We all set goals for ourselves and then, truth be told, most of us forget the goals and just continue our daily routine. In order to succeed and help our customers succeed, we must be willing to be relentless in the pursuit of our goals.
There is a group of people that have formed a subculture that demonstrate this unending, unwavering drive to achieve. They are those people who set out to hike the Appalachian Trail from one end to the other in a single trip. They are called thru-hikers.
To add a little perspective to the goal of a thru-hike, the Appalachian Trail (AT) runs 2,178 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Most thru-hikers start in Georgia in the spring and finish in Maine about 6 months later. And they do this with a backpack that can weigh as much as 40 pounds strapped to their back.
They walk anywhere from 10 to 20 miles each day, encountering many challenges that nature throws their way—weather, wildlife (bears, snakes, skunks, bees, etc.), dramatic elevation changes, primitive shelters or no shelter for sleeping, injuries (lots of ankle sprains, many ankle breaks), etc.
Now that you are convinced that they are crazy, what can we learn from them? Here are a few things that I think are worth applying to our everyday work.
1. Teamwork. The thru-hikers are all on their own or in small groups. But they all help each other and work together to achieve their common goal—to summit Mt. Katahdin. They even give each other “trail names,” nicknames to be used only on the AT.
2. Resourcefulness. Out in the wilderness, you get real resourceful, real fast. You learn how to find and filter water, how to find a safe place to sleep, how to dry wet clothes, how to keep the bears out of your food (and therefore out of your campsite!), and so on. Mostly, the thru-hikers use the many natural things at their disposal to accomplish these tasks.
3. Self-Awareness. Thru-hikers go off the trail occasionally to go into town and buy food, medicine and other supplies. I won’t sugarcoat this—after a week on the trail, a hiker is hardly civilized. They smell, they are disheveled and they are dirty. But they recognize that and either spruce themselves up first or go to places that are known to cater to thru-hikers. Back on the trail, they rarely take risks that they are not capable of handling. Trying to climb a rock that is over your skill level is a quick way to injure yourself and require a trip home.
4. Persistence. The hikers that make it from Springer to Katahdin are persistent. There are times they want to go off trail and go home and take a warm shower, have a drink and watch TV. But they know that the only way to achieve their goal is to stick with it. They trudge on in the rain because they know that the next day will be a sunny, dry 20-mile trek through beautiful terrain.
All of these traits can help us achieve our goals too. Work together as teams all pulling in the same direction to achieve the same goal—success for your customers. Be resourceful and find new ways to serve your customers and help them, especially during these challenging times. Know your strengths and leverage them. Know your weaknesses and compensate for them. And be persistent, relentless, uncompromising.
Take a thru-hiker approach to hitting your goals. Think about how the sense of achievement that a thru-hiker must feel at the top of Mt. Katahdin.