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Leadership Lessons Shared from Alison Levine’s Everest Expedition

Being relentless far supersedes being the fastest or the strongest.

That was just one of the lessons learned, following the successful journey to the summit of Mt. Everest by Alison Levine. As a sportswoman, and former sales representative in the ophthalmic pharmaceutical medical device industry, Levine described the unconventional pieces of wisdom she acquired on her way to the top.

“Let’s put this into perspective – that was just a pile of rock and ice and standing on top of a pile of rock and ice for a few minutes doesn’t change you and doesn’t change the world,” Levine said at the Hawaiian Eye 2020 in Koloa. 

“It just wasn’t that big of a deal,” she said.

However, the journey did have an impact on Levine, albeit in a different way. One of the first realizations she described was that it was learning to accept having fear as okay.

“[Fear] is just a normal emotion,” Levine said. “Complacency is what will kill you… Fear is actually a pretty useful tool. Fear is only dangerous when it paralyzes you. You have to act and react quickly when you’re in these environments that are constantly changing.”

Levine also described the progress she made along the way as multidirectional. 

“For whatever reason, we think that progress has to go in one direction, but that’s not the case,” she said. “Sometimes you have to go backwards for a bit to get to where you want to be.”

“Don’t look at that backtracking as losing ground – look at it as an opportunity to regroup and regain some strength so you are better out of the gate next time around. Backing up is not the same as backing down.”

Climbing to the summit, in addition, would not have been possible without everyone being a leader in some capacity, according to Levine. 

“Leadership is not about title or tenure, how many people report to you, or how many projects you oversee,” Levine said.

“Every single member of a team regardless of title or tenure has a responsibility to help that team move toward a goal.”

In the end, Levine said that it is important to take action as it pertained to the current situation at hand. 

“The decisions you make are going to affect everyone around you,” Levine said. “It doesn’t matter how much blood sweat and tears you personally put into something — if the conditions aren’t right, you turn around, you cut your losses and you walk away … you can always go back.” 

“A single person’s poor judgment can bring down the entire team. … We cannot control the environment, only the way we react to it.”

Levine noted that what separated those who succeed from those who fail ultimately came down to everyone being relentless enough to push themselves towards their goals, even in the face of discomfort.

“The biggest takeaway from this experience … is that you don’t have to be the best, fastest, strongest climber to get to the top of a mountain,” Levine said.

“You just have to be absolutely relentless about putting one foot in front of the other,” she said.

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