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That’s when you’ll be at your best

December 18, 2006

“They were climbers that knew what they were doing. They were just pushing themselves to their farthest frontiers. That’s when people are at their best.” This from Jim Whittacker, who in 1963 became the first American to climb to the top of Everest, commenting on the tragic events developing on Mount Hood.

What a mantra for life and any start up business. Jumped of the screen when I read it.

  • Know what you are doing.
  • Push yourself to your furthest frontier.
  • That’s when you’ll be at your best.

Starting my third company, I couldn’t think of a better way to put going for it in the business arena. Unfortunate that it took this event for me to receive this message from Jim.

Thinking back to my days practicing law, that’s exactly what I did. Pushed myself to my farthest frontier. I remember being a small town lawyer filing a petition and the related mountain of paperwork to put a publicly traded corporation in bankruptcy for failing to pay my client. Or starting a class action against the nation’s largest railroad and their giant law firms.

Great stuff. Scared the hell out of my law firm partners. But I knew what I was doing. And that’s when I was at my best.

Same thing applies to start up businesses. I may listen to folks like Guy Kawasaki who challenge me to think big and become a cause, but it’s still the same message. Know what you’re doing. Push yourself to the edge. You’ll be at your best.

Jim Whittacker, who lives up the highway in Port Townsend, must have applied the same message to building a business. Jim was the first manager and employee, and ultimately the CEO, of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI). He led the company through years of record-setting growth. When I took my boys to meet Jim at our Island bookstore a couple years ago he said the only regret he had was that REI was a coop so he couldn’t own stock.

God bless the men who may have died and their families. Thanks Jim for the message.

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