Alison Levine has climbed the highest peak on every continent, served as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and skied across the Arctic Circle.
She’s also a bestselling author and adviser to the Thayer Leader Development Group at West Point. Alison’s new book On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership makes a compelling case that leadership principles that apply in the world of extreme adventure also apply to today’s rigorously competitive business environments.
Because of her journey toward completing the Adventurers Grand Slam, Alison possesses unmatched perspective and has priceless advice for living fully and achieving goals. Our favorite quotes from her 2012 TED Talk hold wisdom that rings true no matter your choice of adventure and no matter your life goals. Enjoy!
1. “Progress doesn’t occur in one particular direction. You do actually have to go backwards to get where you want to be.”
2. “Fear is OK. It’s just a normal human emotion. Complacency is what will kill you. You have to be able to react to the environment as things are shifting and changing.”
3. “When you go to the mountains, everything is changing. You don’t know what’s going to happen from one minute to the next.” (Kind of like life, we’d say!)
4. “Storms are always temporary. The key to getting through that is being able to take action based on the situation, not on whatever plan you made yesterday or last week.”
5. “Turning around and walking away from the deal is harder than continuing on. But when you’re up there in these mountains, you have to be able to make very tough decisions when the conditions around you are far from perfect. And you have to think about how every single move you make will affect everyone else around you and not just you. So it doesn’t matter how much blood, sweat, and tears you put into something. If the conditions aren’t right, you turn around, you cut your losses, and you walk away.”
6. “You don’t have to have total clarity in order to just put one foot in front of the other.”
7. “The people who stand on the top of the mountain are no better than the people who turned around just short of the top. The summit isn’t important. What is important is the journey and lessons you learn along the way and how you’re going to use those lessons to be better and stronger on the next mountain.”
8. “There are always going to be more mountains to climb. So I know that going forward, I have to be even better.”
9. The most gripping image she offers when speaking about her Everest summit (and her first “failed” attempt at summiting) is her depiction of the laborious days a mountaineer spends climbing only a few hundred feet. For every one step they take, they must also take five to ten breaths while pausing in place. Imagine doing this for over the course of three thousand vertical feet. It would take hours and hours. Alison says she breaks overwhelming goals into smaller milestones, setting her sights on a closer destination, a more immediately achievable target, eventually setting her eyes on the final goal—the summit, so to speak.
Watch Alison’s complete TED Talk here:
And learn more about her book here.
Which were your favorite pieces of advice that Alison had to offer?