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Reaching Your Summit
I always tell the people around me, ''If one day I disappear you could probably
find me hiding out and living at the Omni, Mount Washington Hotel!''
It's a magical place and one that is very dear to me, located at the foot of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which happens to be the highest summit in the North Eastern United States...but more about that later.
Joseph Stickney, who had made his fortune as a coal broker in Pennsylvania, constructed this beautiful hotel between 1900-1902 in the Renaissance revival style. Today, it is one of the last surviving grand hotels in the White Mountain Area. There is so much history and class to this place, and when arriving for the first time, it is like being magically transported to a bygone era of opulence and old-world wealth.
I would imagine boarding the Titanic as being a similar experience...of course, the outcome is much better! The staff onsite, who proudly wear their name tags with the indication of which country they come from, are genuinely interested in making sure your stay is perfect and everything is done to make you feel like royalty!
My fascination with this place began over 20 years ago when on a hiking trip with my father and grandfather. As I had seen the place on a few occasions, I had asked my dad if we could stay there. He had inquired and returned quickly with a look on his face which meant everything. There was no way in hell we were gonna spend that kind of money for one night, and so we conveniently found a roadside motel close by. In fact, it was so close, it overlooked the hotel! I remember staring out the window (pouting of course) and thinking to myself that one day I would stay there! I guess one can say that my dad's ''no'' fueled my motivation for a future ''yes''. I had made it a point to go back, and in my adult years when traveling there I haven't stayed anywhere else!
Last September, I decided I would treat myself. There was something I had wanted to do for a long time, and as I had put it on my vision board for the year, I did what I had to do to make it happen...
I took my whole team to hike the mountain and to stay at the famous hotel! I wanted them to experience what it felt like to have five start service…what it was to be made to feel ''important'' and to give service with a smile. I wanted to offer them something that maybe, they wouldn't have been able to afford just yet and for them to experience first hand what it is that I tell them all the time that I want our clients to feel!
“At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou
I truly believe in the quote above. That weekend was all about memorable feelings and a chance once more, to lead by example.
Now staying in such a place isn't exactly a challenge to say the least. It is a school for how to treat our clients, and it is a taste of the rewards that come with giving a better service!
“Success is not the result of making money; earning money is the result of success – and success is in direct proportion to our service.”
The second treat of course, was the hike with my team. Beautiful Mount Washington, also called Agiocochook by some Native American tribes, is the most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River. It is also notorious for its bad weather. On April 12th, 1934, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded a wind speed 372 km/h at the summit! The year before, my September hike was almost thwarted by a blizzard at the summit. Knowing this, and that there are many injuries and deaths on this particular mountain, we came very prepared.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Many of the injuries and deaths were due to poor planning. Like in business, to reach your goals, you need to plan, to prepare and sometimes to be able to weather the storm. Hiking the mountain provided many opportunities to see metaphors in this journey and in our business.
One of the first lessons we discovered was to PACE YOURSELF! I remember being told this early in my real estate career by a very successful realtor, Tony Modaferri. This was true then, it is true now and was it ever true on the way up. At first the younger, more fit members of the team bolted ahead. This caused a certain frustration as the inexperienced or older members were having a hard time keeping up. They say when you are alone, you can go fast...but together you can go far. Later in the hike, some of the young ones would lean on our older ones to push through...but for the moment we had to change the pace. Like in business, you have to ADAPT. I suggested we put the slower members at the front of the group so that we would move together at a slower, but steady pace. All this happened in the first 20 min of hiking!
It is important to note that there was an extra motivation to keep going. My Nonno, 87 years old, was waiting for us at the top of the mountain! You see, the day before leaving we had two members who had to cancel their trip. Our plan was to have a party waiting at the top with three cars for our return...and it so happened that the two who couldn't make it were the two who were supposed to be at the summit with him.
So, in the morning we had to IMPROVISE. Like in business, sometimes s**t happens. You have to deal with it and keep moving forward. Ivan & I, who both knew the mountain and the auto road, escorted my Grandpa to the drive up, left him and two cars there, with the promise that we'd return in about six hours! (A side note for those who don't know my grandfather: he is in exceptional shape and is hyper social...and there is an observatory with a restaurant at the top. Before I made it back my to car, he was already chatting it up with some tourists from Connecticut!)
All this to say that there was no way we were not getting to the top! As we progressed and made it past one of the first milestones, I felt we had a good synergy. Teams were forming within the team and support was abundant. At this point I had started leading the group from behind. I thought about an article I had read that stated the most effective leaders will lead from behind, not from the front.
“As a leader...I have always endeavored to listen to what each and every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion. Oftentimes, my own opinion will simply represent a consensus of what I heard in the discussion. I always remember the axiom: a leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”
Leaders can encourage breakthrough ideas not by cultivating followers who can execute but by building communities that can innovate, and in turn become leaders. John Maxwell often talks about ''lifting others’ lid''! There was a certain magic that happened...every difficult step of the way. About three and a half hours into our hike, we had made it to The Hermit Lake Shelters just prior to reaching the base of the Tuckerman Ravine headwall. This is beautiful place to rest, refuel, and fill your water from the well. It is also the place where you realize that you're not there yet...maybe halfway, but from this point you cannot see the summit.
How many times in business did I get to a point where I had worked incredibly hard, that I knew there was still a long road ahead...and maybe the outcome or even destination wasn't clear or visible? The answer...many times. It is the drive to succeed, to surpass yourself and to keep moving forward that fuels the fire to do so. It’s the belief in yourself. No matter what.
An exciting feature of the mountain is that it has an alpine zone starting at just about 4000 feet. It's rocky (understatement) all the way. There is no such thing as level footing. And it is once you get into the clearing and above the treeline that you start to get a sense of really how high you are! This is one of my favorite moments; you can glance at HOW FAR YOU'VE COME...like in business, taking a moment to acknowledge a past success and achievement can be a terrific motivation to continue. It can reassure you in times of doubt. ''Hey, I've made it here...I can keep going, I can keep on keepin' on.''
Not everyone reacts the same way, for one of us froze. Wholly paralyzed by the sight (and height). She couldn't put a single foot forward. This happened at a rather narrow passway and all of a sudden we had no choice but to stop. It was too dangerous to turn back at this point or to break up the group. And though this seemed like the toughest challenge we had to face, it turned out to be our greatest gift! It allowed this team to come together like never before. We took a moment, shifted our positions and with a tremendous effort, she mustered her courage and put a foot forward. She was holding on to another team member and ONLY looking at the other person's feet to guide her. She couldn't look up. To make sure she would be safe, one of us stayed behind her, while big Joe scouted the way ahead of the one who was being the anchor. The rest of the group supported (physically and emotionally) the person in front of them. Once again, we were on our way. Slow but steadily, with shifts changing for who would guide and who would stay back.
Once we were almost at the summit, when the passage and team were safe, I pushed as hard as I could to the last portion and made it to the top. I wanted to get to my Nonno and see that he was okay. Sure enough, he was safe and sound, like a wise old man of the mountain...simply waiting and enjoying these moments. There is something to be said about living to this stage of life... where everything is a blessing. I try to see life through his eyes at times and it helps me appreciate the here and now. I turned to see and greet the team as one by one...or rather team by team, they too had reached their summit.
We hugged and huddled together...took in the scenery and congratulated each other for, step by step...we had climbed 6288 feet.
The following week, I launched my first business conference. SUMMIT6288. In front of a crowd of 103, I brought together some of the most inspiring people. I ended the conference in an intimate 103-person circle where I told our story and reminded everyone that there are times that you will hit a wall, that you may think of giving up and that the end goal may seem unattainable. But by surrounding yourself with good people, planning, adapting and improvising, and most of all believing in yourself...you will each reach your summit. ONE STEP AT A TIME.
This year, SUMMIT6288 will take place in LAVAL in front of a crowd of 350 amazing people. This year, we will be 30 people hiking the mountain. Luigi (Managing Editor of Laval Families Magazine), you're in, right?
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