The Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) is committed to its mission of helping entrepreneurs learn and grow to new levels of leadership by providing learning opportunities, mentorship and access to experts. Mike Tucci, Kris Porcaro and Jordi Mullor of EO Boston-member company Lexington Wealth Management recently organized an event where EO members spent the day with Alex Honnold, a renowned rock climber who became the first person to "free solo" El Capitan--meaning he scaled the sheer granite monolith without ropes, harnesses or other safety gear.
It's arguably the greatest feat in the history of rock-climbing: On June 3, 2017, Alex Honnold completed the 3,000-foot ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without safety ropes or harnesses in 3 hours, 56 minutes. Honnold's years of intense training and ultimate death-defying climb were captured in the Academy-Award winning documentary film, Free Solo.
Alex was the featured guest during a day-long EO Learning Event where EO members experienced the opportunity to climb with Alex, ask about his pinnacle focus and mindset in achieving such a significant goal, and learn from his experiences as recounted in his keynote address.
When entrepreneurs and elite athletes meet, the conversation revolves around high achievement and the tools required to get you there. EO members identified nine parallels between the challenges of free solo climbing and successful entrepreneuring.
Here, they share their takeaways from the man who made the impossible possible:
1. Mind your mindset
"The evolution of Alex's mindset was inspiring. As he recounted the run-up to free soloing El Capitan, it was fascinating to hear how his thinking progressed from, "No way will that ever happen," to "Well, maybe I could do it," to "I'm going to do it," and finally to doing it! His candor about experiencing fear was also eye-opening since he seemed fearless in the documentary." ― Mark Worster, co-founder, 30Turn
2. Extraordinary success requires focus--and sacrifice
"After meeting Alex in a relaxed environment, I realized the immensely high level of focus, investment and personal sacrifice he maintained during his training to attain such an audacious goal. He lived in his van for years so he could devote all of his time and effort to training. It provided insight into the ideal way to approach risky situations―with eyes wide open, fully aware and fully in the moment." ― Clemencia Herrera, EO Accelerator participant and founder/creative director, Moira Studio
3. Pack your endurance
"In climbing--as in entrepreneuring--it's endurance and persistence that yield results. Practicing critical moves over and over until there's nothing but 100 percent confidence in what you're doing. It's not adrenaline. It's about consistency, pacing and repetition. There's a strong correlation to how we work. We can't come into the office, get pumped up and expect to make huge strides in one day. It takes endurance, commitment and patience."― Dave Will, founder, PropFuel
4. Consider both risk and consequence
"In the meet-and-greet with EO members, Alex shared his perspective on the difference between risk and consequence. The consequence of making a mistake while free soloing is very high: death. But Alex put in the work to reduce his risk to near-zero by systematically breaking down a huge climbing challenge into a series of smaller, individual problems, and working through every problem on El Capitan until it felt completely rehearsed, like choreography." ― Ryan Villanueva, co-founder, Best Delegate Model United Nations
5. Believe in your unlimited potential
"Alex cautioned us about the pitfall of thinking limiting thoughts--instead, trust in your ability to grow and improve. For example, Alex would never think, 'I am not able to do that.' He adds the pivotal word yet: 'I am not able to do that yet.' It's a distinction that makes all the difference!" ― Jordi Mullor, head of operations and marketing, Lexington Wealth Management
6. No luck―only preparation
"Alex's catchphrase, 'No luck,' underscores that there are no shortcuts to being well-prepared. Before free soloing, he scaled El Cap using ropes and safety gear about 80 times. He spent time alone to pre-visualize and focus, removing all distractions--including social media and email. It's similar in the entrepreneurial world: There are no shortcuts to developing good habits and hard work." ― Nicole Chan, founder, Nicole Chan Studios
7. Shortcuts can prove fatal
"You cannot overprepare for either climbing or entrepreneuring. Yes, planning can be tedious, but shortcuts and minimal analysis can be mortally fatal for climbers and professionally fatal for entrepreneurs. 'Plan your work, and work your plan' is forever true." ― Sean Dandley, entrepreneur and retired telecom executive
8. Expand your "bubble of comfort"
"Alex explained the importance of expanding your comfort zone incrementally, day by day. This will enable you to achieve in the future what you never thought possible today. Alex didn't think he could free solo El Capitan the first or even the tenth time he thought about it, but slowly, iteratively and methodically he grew his 'bubble of comfort' so that eventually, he confidently achieved what had never been done before." ― Jordi Mullor
9. Overnight success takes years of hard work
"Alex explained that his epic, four-hour climb took 17 years of preparation--it wasn't a quick, spur-of-the-moment decision. His experience and practice, especially in the six years of hyper-focus before his free solo climb, prepared him to be 100 percent certain that he would succeed. The parallel to business is uncanny: A successful company isn't built overnight. When you look at the journey of successful entrepreneurs you see a long, steady climb to that ultimate peak of success." ― Mark Worster