You don’t have to be the best or the brightest to succeed. You just have to be the most determined.
That’s one of the life lessons explorer and author Alison Levine took from her two visits to Mount Everest. The first climb, the first-ever American woman’s team, ended just 200 feet short of the summit. The second climb, eight years later, took her to the summit.
“Mount Everest is a really bad place for a control freak,” Levine said during the final General Session on Friday. “Nothing is under control except you and your reactions. It’s not the best climbers who make it to the top, or the strongest, the best trained or the best supplied. The people who make it to the top are those who have the determination to keep putting one foot in front of the other and the courage to turn around when conditions aren’t right. Backing up is not the same as backing down.”
Levine initially said no when asked to lead the first American Women’s Everest Expedition in 2001. She said she didn’t feel up to the challenge.
“Then came 9/11. I still didn’t know if I had what it took, but I also knew that I would never find out if I didn’t try,” she said. “And if I didn’t try, somebody else was going to live my dream adventure.”
High-altitude mountain climbing is a distillation of every challenge in everyday life, she said. Every climb has a detailed plan, but the plan is obsolete the minute it is written. Success requires adjusting to conditions on the fly, making decisions based on the best available information, and making as many friends as you can along the way.
“I’ve been called a highly social person,” Levine said. “Every time we made camp, the first thing I did was go around and talk with everyone. It’s not about being social, it’s about building relationships. When you run into problems, and you will, people who know you are more likely to help you. Networking can save your life.”