“The biggest risk is not taking any risk … In a world that is changing quickly, the only strategy guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” 

—Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook

When we were backpacking on the Colorado Trail one year, we hiked Mount Oxford on the first day. The morning was bright, with blue skies and warm temperatures. It was a perfect day for hiking a Fourteener.

We camped part way up on the trail, hiked a bit farther and dropped our packs in a cluster of trees. We marked the waypoint on the map (so we could find our stuff later in the day) and headed up the mountain.

As we got closer to the summit, we saw the storms rolling in. The clouds increased, the wind began to whip around us and danger became real. The sight of a marker showing where someone had died on the mountain from a lightning strike brought the reality even closer to home. We started to make plans regarding how much farther we could push toward the top and still be safe.

Doesn’t this reflect the realities in our business and careers?

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Everything looks bright at the start. We have the new job, which includes a promotion and pay increase. We have hit the jackpot. We continue operating merrily along, basking in the sunshine of success. Yet there are storm clouds gathering in the distance that we haven’t recognized. We look to the distance and see only the striking blue of the sky contrasting with the beautiful, white, fluffy clouds. We are settling in and making progress — or so we think.

On a mountain, especially above timberline, it becomes fairly difficult to ignore the gathering storm. There is little between you and those gathering clouds. Even if your head is down as you plod along, you still feel the change in temperature and the wind beginning to pick up. You still see the brightness beginning to dim. The scary thing is that above timberline, you are taller than almost anything around you — and lightning likes tall objects.

How do we prepare for the storm on the mountain and the storm in business? First, pick your head up and look at the clouds. What types of clouds are out there and which way are they moving? How much farther to the top of the mountain? How much farther ’till timberline, where you won’t be the tallest thing on the mountain? You don’t want to be tallest when lightning strikes. Preparing for a storm also means carrying the items you need to survive bad weather and possibly an overnight stay.

That hike I just mentioned was part of a four-day backpacking excursion. Day one was the climbing a fourteener. We started off cross country, found the trail and kept on going. The weather was great, until we got close to the top. Then the clouds came rolling in. In less than an hour, we went from cloudy to stormy to rain, lightning, hail, snow and heavy wind. Hail hurts. We finished up and started a very quick descent down. I wanted to be at timberline as soon as possible and off that mountain.

You prepare for storms in your business and career in very much the same way as you do on a mountain. Pick your head up and start looking around, so you are aware of any gathering clouds. Listen to what that boss, your co-workers and your clients are really saying.

Don’t bury your head in the sand and assume that if you ignore bad stuff it will go away. It won’t. Ask questions, and understand the implications of the answers. Ask for feedback from both peers and management. And, as always, read, read, read. Improve yourself. Learn new ways of doing things. Get out of your comfort zone. I have a lot of discussions with executives and managers about how to get people out of their comfort zone so they don’t have to be let go.

Be open to new ways of doing things and embrace change. If you don’t embrace change, you throw yourself into a potentially major storm.

People make mistakes. As a result, storms are created. The effect of storms in business can last for days, weeks, months or even years. They can affect revenue, productivity and profit.

On the other hand, at some point storms pass, and you must let them. Storms happen; people make mistakes. So have you.

Get over it and get past the fact that the mistake affected you. Even if it was intentional, move on. You are the only one who can remove yourself from the storm. Once again, the choice is yours.

Janna Hoiberg is an international speaker, workshop facilitator, coach and author. She is the author of “The Backpackers Guide to Business Success,” which is available on Amazon or at
jannahoiberg.com.