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Focus, Trust, Determination: What Climbing Offers Entrepreneurs

This summer’s six Exchange scholars got a lot closer to Utah’s legendary landscapes by way of a rock climbing expedition to Big Cottonwood Canyon. For many, it was their first climbing experience. For all, it proved to be an exceptional metaphor for their water entrepreneurship training. We asked them to reflect on the outing and how it might inform their work. Below are some of their insights. Special thanks to Davey Stevenson, Jewell Lund, and Azhar Zaheer--exchange mentors and our esteemed climbing coaches for the day.

Climbing Out of the Comfort Zone 

by Aizaz Ali Qureshi

Honestly, I was never interested in climbing, but it was a mandatory activity. Since I’m in Utah for such a short time and have a hectic schedule, I did not want to waste my day on an activity that could only contribute in the form of some adventurous photos on Facebook. However, this pursuit ended up changing my perspective forever.

Fear and anxiety was flowing through my body as I prepared to climb. My brain was giving me all the possible thoughts and reasons not to climb. But at that very moment, I heard a voice within, saying, “The job of a brain is keep you in the comfort zone. Do you want to be a slave of your brain or to conquer it?” The words were so powerful that without delaying a second, I started my climb.

Suddenly, all the negative feelings were replaced by courage and motivation. All I wanted to do was to conquer that mountain, and not to look back until I finished. I slipped a couple of times and my hands were all scratched. My enthusiasm for reaching the top was high and my body was ready to endure all the pain. At the end, I only managed to climb half of the mountain because I lost all my stamina.

During the 20 minutes I spent climbing, I had one of the most intense conversations with myself I’ve ever had. I learned things that can never be learned in class, but only understood through experience. I want to share what I learned:

  1. The brain is designed to keep you in the comfort zone, but to achieve the best things and experiences in life, you need to come out of your comfort zone.
  2. You should do the things which scare you, and then, fear will vanish.
  3. While climbing, you have to make important decisions, which will polish your decision-making ability.
  4. Climbing sharpens your reflexes, shapes your physical and mental strength, and connects you with nature.

In life, we set goals and go out to achieve them. We are willing to take pain and discomfort in order to reach our goals. The same is the case while climbing: the peak is the goal and you are willing to take all the scratches and bruises in order to attain it. Mountain climbing is the best activity I have ever done to improve my goal-setting ability.

I would like to thank Davey for organizing such an adventurous event for us. It is an honor to climb beside Jewel and our entrepreneurial mentor Azhar—both experts in climbing with experience all around the world. Thank you all for taking time off from your busy routines to help us achieve such a thrill.


Climbing: A Journey from Fear to Dare 

by Sorth Ansari

When I heard that we were going climbing, I thought it would just be an outdoor adventure. But after we reached the rock, I was a little scared. When I started climbing and moved just two steps up, I suddenly lost my control and fell down. For a while, I thought maybe I was not strong enough to climb the rock. Eventually, I started to climb again because you can’t be successful in life or achieve your goals unless you go beyond your comfort zone. In my second attempt, I almost reached the top because of my courage and due to my sportsmanship spirit of not quitting until I reach my destination.

Climbing taught us a number of lifetime lessons. As an entrepreneur, we are climbing each and every moment. An entrepreneur is a risk-taker and constantly faces different challenges. Here are some lessons that I learned, which will be beneficial for me in my entrepreneurship career:

First, the most important thing is determination. Select your route first and then go towards it. It is all about mindset, because when you keep moving, you find your strengths and weaknesses; that is an important skill for both climbers and entrepreneurs.

The second thing is trust. Whenever you do anything, trust yourself, because if you cannot trust yourself, no one else will. The other thing is to delete the word “can’t” from your dictionary. Doubting is a symbol of unwillingness.

The third thing is decision-making—in every step during climbing, you have to make decisions similar to those needed in entrepreneurship. Most of the time, we are surrounded by circumstances where one decision either takes us to the top or the bottom, depending on how smartly the decision has been made.

Fourth, don’t fear failure. I found many entrepreneurs who started their businesses and faced rejection. But they did not stop there; they continued to struggle and now they are running successful businesses. Don’t stop; if you face any difficulty in your journey, stop only when you become successful.

The fifth thing which is similar in climbing and entrepreneurship is to stay focused and be aware of your surroundings.

Finally, the sixth lesson is to be innovative and creative, to try to learn and explore new things.


Good Partners

by Sabira Jhatial

... in my journey towards the top, there came a point when I became physically and mentally exhausted. I was just about to give up. I thought: now it’s time to say, "Let me down" ... but, it was Azhar (my belayer), who motivated me to take a rest for a while and keep going to the top. This taught me the importance of surrounding myself with good partners in climbing as well as in business ventures--a team that always supports you, motivates you and makes a business like a family of team members in entrepreneurship.