20 Mar Haleakala – “World’s Longest Paved Climb” or World’s Best Teacher?

For St. Patrick’s Day this year, I decided to tackle Haleakala – the big mountain on Maui. It’s a big effort, and a bucket-list type of ride for cyclists throughout the world. And I knew this mountain would provide unexpected life-lessons as it had the other three times I climbed. It did not disappoint.

I started riding through a misty cloud layer with the roosters announcing the day, and right away saw a sign along the road:IMG_0382

Think We Maui sign

Before Me

Not only was it a sign, but I thought, surely this must be a sign… A few minutes later I came upon the Maui Veterans Cemetery. What a fitting example of those who lived a selfless life of “we” before “me.” But how does this relate to leaders in the business world?

Maui Vets

I got to thinking about growth. “If we’re not growing, we’re dying.” I bet you hear that as often as I do, right? Would those veterans have had the same mentality, or did they live and die for something more… noble?

You may have heard the story of The Fisherman and the Businessman. It starts out with a fishermen telling a businessmen about his normal day:

“Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessmen then goes on to tell the fishermen how he could grow his business by scaling, gaining efficiencies and becoming more and more productive. The fisherman asks, “To what end?” The businessman tells him so he can get rich and retire. The fishermen then asks, “And then what?” The businessman says,

“Then you can wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with your kids. In the afternoon, you can take a nap with your wife, and when evening comes, join your buddies in the village for a drink — and play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

As I reflected on this story, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’re obsessed with growth because we’re really not that fulfilled with our work, and just slogging through to get to a place where we can “really” do what brings us enjoyment and fulfillment. If that’s the case, I am mystified how we could truly expect to inspire others to follow us with passion.

So what’s the answer? I don’t think it’s about quitting your job and moving to Costa Rica, but I do think it has to do with finding joy in your work. Maybe it’s the one-on-one interactions. Maybe it’s learning what makes your customer’s tick. Maybe it’s producing a quality product. Maybe you love the analysis of a deal. If you can’t find the pleasure, you certainly can’t expect others to be committed, accountable, and passionate about their work.

Haleakala is the “World’s Longest Paved Climb” – no doubt about that. It’s also one of the best roads I have ever found that teaches humility, discipline, patience, and focus. What are the Haleakala’s in your business that can inspire you, and your team beyond growth for growth’s sake?

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