I hear it all the time from business executives: "I'd really like to do something adventurous, but I just don't have the time." Well, Masha Gordon didn't have the time--she was a former managing director of a big bank and a portfolio manager with two small children--but she craved adventure and challenge. So she decided to do something about it: The Explorer's Grand Slam.
She scaled the highest peak on every continent, including Mount Everest and Denali, and traveled to both poles, within ONE YEAR. That's right. A woman who FAILED physical education classes in grade school climbed every major mountain. Not only that, but she now holds the world record for the fastest woman to do so.
So what's your excuse?
One reason Masha was successful was she approached this challenge with a clear head. "You've got to respect the weather and the variables you can't change," she says. "I have two small children. I wasn't about to do anything that might mean I wouldn't be coming home." Preparation was key.
She climbed Kilimanjaro in 24 hours. That's not just fast, that's super-fast. Then she conquered Vinson in the Arctic and tackled the South Pole. That was the only time she thought about giving up because--are you ready for this?--it was boring walking for days and days pulling a heavy sled. But you know how she survived it? By listening to our podcast, Spartan Up! I kid you not. She says that listening to the words of high achievers who faced challenges gave her the motivation to overcome the Pole.
She faced another great challenge when she broke her wrist between peaks and wondered how she would continue on. Then she remembered something she saw on one of the Spartan videos--"If wounded warriors missing limbs can do it, then I can do it with a cast." She decided to use it to set a different challenge--could she climb the next peak in three days from base camp WITHOUT acclimatization which means she would not let her body adapt to her surroundings. She was going to blaze through it.
And of course, she nailed it. But she's not superhuman; she still needed oxygen on the top of Mount Everest like everyone else.
"They give you oxygen and you go, 'oh wow, that's what I've been missing' when all the colors come back into your vision and you realize that all you really want is oxygen." Talk about "frame of reference." Most people want cars and houses and money. Masha is grateful for oxygen.
We've interviewed happiness experts who say that happiness actually decreases as we acquire more things. I know personally that when I've taken away everything--so that all I wanted was water, food and shelter--receiving any of those three things made me the happiest person alive.
Masha saved Everest for last, right after a frustrating expedition to the North Pole where her experience taught her that there's no use stressing about what you can't control. Miraculously, she finally made it to Everest very late, but within season. She climbed Everest in three weeks--again, phenomenally fast. Luck was with her, but it also required patience (you have to wait for windows when it's safe to continue ascending) and weighing risks (if this choice fails, can I live with the consequences?).
When do you turn back?
That's the big question for me, and also what I think is the biggest challenge in life. Masha would have turned around with the top of Everest within reach if a storm threatened her life. She says she wouldn't have thought twice about it. "I've done it before on other mountains," she says. "I would never orphan my children because of my bad judgment."
She says this applies to business as well. It's better to try to salvage the situation and live to fight another day than to be foolish and plow forward when the odds are against you. In fact, it was in watching a successful business colleague go through a scenario similar to this, and observing how little joy he got out of life, that inspired her to try to find a better peace.
So... No. More. Excuses. What's your next adventure going to be?