Blog from our global partner: by Travis Jones

I used to do a lot of backpacking when I was younger and I’ve noticed that there are a lot of similarities between climbing a mountain and climbing the career “mountain.”

Our career, like climbing a mountain, is a journey for which we must prepare. We must pack our backpacks with the right tools for the trip if we want to get to the top. We must put the right things in the right pockets and ditch the things that just weigh us down. It’s about gathering and sorting the tools that are important in helping us along the way. So how do you know what things to pack that will get you to the top? Proper gathering and sorting is a learned skill and it will make your path less rugged with fewer detours. And, the tools you gather for the journey will be used throughout your life.

What should you pack?

Your journey up the “mountain” begins very early in life. Family plays a big role in shaping our values and beliefs and helping us to form our drive to reach the top. My father was a great encourager and taught me to work hard, to use my manners, to choose my words carefully, and to learn from every opportunity and challenge that I faced. He also taught me that I would be good at the things I practiced. If I was rude, I would get better at being rude. If I was positive, I would get better at being positive. He showed me that it was my choice to be negative, kind, fun or whatever I wanted to be and that I need to choose wisely. The values you gain from your family are a critical tool needed to reach your ultimate destination. These are the first things you will put in your backpack.

As you grow into adulthood, the things that you’ve learned and what you know becomes even more important.  As the saying goes, we are the sum total of all that we know. Yet, it’s not just what we know, it’s what we decide is valuable to know. You need to decide what information is valuable for your journey. Just think about what you know about your health, your job, your finances, and your relationships – all are important areas in which to have knowledge. Determine the “valuable” information that will help you succeed as you climb the mountain. Valuable knowledge is the next thing that you will include in your backpack.

Where do you get the knowledge you need?

  • Your own personal experiences! All of life is a classroom. We all have successes or things we have done well. Practice those skills till you become proficient and they become second nature. Even greater opportunities for learning come from “failures.” We have all done something wrong or not achieved a goal. Did you learn from that experience? Of course you did – we all do when we review and consider alternatives that could have helped us achieve success! Pack those experiences and their lessons into your backpack for the climb.
  • Others’ experiences! All you have to do is look around at what is going on in the world. There are many examples of failures and many great examples of successes at every turn. Learning from those in your circles of influence will help you to succeed in your journey. Study the great successes of those you admire and even of those you may not admire – there are unlimited examples for you to study! Just look around!
  • Learning by reading! One of the greatest ways to reach the top of your field of interest is by reading. A learner is a reader. Today it is easier than ever to find books that will help you in your personal and professional development. Purchase a notebook (electronic or paper) and fill it with ideas, notes and other valuable information that you’re learning. A great way to learn is to write it down, then share it with others who are on the climb with you.

A word of caution – be careful about what you put into your mind. The mind is a very powerful catalyst that can help us achieve our goals. What you read is a form of training your mind which some refer to as “mind conditioning.” So you want to read things that will positively condition and fuel your mind to support you on your journey.

I had a professor in college that I kept in touch with over the years. In his later years, I would visit him in the nursing home and often found him in a deep sleep. He had a note above his bed that said “if into my room you creep, and find me sound asleep, please wake me so we can chat,” so I would wake him. After gathering his senses he would inevitably (and always) ask me, “What are you reading and who are you sharing it with?” He taught me that what you read today is important, because it impacts tomorrow and that you should share this with others. I am thankful for the life lessons he provided me, especially this example!

So for all of us on our career journey, think about what you are learning in life along the way, what you are sharing along the way, and how you are helping others in their journey. In your backpack, include the important things that help you to develop into the person you want to be.

Life happens! As we go through life’s journey, we sometimes need a friend, a coach, a mentor,  a team to help us along the way. My executive coach helps me to learn new life skills that I pack away in my backpack. When I share what I’ve learned in my life with others, I pass along a few nuggets that hopefully they can include in their backpacks and this gives me great joy. We need each other in life’s journey and it’s amazing how that principle of paying it forward helps everyone get to the top of the mountain.

I would love to hear what’s in your backpack and about your journey up the mountain.

See you at the top!