Right. Left. Stride. Breathe.
Moving. Forward. Onestep. Atatime.
Following a trail brings with it little certainty. Even if you’re not taking the road less traveled, you’re still often taking a road you have never been down before. Sure, you can read guidebooks, follow suggested routes, and talk to others who have gone before you. Hopefully you have packed gear for quick problem-solving: a poncho, ski gloves, sunscreen, and water tablets. Maybe you’ve even done a little extra to prepare this time, working the step mill at the gym and learning the local fauna. You can research and train until your mind and body are fit for the journey. Yet, at the end of the day, you ultimately let go of control. You are at the mercy of nature.
I have lived these lessons many times on many hiking adventures. Each time I experience a new angle of making the most out of uncertainty, I take that lesson into my life as an entrepreneur.
Lesson One: Choose Your Path
The first lesson came when I first decided to invest fully into my personal chef business. My job had just been eliminated at Whole Foods Market, and I was faced with two options: turn backwards to a position I had worked before or leave the company. The path behind was tempting. There was security and predictability. I had a reliable paycheck and benefits. I wouldn’t have to be in charge. I could just coast and do the bare minimum until the workday was over. The path forward was pure uncertainty. I didn’t know what it looked like, how long it would be, or what challenges I might encounter. Would I travel over rocks, through streams, or end up at a dead end? But couldn’t go back. I choose to move forward.
Lesson Two: Prepare
One of my favorite parts about planning a new hiking adventure is the research. I love discovering what kind of landscapes I’ll see – often to the point of looking at random strangers’ Facebook photos after they post their own summit pictures. I love reading about the history of the local people, the types of food and dance in the culture, and any mythical stories connected to the land. It’s also important to consider more logistical preparations: how many layers to bring, do I need my daypack or my big backpack, and where will I be able to stock up on food and water? In the same way, I researched starting a business. I read stories about successful entrepreneurs and I talked to other chefs about the lessons they’ve learned. I went online to find the competition so I could create fair pricing and a plan to market myself. I accounted for the logistical work, equipping my kitchen with extra supplies and bringing it to the standards of a restaurant kitchen. I was as prepared as one can be at the beginning of a journey.
Lesson Three: Let Go
Almost, in complete contrast to the mindset of an entrepreneur, it is crucial to know how to let go of control. This lesson first taunted me on a big hiking trip to Chile and Argentina. I had spent months saving money to be able to spend 10 days hiking in the Southern Patagonia. I had been excited about this trip for almost year, since I first learned of the beautiful glaciers that dot the Southern Andes. I worked with my personal chef clients to be away for 2 ½ weeks. I found coverage at the gym for my classes. I was looking forward to sunshine, physical exertion, and the ultimate gratification that comes when I would reach a summit and take in a captivating view.
After 26 hours of airports, shuttles, and busses, I finally arrived in El Calafate, Argentina…to rain. I arrived to LOTS of rain. And cold. And 60 mile per hour winds.
For 10 days, it rarely stopped.
After all of that planning and preparation, I was ultimately not in control. Nature was raining on all of my plans.
Again, I had a choice: Sit in the hotel and cry…or make the most of it.
So I bundled up in my poncho and extra layers. I invested in a sturdier raincoat and a set of hiking poles. The goal now changed. Instead of focusing on the single summit view that awaited my ultimate arrival after hours of hiking, I was able to focus on the small details of the path right in front of me. Surrounded by gray fog, I found the peacefulness of my striding feet. I noticed colorful flours budding from rock walls. I heard woodpeckers digging into tree trunks. As my body walked through a marked path, I was able to enjoy the winding routes my mind traversed. While I came seeking breathtaking scenery (and I still got it for a few hours), I instead had to find joy in the journey. If I still wanted to enjoy my trip, I had to let go of my expectations and accept a new reality.
These three lessons have carry over into the commercial landscape that drives entrepreneurs:
1) Choose Your Path – Find what inspires you and drives you. Commit to moving forward, pushing yourself and striving for more. Come back to this deep motivation anytime you feel discouraged or lost. You might not know what path lays ahead of you, but this passion will keep you moving.
2) Prepare – When you are facing uncertain challenges or encountering new territory, use your resources to prepare. Read guidebooks, talk to fellow entrepreneurs, learn new business skills, and find inspirational stories to hone your skills mentally and physically.
3) Let Go – Remember that at the end of the day, you have to let go of control. You can fight Mother Nature, you can fight for new clients – or you can step back and try a different perspective. Listen to your customers’ needs. Find how your path can help them.
Enjoy the rhythm of your own steps and the details of the path around you. Take breaks for photos and sips of water.
Recalling the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
To keep me fueled on my most recent hiking in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, I packed my bag with Kuli Kuli’s Moringa Superfood Black Cherry Bars. I enjoyed slowly letting bits of these dissolve in my mouth while taking in the bright fall colors.
Hiking in El Chalten, Argentina, during a rare burst of sunshine.
This post was originally featured on the blog for Kuli Kuli foods where Chef Katie is a regular contributor. Check out how this cool company is using Moringa trees to fuel Americans and help Haitian farmers.