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One Foot in Front of the Other

You. Are. A. Mother. Effing. Badass.

As I trudged up the steep face of Snowbasin mountain in Utah for the fifth time that day, in the dark, this became my mantra. I didn’t think about how exhausted I felt or acknowledge that I could just barely lift my leg up over the next rock (So. Many. Rocks.). I stared only at the tiny spot ahead of me, lit solely by my headlamp, and with each step said to myself over and over: YOU. ARE. A. MOTHER. EFFING. BADASS.

Over the course of my 36 hours (sometimes alone) walking up that mountain, I learned a lot about business and even more about myself.

I’m not a triathlete, an olympian, or a Crossfit goddess like many of the others who were participating in this challenge. But my body served me well. Every little baby step that I took moved me closer to my goal. I had one focus and one strategy in mind. No matter how slowly or how long it was going to take, I was going to make it up that mountain nine times.

No matter what.

And I did. Because I’m a mother-effing badass.

Back it Up

Before I get into the profound “ah ha” moments of my journey, let me fill you in on some quick deets.

This last weekend, I completed an endurance challenge to end all challenges. There are no words to describe just how epically difficult the experience actually is. If you really want to know, join the badass club and sign up yourself.

It’s called 29Zero29.

I signed up for what sounded like a simple (albeit terrifyingly difficult) challenge. The end goal for me was to summit the equivalent of Denali, the highest peak in North America, by hiking up Snowbasin mountain in Utah 9 times over the course of 36 hours. Doing so would allow me to achieve 21,310 vertical feet, over 20 miles.

I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell, Jen!? Couldn’t you have just signed up for a 5K like a normal person trying to prove how tough they are?!”

Yeah… I guess I could have, but I didn’t. I signed up for a trip to sufferville, and there was no turning back. #badassbosslady

Set a Goal and Chip Away At It

To say I had no idea what I was getting myself into is a vast understatement. I went into the event with blind naivety and optimism (and practically zero applicable training…). I had no clue what to expect and no idea what was in store for me.  There really was no way for me to anticipate what my mind and body were going to go through in the next two days. You can’t understand it until you EXPERIENCE it.

Even the most intense hikers seemed to be dropping like flies. The altitude was a huge factor. People were barfing, getting taken off the mountain in need of oxygen, and suffering from debilitating muscle spasms that caused them to collapse, unable to move, and insist that other hikers just step over them (like roadkill…).

I hiked next to Olympians, professional triathletes, ultramarathoners, pro football players, and a 4 time world record holder for strength and endurance.

So, how did little ol’ me not end up like a squashed possum on the side of the road?

I had one simple strategy, and I was unwavering in my approach: if I just paced myself and put one foot in front of the other, I would chip away at my goal a little at a time.

In order to reach that goal, I came up with a plan. After the first ascent, I knew it took me roughly two hours to complete each climb.  The gondola ride down took about 15 minutes. I did the math (Hey, math is hard! Especially when you’ve just hiked straight up for almost 2,000 feet…) and realized I needed about 20 hours to complete the challenge in the 36 hours allotted. I also had to factor in time to rest and recover.

The task seemed so insurmountably huge. But I got off that gondola, and I started up the next summit. I still can’t believe I did it. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

I didn’t have my “oh-holy-crap-what-did-I-get-myself-into-kill-me-now” moment until hike 3. Baby steps or not, all I could think was: “FML! I have 6 more of these!!” I stood there, legs aching, staring straight up. The first part of the mountain is incredibly steep, rocky, and extremely intimidating. Each gondola ride down gives you a fresh look at that horribly demoralizing first stretch. And at only .6 miles, it represents just a small fraction of what lies ahead.

After I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I remembered to look down and think only of putting one foot in front of the other.

And I did make it up another one! And another. And then 4 more. I started to realize that I maybe I’ve been a “secret badass” my whole life, but never pushed myself this hard, so I never knew it…

While others sped by me or became overwhelmed by how much was left to go, my strategy was “slow and steady.” I didn’t think about what I had completed or how much I still had to go.  I just took small, old lady steps, put one foot in front of the other, and slowly got it done.

It was in the pitch-dark peacefulness of hike #5 (my night nike), that I had some of my best “ah ha” moments. I realized that all of my zen-like wisdom that I was applying to my hiking strategy could also be applied to my business, namely…

  • You can conquer anything if you make a plan, stick to it, and stay focused.
  • Chip away at your goal. Literally one foot in front of the other.
  • Sometimes what you need changes what you want.

#3 came to me as I was greeted at the top of the mountain at the end of hike #5 with a steaming, hot, salty bowl of Top Ramen. That bowl of 35 cent soup might just be the best freaking thing I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. #IwillneverforgetyouTopRamen #Ramenislife

Ok, back to my badass hiking skills.

When I finished the 8th climb the next day, I realized that in order to complete the challenge and reach Denali before time ran out, I had to exit the gondola, brand the board (which keeps track of how many summits each person has completed), and immediately start walking up the mountain… AGAIN. I couldn’t rest. I couldn’t cry over my blisters. I couldn’t slurp down another “Chocolate Outrage” Energy Gu. I just had to get my ass up that mountain—one step at a time.

Somehow I didn’t succumb to the altitude sickness.  Others did. It was devastating to watch my fellow warrior friends getting sick, vomiting, and unable to move from the aid stations dotting the hiking trail, unable to help them through the suffering and misery.

As I took the final ride down the gondola, having summited the equivalent of both Kilimanjaro and Denali, I laughed, cried, blasted Toto’s “Africa,” and the paradoxical thoughts of: “Thank God this is over. That was the worst decision I’ve ever made!” and “That was the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced!  I can’t believe I did it! Let’s do it again!”

I realized then that I am tough and have a high threshold for pain. But it wasn’t my ability to withstand pain that got me through. It’s that I didn’t overthink my plan or put too much pressure on myself. I took breaks when I needed to. I listened to what my body needed. I had one goal, one strategy, and one focus: putting one foot in front of the other until I had hiked 21,310 mother-effing feet.

Set Big, “Hairy Scary” Goals. But Don’t Make Them Mean Anything.

Throughout my two days of hiking hell/euphoria, I also discovered that I was able to reach my goal because it was “me-centered.” I only focused on what I wanted to achieve, not on what everybody else was doing. I didn’t change my goal to prove something to everyone else, like so many of my other hikers.

As I mentioned before, when we first signed up for the 29Zero29 challenge, the goal was to hike the equivalent of Denali—9 times up the mountain. But when we actually showed up for our hike in Utah, we discovered that the game-makers had changed up the rules.

Instead of just Denali, hikers could now complete an additional challenge-on-steroids—hike the equivalent of Everest by making it up 13 times.  (Uhhhhhh…. WTF?!? Did they just move the freaking finish line for this? They made the challenge even HARDER?!?)

After hearing the news, my plan stayed the same. I wasn’t here for Everest. I had come to Utah to conquer Denali. I was here to hike my 9 times (…like that’s any small feat) and then be done.

But so many of the other hikers couldn’t resist the additional challenge. They completely changed their goal and shifted their mindset on what success for them would look like. They couldn’t stand the thought of others doing the “hard” hike while they settled for their measly 9 summits. Some ultimately couldn’t adapt to the increased difficulty and many pushed themselves too hard too fast.

I had a plan, I pushed myself to my own limit, and I was beyond proud when I finished my 9th hike. So many of the other hikers went way beyond my 9 summits. But even after 10, 11, or 12, hikes up, some of these competitors felt like failures because they hadn’t reached the Everest 13.

Even though they were successful in that they passed the original Denali-sized goal of the hike, they couldn’t enjoy that success because they felt like they had fallen short of their newly set Everest-sized task.

The contrast in the disappointment these aspiring Everesters felt at 12 summits and the intense sense of accomplishment I felt at 9 is something I will always remember and think about even now when trying to adjust my mindset towards my business.

When setting goals for yourself or your company, absolutely make them huge. Set BIG, hairy scary goals. Push yourself. But if you don’t achieve them, don’t beat yourself up over it just because you assigned some arbitrary “meaning” to those goals.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Just like all the hikers had different levels of experience and fitness, and we were all going at a different pace, your business counterparts will also have different strengths than you.

Focus only on yourself and what you’re capable of. Put one foot in front of the other. And check your mindset. Make sure that you have an attitude in which your success is based on hitting your own personal goals, not anyone else’s.

If you keep comparing yourself to others, then each time you gain a new accomplishment, instead of celebrating your achievement, you’ll only see all the other things you haven’t yet accomplished. Don’t rob yourself of the joy of your successes by focusing on how your achievements measure up to others.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Although I learned not to compare myself to others on this hike, I did learn to rely on them for support.

I borrowed this quote from one of my mentors, James Wedmore. But never have I experienced it more than during this hike. My plan for day one was to hit 5 summits. Even though I really wanted to complete my goal, by the time the sun went down, I was beat.

Just when it got dark, and I was ready to turn in for the night, someone I met on the trip, Tracy, who I would now call a great friend, pushed me to complete one more run.  That night hike ended up being the best one of the entire trip. I felt great. The cool air was invigorating, and the dark was peaceful.

It was then that I coined my mantra: I am a mother-effing badass. And I earned that title. With the support of my friend, I cranked out my fastest ascent at 1:40.

As you build your brand, remember to lean on others that you trust. You can do great things alone, but you’ll do even more with a team on your side.

I am Tougher Than I Thought I Was

I learned a lot about my own strength over the course of these two days. I got to see what I was made of, and I am tougher than I thought I was.

With each step, I felt extreme gratitude for my body for allowing me to accomplish this grueling challenge. This is the same body that created, then gave birth to my two sons, and nursed them when they were babies.  This is one tough mother-effing body! And I just reminded myself to be thankful for what it was allowing me to do.

Climbing up a really tall mountain nine times leaves you with a lot of time alone with your thoughts. I realized so many powerful things not only about myself, but about my family and my business as well.

I am extremely grateful for my family & friends: My husband, children, my mother and my bestie cheered me on every step of the way via text messages (Even when they all thought I was crazy for signing up for this in the first place). With each ascent I completed, I sent them an update, and they responded with lots of love and encouragement. I could feel them supporting me even from so far away.

I thought a lot about how grateful I am for a business I love and that has grown beyond my wildest dreams of what I ever thought I could build. I just secured my THIRD billion-dollar client, ironically in the health & wellness industry, the day before I left for the event.  I run my dream business while also getting to be a mom, and for that I am truly grateful.

As I took step after step up rocks, gravel, straw and dirt during the day, and trudged up that steep dimly-lit path at night, I kept telling myself to focus on what was right in front of me.

Don’t think about all of the things that you still have to do, or what you have already done.  Just try to conquer your goal a little at a time, no matter how HUGE it may seem.

I chipped away at my larger-than-life-out-of-your-mind goal one step at a time. I never in a million years thought I could accomplish Denali. But I set my target, I developed the mental toughness necessary to stick to my plan no matter how difficult it got or how many other people were literally falling down around me. And I freaking did it.

One step at a time.

One foot in front of the other.

Over and over.

21,310 vertical feet, 20+ miles, and 36 hours later, I was done. And with 45 minutes left on the clock. I learned a lot of things about myself this weekend, but if I had to sum it up, it would be this (Say it with me now): I. AM. A. MOTHER. EFFING. BADASS.

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