allow the challenges you face to overcome where you’re trying to, it’s when you put yourself in jeopardy of not being successful.
Pam Harper: Focusing on the goal, or the equivalent of the summit rather than focusing on the problem really seemed to make a difference for you.
Scott Harper: And taking inspiration from your environment and what you can see.
Pam Harper: I can envision perfectly in some ways what you’re talking about; your description is so vivid. When you got to the summit − what was it like? Did any particular insights especially come to you at that point?
Tim Hebert: Yeah, the only thing I can equate it to is when you have those big life moments when things set in to you − you get married, you have a child, you watch a child graduate from high school or college or something in that nature. It’s one of those experiences where you become part of something bigger than you. So when I reached that summit − it actually started when I hit the top of the mountain, not quite at the peak − I felt just this incredible warm feeling inside that I’ve just done something spectacular that not many people have done and I was part of something really special.
Part of it was you’re in a place that’s just majestically beautiful; sometimes in life we look at the things that are challenging − The pain I’m in, the problems I’m facing − and can lose sight of that greatness around us. This was hard to ignore. You couldn’t really ignore the fact f how beautiful it was, and then I finally made it to the summit. I got to the sign, and as I got to the sign, I thought about the reason why I climbed this to begin with. It was in honor of the promise I made to my grandmother that I would actually climb this peak one day. For a split second − but it seemed like it was hours − I was transported back into the living room of our house, sitting on the floor watching a black and white TV set showing Tarzan, and that promise I made to do it. It was just a really full circle of life experience.
Pam Harper: Dream accomplished. That is so inspiring. It really is.
We’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back, we’ll speak more with Tim Hebert, CEO of Atrion about immediately actionable advice you can use for going after your own dreams in life and business over the next year. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: During this holiday season, Pam and I wanted to thank you for being part of the Growth Igniters Radio Community. This has really been a learning experience for us, and we want to hear from you about the value that you’ve been getting from what we’ve been producing every week since we started in February of this year. Go to www.growthignitersradio.com, click “contact us” at the bottom of the page, and give us your thoughts. Who knows? You may find your comments showing up on our webpage.
And along those lines, do you have any ideas for a guest you’d like to hear in the coming year? We’re always on the lookout for more best-selling book authors and innovative CEOs of successful companies to learn from. Again, go to www.growthignitersradio.com, click “contact us” at the bottom of the page and we’ll get back to you to follow up.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been speaking with Tim Hebert, CEO of Atrion about what climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania taught him about getting the most from business as well as from life. Tim, can you tell us again how people can find out more about you and your journey and about Atrion?
Tim Hebert: Yes Pam. I think the best way to find out about Atrion, our company is to go to our website at www.atrion.com. If you want to find out about me and the journey at Kilimanjaro, you can follow me on LinkedIn, and we’ve got the blog post since I put it there or you can to the Atrion blog site which is blog.atrion.com.
Pam Harper: That’s great. There are lots of places where people can find out about you and your views. Now, getting back to our conversation, in some ways it seems like we could think of your adventure scaling the summit of Kilimanjaro as something of a metaphor for going after our own dreams in life and business in 2016, what would you say would be three pieces of immediately actionable advice as we make our own climbs over the next year?
Tim Hebert: There are so many lessons I took away from this particular experience. Like I said, I’ve always been good at achieving goals and things in my life, but I think the first thing I would say is that you truly have to commit to those things that are important to you. Doing stuff like Kilimanjaro or starting a business or trying to grow your business − they take huge commitments, and I think many times people start to embark upon these journeys, chasing their dreams without truly committing to it. Part of it is you have to be able to do all the hard work that’s going to later become accomplished.
You have to struggle through the difficult time periods and the setbacks that you face. You can only do that if you’re truly committed to doing it, and what I find in many cases is that people spend too much time trying to do too many things. In my part of this, I had to actually decide things that I wasn’t going to do anymore for a period of time while I prepared for Kilimanjaro, and there were things that I had to physically stop doing because I made the commitment to do it and I wanted to see it through.
Pam Harper: You raise a really good point with that because the “why” of it when you say that also is a part of making that commitment in the first place.
Tim Hebert: Yeah, you absolutely have to understand why you’re doing it. If the why is not big enough and I think a lot of people when they start…
Pam Harper: It would be hard to make the commitment.
Tim Hebert: It is. It’s hard to make the commitment, and sometimes the “why” is not big enough, it’s not powerful enough to see you through the difficult times. I think that’s the real challenge.
Scott Harper: Yeah; and the point that you make, Tim, is that “why” really taps into emotion. It can’t just be an intellectual − “Oh, I need to do this goal because I promised somebody, or it’s important for the business.” If you can dig down and connect the “why” to an emotional drive, that’s where the commitment comes from; that’s where you can overcome all of the drama of getting from point A to point B.
Tim Hebert: Scott, you are so right. It’s that deeper, very internal, emotional motivation that you need to find. If it’s not that, it’s very easy to get derailed.
Pam Harper: Tell us − that was point one, what’s another point?
Tim Hebert: I think another point I’ve really learned, and I did this well throughout my life but I really brought it to a new art form with Kilimanjaro, because I knew I was going to face something that was probably more challenging than anything I’ve ever done at all levels − physical, mental, emotionally, even spiritually − was going to be something that I never accomplished, something this grand, before. It really was the day-to-day discipline to prepare myself, and that alone allowed me to be successful in this climb.
I literally had in my office, I had a huge calendar on my wall that every day I would run, I came in and put a green mark on that if I did my commitment; then if I didn’t, I had a black mark. I was so focused on not having black marks that if I had one, I would try to do two runs the next day, or some time before that week was over to try to recover − but that kind of discipline and ability to accomplish the things you need to do to be successful is huge.
Scott Harper: …Have metrics that you can follow.
Tim Hebert: … And very visible. The challenge with personal goals and even business goals is, “who’s going to hold me accountable for my own personal goals?” No one. There is no board of directors for my personal life; I have to report to myself. That visibility helps me start to be more accountable to myself. If I see that black mark, I know I’ve got to do something about it. That’s part of that discipline you need, is that you’ve got to be accountable for your own actions; no one is going to hold you accountable.
Pam Harper: It’s like a reward too. Every time you saw the green mark, that was the one that was a positive thing, so it was a pat on the back.
Tim Hebert: Absolutely. In some of those days, you need that pat on the back.
Pam Harper: What’s another point? What’s the third point that you would say?
Tim Hebert: I think the other thing I really focused on doing through this entire time is that while this is something I wanted to do my entire life, I didn’t want this to become just a task. I wanted this to become a journey that I enjoyed through the entire process, and I knew that if I enjoyed the journey that I would learn and grow from the experience, no matter what. I didn’t want this to become an automatic routine checkbox kind of thing that I’m doing, but rather really enjoy and savor every moment − running in the rain, running in the snow and so on. I learned to enjoy that, and I learned to push myself and to become mentally strong, and it was part of that learning process.
So I would just say enjoy the journey and find those bright spots − find that sun that’s rising over the summit that you can focus on to get you to the end.
Pam Harper: I have to ask you − you have accomplished this dream. What happens when you accomplish your dream? What next?
Tim Hebert: My dream right now is that not only did I sacrifice a lot during this, but my family also sacrificed. I spent a lot of time training and doing things to get prepared for this at the expense of my family to some extent. Right now I’m enjoying the time with them. That’s my first immediate goal is to recover some of the time I lost over the last year.
I also have a list of about 150 items that are what I call my “adventure list;” they’re different things to do. Right now I’m debating, and hopefully by the end of this holiday season, I’ll be able to select from one or two of them; so I’m looking at potentially hiking in the Peruvian Andes or Chilean Andes and down to Patagonia, or doing some really out by yourself wilderness hikes.
Pam Harper: Tim, time has just really gone by. Any final thoughts about getting the most out of life and business?
Tim Hebert: The only thing I would add to what we’ve talked about today is that I think you’ve got to seize the moment in life. This has been on my list for a long, long, long time. When finally took it off, it was an important goal I wanted to accomplish. I could have waited another year; I could have waited another five years or ten years. I could have actually never achieved this, or never even attempted it. So I think you need to find those things that are important to you − these dreams that you have, these goals that you have that are really important − and just find a way to do them; most people talk about it but they don’t always do it.
Pam Harper: Tim, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. This has been fun.
Tim Hebert: Absolutely. Thank you Scott and Pam for inviting me back, and I hope you guys have a tremendous holiday season.
Pam Harper: Same to you.
Scott Harper: Thanks Tim, and thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To check out resources related to today’s conversation, share on social media, find out about upcoming episodes or open a conversation with us, go to growthignitersradio.com and select episode 45.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to think about:
Scott Harper: What do I need to do to pursue my own big dream, and what leadership lessons could I learn along the way to accomplish my goals?