Seven Years of Plenty, Seven Years of Famine

July 30th, 2009 by Sharon Larsen

Today we begin a section that focuses on building a reserve for your business and never jeopardizing everything you have in the pursuit of your small business idea.



You will inevitably encounter failures on the road of entrepreneurship. It is absolutely essential to prepare for setbacks. I find relevance in the story of Joseph, which is found in the Bible, the Koran, and a number of other religious texts from around the world. In a jealous rage Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt. After years of abuse and hardship, he was unjustly thrown into prison. Joseph had a talent, though: a gift for interpreting dreams.


Having heard of Joseph’s ability, the Pharaoh called upon him to decipher his disturbing dreams. After hearing the dream, Joseph warned Pharaoh that a famine was coming; seven years of plenty followed by devastating shortages. Joseph became Pharaoh’s chief steward and immediately began a program to set aside a reserve of food and supplies. Seven years later the famine hit, but Pharaoh and all of Egypt were ready.


Ed Viesturs, one of my personal heroes, was the first American to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter summits. He accomplished this remarkable success without the use of supplemental oxygen. Only those who have confronted high altitudes understand the superhuman ability required to accomplish this task.


I identify with Ed for two primary reasons:


1)      His work ethic and attitude on the mountain.


Countless times he sacrificed his own summit bid in order to rescue others. How Ed climbs the mountain is as important to him as climbing it. Ed was a member of the IMAX team and one of the major heroes in the rescue attempt that occurred in the infamous 1996 Everest disaster.


2)      His climbing philosophy.


When Ed is acclimatized and the conditions are right, he goes for it. When the conditions are not right or he considers the venture an unacceptable risk, he has the courage to back off and go back to the tent. Sometimes this frustrates others around him, but he does not let peer pressure push him to climb a mountain when it does not feel right.


In an article about his third attempt to summit Annapurna, Viesturs said:


Veikka and I will approach this attempt the same way we have all our other climbs. I’m quite prepared to just turn around and come home if conditions are as dicey as they were on previous attempts. I admit to being pretty motivated to reach my goal of climbing all 14 peaks, but I’m not going to take unreasonable risks to do so. No mountain, no summit, is worth dying for. I do this for fun, not because I have to. I do this for me, and I do it my way.  For me and the people I care about, my style of climbing is the right style. Getting to the top is optional, but getting back down is mandatory.[1]


In mountain climbing, it is not enough just to get to the top. The goal must be to get to the top and return home safely. In business you must plan for the difficult times. As you reap the rewards of your hard work, build a financial buffer for your future.



We’ll finish the story of Ed Viesturs’ attempt to summit Annapurna next time.  Hope you’re enjoying the mountain climbing stories and their ties to entrepreneurship.


[1]Potterfield, Peter. “Viesturs Returns to Annapurna,” (February 7, 2007).


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