Four years ago, I did something that many people would consider a risky endeavor: I climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Had I ever done anything even remotely like this? No. Was the eight-day climb a challenge? Absolutely. But that’s exactly why I did it.
Saying “yes” to this didn’t come out of nowhere. I didn’t wake up one day and suddenly become a risk-taker. While preparing for this climb, I spent a considerable amount of time and effort stretching myself and taking on challenges to push my boundaries.
I’m a firm believer that, with practice, you can get more comfortable pushing boundaries — both in life and in business.
Here are four lessons I learned along the way to make it easier to take risks — and experience the benefits that stepping outside your comfort zone can provide:
- Find the strategy behind the decision
First, you need a compelling reason to take that road less traveled — a strategy that will act as a pillar for you every step of the way. When a friend challenged me to make the Mount Kilimanjaro climb with him, I considered it from every angle, and when I realized that I could use this phenomenal opportunity to raise money and awareness for causes that are very important to me, I said yes. In the end, knowing that I could make a big difference in the lives of others was the guiding force that helped push me up the mountain.
- Gather enough information before you jump in
There’s a reason the saying “look before you leap” is so popular — it’s absolutely correct. Remember there’s a difference between a rash decision and a strategic risk. Make sure you collect enough information before you dive in.
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen? What is the likelihood that I’ll succeed? What if I fail?” You don’t have to have everything figured out, but as soon as you get enough information and your gut tells you it’s the right decision, go for it.
- Surround yourself with a solid team
I didn’t climb that mountain alone. I was surrounded by a talented team. I relied on experienced trainers to help me prepare for the grueling physical and mental task in front of me, and I climbed side-by-side with seasoned mountaineers. They always had my back, and I always had theirs. Embracing a team mentality is equally important in the world of business.
Our company recently launched a breakthrough hearing aid, the first in the world with artificial intelligence and integrated sensors. It was a risk, with considerable resources devoted to developing and marketing this major shift in the way people use hearing aids. But the smart, talented people on our team and their dedication to the vision made it worth the risk.
- Do what’s right, not what’s easy
Risk-taking is rarely the easiest choice. Ask yourself, “Is it the right thing to do?” For Starkey, devoting a significant amount of effort to developing a technology that will make people’s lives better was absolutely the right choice.
For me, the timing of my Mount Kilimanjaro climb was particularly on point. I was just about to turn 40, and there was a certain poetry to the goal of achieving “new heights” at this milestone. The way people stepped up to sponsor me on my climb, to literally change lives, reinforced that I made the right decision to take this risk. I made a lot of sacrifices to prepare for the climb. It was certainly difficult. But ultimately it was something that I can now look back on and be extremely proud of.
With a solid strategy, a strong team and the best intentions, it becomes easier and easier to take risks, pushing past the easiest path to do, create or become the next big thing — and propel you and your company to new, amazing heights.