You reach out, shift your weight slightly, reach again. Fail. Fall. Chalk up, swing yourself back, reach again. Fail. Chalk. Try again. A little closer this time. Fail. Fall. Catch. Chalk. Reach.
The sweat and chalk of rock-climbing and the business of fashion – seemingly so far apart, but stand any rock-climber in front of the mirror and you will see someone en route to the top.
I have had three passions since the age of six that have been running concentric circles around each other, providing me with balance, drive and a sense of direction and honing my vision.
I learnt to sew when I was six, developed a passion for writing at eight and started running when I was ten. In my teens I bought books on design and taught myself pattern-making while competing in national track competitions ... and documented it all in a combination of fiction and fantasy on paper.
I still love to run, but now I have broadened my sports resume to include whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, snowboarding, skate-skiing and rock-climbing. Each of these sports has taught me so much about life, technique, strategy, pain, survival and knowing that failure is just the start of success.
I recently overheard a conversation at Brooklyn Boulders where a very beautiful and graceful woman, obviously early in her career, was relating her office politics to her climbing partner saying “...my co-workers don't like ambitious women, but I can't be any other way. I just want to reach the top and I'm going to get there.”
And that is just how it is with rock-climbing, your ambition and drive lures you to the wall where you try, and try again, to reach for the top. Your journey is clearly delineated between the goal and the route. Failure does not mean you give up, it is merely a challenge – a challenge that you need to go back and work on again and again until you can solve it and move past.
Rock-climbing requires balance, strength, technique and commitment. Commitment will guide you through failure, it will drive you back to revisit the problem in a fresh way. You need to unerringly rely on others, knowing that they are going to support you and knowing that you will support them too. You learn technique and develop a strategy. The struggles of rock-climbing mirror the difficulties of running a company, you have to stay true to yourself, but rely on others. You have to be accepting of failure, yet understand that failure is just the wrong route, it is not personal, it is trial and error, an opportunity to choose a new route, explore a fresh approach. Business is full of challenge, and it is your commitment to getting past the challenges that will determine how your business or your career is managed.
So...take a risk, reach for the top and...climb on.