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Issue 54
19th September 2019

Lisa Gering and 3 other South African woman are preparing to climb Mount Everest in 2020.

This newsletter is based on an interview I had with Lisa about her journey to the top of Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Not only is Lisa an avid and successful mountaineer, she has also been extremely successful in business.

ROBERT JEWELL:  So Lisa, tell us a bit about Lisa.

LISA GERING:  I am 43 years old, I am not married and I don’t have any children, I have a very busy and a very full and magnificent life and my hobby and my big passion and my big driver is mountain climbing and has been since 2010 when I got bitten in the butt by mountains. I’ve climbed every year since 2010 and some years twice.

I work in entrepreneurial space and I have for my whole life and so my time is filled with working which I am very passionate about what I do.

ROBERT JEWELL:  Lisa, your love for mountaineering started in 2010. Did you just go tackle a mountain or how did it all start?

LISA GERING:  In 2010 I was working for an organisation called Sirdar. The word Sirdar actually means “Lead Sherpa” on a mountain expedition. In that environment we actually assisted entrepreneurs and small business with corporate governance. Our CEO at the time decided that it would be a good marketing exercise that we actually climbed a mountain because all our marketing pictures and analogies were all about mountains. So we all climbed Kilimanjaro in 2010. I must say I didn’t enjoy Kilimanjaro because I have played high level sport my whole life and I very arrogantly thought I don’t need to do any training for this. The result of not training was that I faced with altitude and incorrect equipment and weather and all those bits and pieces that make you terribly uncomfortable if you have not prepared for them. When I got down from Kilimanjaro I said that’s it mountains are not for me, this is not what I want to do, and you’ll never ever catch me on a mountain ever again. But I don’t lie down easily and I woke up about six months later and decided no, let me try this mountain thing again but on my own terms. So I called Ronnie Muhl who is a very dear friend and runs the logistics company that I had done all my mountain trips with and I said what have you got on the agenda for the balance of the year. Adventures Global were taking some people to trek to Everest base camp. I said I’m in, and that trip changed my life, and ever since then I’ve been climbing.

ROBERT JEWELL:  We hear and see these stories on television about the highs and the lows of mountaineering. What for you is a really high point so far and also what was a low point which really scared you?

LISA GERING:  The high point for me is about the transformation in myself after doing the trip and that’s actually why I climb. I’ve never found an environment where someone is faced with such physical, mental, emotional and spiritual challenges in the same volume at the same time. When you are on a mountain and exposed across those four levels, you can’t hide behind all the luxuries that we sometimes hide behind in our lives here.

The person that pops out on the other side is fascinating and that is the high for me. I am curious and fascinated at the transformation and change that happens within me and with the people that I climb with when we go through this journey of the mountain. So that’s definitely a big high for me.

One low was probably in 2014 on a mountain called Aconcagua which is Argentina. It’s the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas and it’s the only 7000 metre mountain outside of the Himalayas. The low point was that we were at the last camp before our summit night at about 6500 metres. It was cold and I wasn’t feeling so well. I had a little bit of a pulmonary oedema which is when your lungs fill up with liquid and I wasn’t breathing so well. All I wanted was to be with my family and get off that mountain! So that’s probably the lowest point for me in terms of all the mountains.

ROBERT JEWELL:  Did you summit that night?

LISA GERING:  No, I did not summit. In fact no one that had a summit attempt that night summited because we all turned around before the summit. Aconcagua is just under 7000 metres and everyone turned around at about 6800 metres because of the bad weather. There was also terrible avalanche potential. I got quite sick at about 6700 metres so I slowed down and I turned back before everyone else. My guide very politely and very gently said it’s time to turn around and go back down the mountain because “we might get you the top but we’ll never get you down”. I’m going back to Aconcagua in December now as one of our practice climbs for Everest next year and the intention is obviously to get that one under the belt.

ROBERT JEWELL:  Which brings me to the next topic which is so exciting for South Africa and for Africa and that is you are one of four female climbers that are tackling Mount Everest next year, is that correct?

LISA GERING:  Yes we are the first all-female team not only from South Africa but from Africa to go to attempt to summit Mount Everest next year. There is a big difference between the numbers of male and female climbers for obvious reasons. Also very few women’s teams globally get together to go and summit Mount Everest. So this is definitely a big first.

ROBERT JEWELL:  And now the most important question Lisa: What gets you to the top?

LISA GERING:  Robert, so many things in life, like climbing a mountain, is mostly a mental game but it doesn’t mean to say that you don’t need to be prepared on all levels. So for example if you take the physical preparation. I started training at the beginning of January. Most people who take Everest seriously train anywhere between 12 and 18 months so in terms of physical preparation. I’m training everyday with two magnificent specialised trainers, one in the strength department and one in the fitness cardiovascular department.

I’m also doing a lot of work on a spiritual and mental level. I’m doing visualisation, I’m doing affirmations in the mornings, I do meditation and breathe work in terms of my spiritual growth and readiness. It’s all about covering all the four areas. It is about trying to control everything that’s within ones control because for the rest like weather and all the other bits and pieces it’s out of one’s hands.

ROBERT JEWELL:  Lisa, in life we talk about people who tackle projects and successful people and getting to the top of Mount Everest is really a pinnacle of success. When we talk about business, success is often measured in terms of financial rewards. However, there are no financial rewards for climbing to the top of Mount Everest so it’s a different driver of getting you to the top.

LISA GERING:  Yes, there are definitely no financial rewards and it is an extremely expensive hobby. The trip up Everest on its own is US$60 000. This does not include airfares, gear, practice climbs and all the other bits and pieces that come into it. So we are driven by other things in terms of this conversation. It’s more about a personal achievement and personal breakthroughs.

ROBERT JEWELL:  Lisa, you have been very successful in business. You work with entrepreneurs, you work for yourself and you are very good at that. How do you relate the two journeys of mountaineering and business which are in many ways different yet there also many similarities?

LISA GERING:  Yes, I think that there are more similarities than differences. The basic principles of success in life are I think the same principles for those that are successful in business and are the same principles for those that tackle such a gargantuous goal like Everest. It’s about discipline, it’s about focus, it’s about endurance, it’s about getting up continuously once you’ve been knocked down, it’s about celebrating the triumphs and it’s about the team.

ROBERT JEWELL:  Great stuff Lisa. You have been very successful in business. Share with us your involvement in business and what have been the key points there.

LISA GERING:  Robert, yes I’ve played in entrepreneurial space my whole life. I do think they are two types of animals: You get your corporate animals and your entrepreneurs. I definitely fit into the entrepreneurial space. I’ve played in that space for various organisations since I started working. I think the biggest thing for me around entrepreneurship is the courage, resilience and tenacity it takes to be an entrepreneur.

When you start your own business as an entrepreneur, you have to do everything from being the tea lady, to human resources, to marketing, to finance, to client experience, to systems and processes. In corporate a lot of that stuff is already done for you but in the entrepreneur space you have to do all of that for yourself especially when you are starting out. For me, resilience, courage and the no die attitude are traits that you have to have as an entrepreneur. Courage is a big thing for me. I have immense courage, It’s also about discipline and getting up every day and just doing all the things that you need to be doing.

It’s also all about focus. My best space is anything to do with people so in all the organisations that I dealt with I dealt with all the clients, all the internal team and all kinds of stakeholders. It’s about authenticity and transparency and I think that’s been a big plus or point in terms of my success because I think there’s so much nonsense out there in the world and if you can just stay authentic and true to yourself and to your business and to your goals. In this case it’s my Everest goal. I think that holds you in great stead and probably puts you in a small percentage of the population that are able to stay authentic. I suppose that’s been my success in business: Courage, resilience, authenticity.

ROBERT JEWELL:  Earlier we touched on the similarities between business and mountaineering and in fact between successes in life in general. What tips do you have for our readers who are entrepreneurs? Give us a few tips on how they can improve the performance of their businesses.  It’s obviously general because people are in different businesses so different key things matter, but what are your two or three takeaways that our listeners can start applying to improve the performance of their businesses.

LISA GERING:  Robert, the first thing that is paramount in terms of business, life and the analogy around a mountain is you have to have a strategy and a plan, and what we see with most entrepreneurs, because I play a lot in the accountability coaching space, is that with entrepreneurs nine out of ten of them don’t have a plan and they don’t have a strategy. It blows my mind how I can expect myself to get to the top of Everest, or how can I expect to go on a holiday to Cape Town, or how can I start a business and run it successfully, if I do not a plan. So the biggest thing for me as a starting point would be what is your strategy and what is your plan.

Secondly, it’s about getting into massive action. Obviously different industries and different strategies have different actions so the broad brush point is get into massive action according to your strategy and according to your plan. So for Everest my massive action is training every day, meditation in the morning and affirmations at night.

My third tip or takeaway would be to measure everything. You can adjust the compass to get back to North, provided that you are measuring where you are. So in terms of business this calls for regular measurement around all the components of the strategy to see what’s working, what’s not working, what is working to leverage up on, what is not working to change, adjust or drop. You will not know what to do and you can’t make informed decisions if you are not measuring consistently.

In fact just today I was with both my mountaineering trainers doing all my physical testing and getting the result of the last quarter because we’ve been measuring my progress every quarter. I did a whole lot of testing on Monday and today the three of us sat and went through all the results, so we know where I’m strong, where I am a little bit weaker and we now know the new plan for the next quarter before I go to climb in France.

ROBERT JEWELL:  Lisa, that’s a great message for our listeners because we are now in September. For many entrepreneurial type businesses, their financial year end is the end of February. That means half the year is already gone. My experience is that many businesses, and particularly small and medium size entrepreneurial businesses, simply don’t measure where they are. They don’t have goals and don’t measure where they are on their journey towards that goal. In the end the results become less than spectacular.

LISA GERING:  And Robert it’s the famous analogy with entrepreneurship about being on that bicycle and just riding frantically but going nowhere. That’s what happens when entrepreneurs start their businesses. The next thing the year passes, two years, five years, ten years and they are no more forward from where they started. Most of that is because they don’t have a plan, they are doing massive action but massive action going where and being measured against what and then when what happens is that you go nowhere quickly.

ROBERT JEWELL:  The other thing that often happens with entrepreneurs, because plenty of entrepreneurs are really creative people, is that they have a plan but they don’t stick to the plan.

LISA GERING:  Yes, so the plan goes on the shelf or goes on the laptop somewhere and if people say have you got a strategy, the answer is yes but most people don’t ask the next question which is well when last did you look at it.

ROBERT JEWELL:  Lisa my last question, how do we climb with you all the way to the top?

LISA GERING:  Robert, that’s so nice. It’s very humbling when people are interested at this level so thank you again. The best way to follow us is that we have a very active Facebook page. You can search for Everest 2020 and you will find us. There is a daily update and regular reporting there. Next week we going on a practice climb. We leave for Mount Blanc for two weeks in France.

In December we are going back to Aconcagua in Argentina for a practice climb and then we spend two and a half months at Everest. We are very blessed to have a gentlemen called Tony Lorenz on our team. Tony Lorenz is the founder and chief and editor of SA Mountain magazine which is the top climbing magazine in South Africa. The magazine won best mountaineering magazine in the world for the last two years running. Tony Lorenz was so inspired by what we were doing that he’s actually coming to Everest base camp with us for the six to eight weeks that we are there and so he will be doing all the correspondence and updates for us.

You’ll see us in the media a lot so we have been and we will be in a lot of print, television and radio, but in terms of easy accessibility for people and regular daily updates the best source is the Everest 2020 Facebook page.

ROBERT JEWEL:  Lisa it’s been awesome having on the show someone who’s tackling such a major project. I wish you all the success and I’m sure all our readers and listeners do as well. We can’t wait to keep in touch with you and thank you for the great inspiration you’ve are to our readers.

LISA GERING:  Robert thank you for your time and your interest and energy always and for what you do.

Follow Lisa and the 3 other climbers on their Facebook page Everest 2020.

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