I recently came across this video which I found fascinating. It is a 24-minute talk by Cathy O’Dowd. Cathy is the first woman mountaineer to summit Everest from both South (1996) and North (1999) and in 2003 tried one of the great unclimbed routes of the Himalaya, the Fantasy Ridge on Everest Kangshung Face. She decided to try another unclimbed legendary route – the Mazeno Ridge of Nanga Parbat in 2012 which this video talks about.
To give you a little background, Mazeno is considered the longest ridge at 8000 ft and had been tried and failed by multiple famous mountaineers before. This blog, however, is not about summitting Everest. It’s about how to deal with uncertainty.
There are quite a few learnings that I found through this talk on how to deal with uncertainty. And since that’s what we’re doing now, more than ever before, I thought it would be relevant to share some of my learnings basis this video.
1. Plan but be ready to adapt
Planning is important as it gives structure to our actions…however plans may become redundant as we move ahead and situation changes. Hence, while we devote time to planning but also be prepared to adapt quickly as situation changes.
2. Innovation is important
It is important to innovate along the way. Innovation is not necessarily something big, it could be something small but may help impact the program positively. And the inspiration for innovation could come anytime and to anyone.
3. Know the strengths as well as the limitations of your team and use them to your advantage-
Each of us has teams that support us day to day and they have varied talents- be it our heads, peers, planners, principals or teachers. It is important that we know the strengths of our teams. And the limitations as well since these limitations could completely disrupt our plans and not always in the positive sense.
4. Decisions may go wrong, but will we let it affect our next decision?
In our day to day lives, everything that we do involves decision making. From something as simple to what shirt to wear to work to what would be the next programme launched. Each decision may have an impact on the next decision that we need to take. If we decide to wear a white shirt to work in summer and it suddenly starts raining then the next decision of riding back home on your bike may need to be revisited. Not all decisions are as simple as picking a shirt on a normal day. And some of the decisions that we take may go wrong. Whenever this happens, the weight of your previous decision impacts our next one.
5. What defines “success” and what is “failure”
She actually did not end up finishing the summit on this attempt. Given that it came to a point where she had stretched her limits and then the risk was too high, she decided to give up the summit. In her quote, “ I don’t think any one peak is worth everything. …not getting badly injured, staying fit and healthy and being engaged in the mountains over decades and hopefully all my life.” Was it ok for her to turn back when she was so close? What about our programmes? How much do you stretch them and when do you decide to take the learnings and let do?
As things start opening up and yet vaccination or remedy for Covid-19 are not really in the immediate horizon, how do we go about making using some of these learning in our personal lives as well as our programs?
I am also sharing the video link here for anyone who would like to see it-