Written by Themba Kriger, Image by Tyrone Bradley https://www.redbull.com/za-en/5-Lessons-from-the-woman-who-conquered-Everest?linkId=69087073&fbclid=IwAR2P1n8zTSUxMa0QRDZe1bQjxse6BIONMfGyDQ9LDX0VMULnwRrlbYrUL8c
Find out what knowledge Saray Khumalo, the first black African woman to summit Mount Everest, gained while working towards her goal and how it applies to social entrepreneurship.
A mother of two boys, social entrepreneur, Mandela libraries ambassador, as well as an executive of a distinguished financial institution and an award-winning mountaineer, Saray Khumalo became the first black African woman to summit Mount Everest on the 16th of May 2019.Using her climbing to raise awareness for the Mandela Libraries Projects which is an initiative working on building libraries for the 90% of public schools without libraries in South Africa. As part of her climbing with a purpose initiative she had dedicated her climbs to ordinary people, women and girls, as well as daughters of the African soil who dare to dream. Speaking on the second day of the 2019 Red Bull Amaphiko Academy in Durban, she shared her experiences leading up to summiting Mount Everest and the lessons she gained from it.Here we look at 5 lessons which apply just as much to mountaineering as to social entrepreneurship.
1. Reflect on what you could have done better
The journey to the top of Everest was a five-year-long one for Saray, who had attempted to summit the mountain three times before finally doing so successfully on her fourth attempt. Rather than being discouraged by failed attempts, she looked at what she did wrong and how she could improve on her next attempt. Learning from mistakes rather than accepting them as fact allowed her to eventually achieve her goal.
2. Know when to be the leader and when to follow
As much as Saray’s training and previous attempts prepared her for summitting Everest, her attempt was led, as most attempts are, by a Sherpa or mountain guide who is deeply familiar with the mountain and surrounding variables. A good leader is aware that they are not all knowing and is humble enough to acknowledge the knowledge of others and is prepared to defer and learn from them.
3. The stronger everyone is in the team, the stronger the team
When climbing in a group, the group can only move as fast as the slowest member since a team is only as strong as its weakest member. This means that if a team member is holding back a team from reaching the summit difficult decisions need to be made such as leaving them at a lower camp and continuing without them. Similarly, a successful enterprise is reliant on the entire team and at times team members will need to be let go in order for the enterprise to reach its goals.
4. Train continually so that when an opportunity arises you are ready
Saray trains every day whether she has a climb coming up or not. While she successfully summited Everest this year, her initial plan was to do so in 2020, however, when the opportunity presented itself to do so in 2019 she was ready thanks to her rigorous training regimen. Working continually on your project ensures that you are agile enough to seize a golden opportunity when it arises.
5. Don’t get too excited to get to the top that you can’t make it back
‘Summit fever’ is a phenomenon that mountaineers experience when they are close to the top but are facing unfavourable conditions making it very unsafe to continue. Giving in to summit fever means ignoring these risks in order to reach the summit, forgetting that reaching it is only half the battle and that to successfully summit one must return. Overlooking risk in order to achieve a short-term goal without considering long-term consequences can be fatal on a mountain and disastrous to an enterprise.