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Career chasms - climbing out and up again
05 July 2011
At the apex of the GFC I recall thinking to myself, “It will be a miracle if I survive this crisis with my career intact….” and I wasn’t alone – most of the people I knew at the time feared for their livelihoods, their mortgage, kids school fees…etc.
Looking back on it now, we were right to worry, but last weekend I rented an old a documentary that put all of that negative energy into perspective.
Touching the Void (released in 2003) is a true story about two climbers who reached the summit of the Siula Grand in the Peruvian Andes in 1985 before things went terribly wrong. On the way back to base camp (and still very high up on the mountain), one of the two climbers, Joe Simpson, took a tumble and fractured his leg just below the knee.
As Joe was unable to continue on foot, he and his partner Simon Yates modified their descent plan. Simon lowered Joe down the mountain with their climbing rope. At the end of the rope length, Joe would then secure himself to the mountain; Simon would descend to join him and so on. That is, until part way through the journey Joe finds himself at the end of the rope with no mountain to secure him.
After much soul searching, Simon realises that to survive, he must cut the rope. When he does Joe ends up in a chasm somewhere deep inside the mountain with a seriously broken leg.
Believe it or not Joe makes it back alive on his own – though I won’t tell you how – trust me rent the movie it’s riveting stuff.
Joe’s experience highlighted to me that when you have a major setback three things are key to survival:
Make decisions – don’t get paralysed by the enormity of the task;
Identify the process of getting to the goal and break it down into a series of small easily achievable goals. This will enable you to celebrate small successes that keep your morale high and momentum moving forwards.
Don’t give up – I really believe that if Joe could make it off that mountain and live to tell the story anything is possible.
Finally, it’s easy to fall into the trap of negative thinking – the truth is things don’t look quite so bad with the passage of time – keep some perspective and remember this too will pass.