Upward Bound : Nine Original Accounts of How Business Leaders Reached Their Summits
Your team has faltered at a critical moment. A key member says he can't continue, requiring you to make a snap decision: Do you write him off Or do you risk the whole venture by trying to get him back on his feet It could be a scenario straight from the business world.Yet this one occurred high on the slopes of the world's deadliest mountain, K2, where lives, not just livelihoods, depended on the leader's choice.Decisions don't get much starker. That's why mountains-though seemingly a world apart from business-hold unique and surprising insights for managers and entrepreneurs at any altitude. More than just symbols of our upward strivings, they are high-altitude management laboratories: testing grounds where risk, fear, opportunity, and ambition collide in the most unforgiving of settings.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Upward Bound by Michael Useem
Hitting the Wall: Learning that Vertical Limits Aren ' t
In 1999, Nick Sagar reached the end of his rope. He had a dream: to climb The Crew, a route at the upper end of the rock-climbing difficulty scale in Rifle State Park, Colorado. In his twenties, Sagar had given his life over to the monomaniacal dedication required to climb 5.14 routes (the highest rating possible on the Yosemite Decimal System), living off a few dollars of sponsorship money with his wife, Heather, munching donated energy bars and living out of a truck parked at the crags for months at a time.
Then Sagar saw the dream crumble before his eyes. During a rest day while preparing for his next attempt, he got the bad news: His sponsorship from a climbing gear company ' money he desperately needed to survive while working on the route ' failed to come through. Out of money, he had no choice but to abandon his quest for The Crew and head home, seeking work. Sagar knew that he would likely never again be fit enough to ascend the route; never again would he have an entire year to do nothing but live in Rifle Park and train all day every day, like an Olympic decathlete in the year before the games. The loss of sponsorship virtually guaranteed that he would never reach his goal. Sagar removed the gear he ' d fixed on the route months earlier. Tears streaming down his face, he packed up his equipment and walked back to camp. He and Heather said good-bye to their friends and drove toward the exit, defeated.
But then a lone figure stepped into the middle of the road, holding something in his hand.
' That ' s Herman, ' said Nick. ' What the heck is he doing '
Herman Gollner, a dedicated climber in his mid-fifties, had watched Sagar ' s quest with quiet admiration. When he heard about Sagar ' s situation, he drove back to his home in Aspen, visited his bank, and made a withdrawal. Now, here stood Herman, with a handful of cash, flagging down Sagar ' s truck.