The Currency of Toil

December 3rd, 2008 by Rich Christiansen

Who uses phrases like The Currency of Toil?

Well I will tell you who….. High altitude climbers!

Ed Viesturs

Ed Viesturs

In preparation for submitting the book to our publisher, I have been having conversations with all of the individuals that I have quoted or told stories about. As part of this effort, I was able to have a great discussion with Ed Viesturs. One of the chapters in the book is titled Climb High Sleep Low. In this chapter I contrast parallels between mountain climbing and what it takes to succeed in the ups – downs and around’s of small business start up. (See excerpt below from the actual chapter of what I said about Ed in this chapter.)

As we were comparing notes, Ed made a statement relating to mountain climbing that I had to write down and share. He used the term The Currency of Toil. Ed said this is what what he and his climbing friends had started terming the exquisite pain and sacrifice that occurs high on the mountain. If that phrase does not describe the GRIT and tenacity to succeed in a start up business I do not know what does.

These words almost allow you to visualize the pain and intensity of each step as climbers and entrepreneurs push forward into the death zone.

Maybe a little to much time without oxygen also occurs when you consume the label entrepreneur. I now also embrace the mantra The Currency of Toil

……….. Excerpt from Chapter 11 Climb High Sleep Low …………..

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 super-human 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, Veisters 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.

Now, you have to keep in mind that Ed had already attempted this climb twice, and backed off both times. This was the last 8,000-meter peak he had left to conquer before attaining his goal of summiting all 14 peaks. Annapurna is arguably the most dangerous and most difficult of all of the 8,000 meter peaks, with the possible exception of K2. He had already tried and backed off twice. Ed’s team chose a route that required them to be above 26,000 feet, the death zone, for an extended period of time. However, taking this route allowed them to avoid the huge avalanche-prone faces of the foreboding mountain. Well into their summit bid they came to a corniced face that “just did not feel right.” Ed and Veikka chose to go back down the mountain, but two other climbing partners decided to press forward. In an amazing climb these two reached the summit successfully. Some people watching called Ed and Veikka weak-kneed, and they received an enormous amount of criticism. However, they did not waver and offered no regrets. They had the courage and fortitude to “go to the tent” despite peer pressure, despite it being the final summit, and despite the world watching.

Ed said: “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.” In mountain climbing, it is not enough just to get to the top of the mountain. 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.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment