Stacy Allison was the first American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
It took two tries. Her first attempt was thwarted by one of the worst storms to hit the mountain in 40 years. Imagine winds exceeding 100 mph and being trapped in a snow cave for five days at 23,500 feet. Allison's second, successful, attempt in 1988 took 29 days.
Through this experience, Allison learned a lot about herself, the meaning of being a team player and the importance of good leadership. In a recent talk, she shared some of the most important lessons learned and how they are applicable in the workplace as well as in the home.
Among other things, she says:
n It is important to assess and reassess your environment. What is your backup plan if the environment changes, like the worst storm in 40 years hits your family unexpectedly?
n There is a big difference in failure and giving up. Giving up is permanent. Failure gives you an opportunity to examine yourself and try again.
n Learning to be a team player is crucial. Allison said that she was so invested in making it to the summit the first time that she wasn't a great team member. When she returned home, she vowed that if she had the chance to climb again she would be a team player. Sometimes family members forget they are on the same team.
n Watch out for leeches. Allison compared the bloodsucking worms to negative people who latch onto you and suck your energy. How you act and react matters. Allison believes the biggest leech is self-doubt. If you don't know where you are headed, the leeches can pull you down.
n Who are the people in your support system, and who do you support? Family can provide a built-in support system and be a great example to teach children how to support others.
n Avalanches frequently occur on the mountain and sometimes in life. Allison and her team worked to reduce the risk of getting caught in an avalanche by having a sound strategy. What is your family strategy?
n Focus is critical. Sometimes the big picture is overwhelming. Focus on what you can control, and let the other stuff go. You have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
n Consensus is important. Allison told about a team member who expressed discomfort with the route chosen to get to the summit because he thought they were at high risk for being in the path of an avalanche. After a three-hour team meeting, the decision was made not to move the route. While the team member disagreed, he went along with the decision. A few days later, there was an avalanche in exactly the place the team member predicted. Blaming could have ripped the team apart at a critical time. Team members took responsibility for their decisions, and everybody moved forward. It is powerful when family members take responsibility for their own behavior instead of blaming others.
n Sometimes being part of a family can feel like trying to climb Mount Everest. Setting goals, working together as a team and supporting each other through life's successes and failures can enable your family to reach the summit.
Email Julie Baumgardner, president and executive director of First Things First, at firstname.lastname@example.org.