“The Matterhorn is climbed for a variety of reasons, but first and Foremost because it is the Matterhorn” Gaston Rebuffat
Setting up and running an agency is one of the hardest things a human can do.
From first move to a million is relentless.
You learn a huge amount and you end up in situations that you’re not equipped to handle.
It gets so hard that things will go wrong, eventually you will start to question your judgement. You will learn from these events but you’ll also realise that there will be no end to this learning — especially in the tech space. As you grow the excitement grows with you but carries with it untold stresses and anxieties.
You have staff that you care about and are responsible for. Real lives that you have chosen to work with you. Their rent, their mortgage and their dependents are all reliant on this thing that you set up with companies house and now rather arrogantly expect to provide for everyone.
This isn’t comfortable and it’s not the dream.
What happened to the creativity, the drive, the freedom? What happened to the élan, the adventure, the possibility?
It died with the admin and the hard decisions.
When the hardest thing you do all day is work it is only a matter of time before you come to resent it.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t work hard. I’m a strong believer in the Chinese proverb that states “no one who can rise before dawn three hundred and sixty days a year can fail to make his family rich” and will reward those who are committed to our company.
I set goals 3 years ago and have achieved most of them but it doesn’t feel as good as you’d expect.
So what do you do about it?
I made a promise that if I didn’t look forward to getting up for Monday morning that I’d quit. This happened recently and I very nearly carried out my own threat.
…but instead I climbed a mountain. The Matterhorn.
Why this lump of rock? Because it’s the atypical mountain. It’s the first one you see as a child. It’s the triangle, the Swiss Toblerone,
In short because it looks like this:
Edward Whymper led the first successful ascent in 1865 which four of the party members fell to their deaths. It’s claimed 500 lives in total.
It makes you feel uncomfortable, makes you question your fitness and ability but forces you push past this.
It scares you, it makes you aware that there are factors beyond your control that you can only mitigate rather than eliminate. If you screw up here you die. It gives you singular focus and pushes you to a limit that you won’t experience when running an agency.
This provides life context.
I remember reading Branson when his partner (the expert) jumped from the largest balloon in the world in the Irish ocean leaving him in sole charge of a vessel that he could not control. When you think you’re going to die and you have to think pragmatically as to how you can avoid this it must give you strength and mental training that no course or mentor could provide.
It certainly gave him strength in negotiating multi-billion pound deals with a level head.
So like Ben Horowitz you can follow the first principle of Bushido, the way of the warrior, which states that you should keep death in mind at all times. If a warrior keeps death in mind at all times and lives as though each day might be his last, he will conduct himself properly in all his actions.
Do this by climbing mountains, sailing oceans or something else that reduces your complacency. Whatever it is make sure it pushes your heartbeat up, gets your adrenaline going and reminds you of death.
If you do this as a leader then you will maintain focus when hiring, training and building your culture.
This article was written by Jacob Beckett, Creative Director at Vitamin London; a digital innovation studio who continues to try and Push the Possible, translating ideas into exciting experiences which are more accessible to everyone, and keeping both partners and their audiences in the spotlight.