(This discussion represents the second part of my contribution to Robert Hruzek’s group writing project, “What I learned from .. a mountain-top experience.”)
I have always believed in the concept of climbing to great heights in terms of ones business or career direction – that one should ‘shoot for the top,’ so as to speak.
In addition, my family, in particular, my mother, have always been supportive of my endeavors.
That is, when we are talking about figurative heights. But the situation is somewhat different when the ‘heights’ we are talking about actually refer in a literal sense to the process of seeking employment at a ski resort which is situated on top of a mountain almost two kilometers above sea level.
This was indeed the case for me in late 2004, when I applied for a job as a Finance Assistant with the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board. The office in which I would have been working was situated in a ski resort village at the top of Mount Hotham, a famous mountain in the North Eastern part of my home state of Victoria (South East Australia), which at it’s highest peak reaches a height of 1,861m (6,105 feet) above sea level.
At the time, I regarded the position concerned as a wonderful opportunity not only to further my career by taking on a challenging role in an area which was different to those to which I was accustomed.
But my mother expressed a great deal of anxiety, especially due to safety concerns relating to the daily commuting process. Having never actually been to the mountain before, I regarded such concerns as being coming from a loving heart but being somewhat over-cautious.
The day of the interview
That was, until the day of the interview, and it wasn’t until I actually started the thirty kilometer ascent up the mountain that I started to realize that my mother had a valid point. The narrow, windy road had been virtually carved out of a cliff face, with gigantic drops out to the left leaving little doubt about one’s fate in the event of the vehicle slipping off the side of the road.
Even on that clear, late spring day, the ascent represented a downright frightening experience. I could only imagine what it would be like in the middle of winter, with the likelihood of thick snow and fog adding the daunting prospect of virtually zero vision or road grip to the already treacherous enough as it is commuting process.
Ten kilometers into the climb, I reach the first opportunity for a turning point, and seriously rethink my options – should I just turn around and forget the whole thing? Kudos, I thought, to those who do actually manage to perform this commute on a daily basis.
Upon reaching the village resort, I had a mountaintop experience which was somewhat different in nature to the kind of emotional euphoria to which people usually refer when talking about such an experience. This was literally a mountain-top experience – i.e. an experience, literally speaking, at the top of a mountain, and any sense of positive emotion which I felt was tempered by concerns as to whether indeed this commute was one which I was prepared to undertake on a daily basis.
Yes, one should strive to climb to great heights in terms of one’s business or career. But this is a figure of speech, and the principle does not necessarily apply in a literal sense to the performance of daily commutes up perilous mountain roads.
In the event, I was not the successful candidate and was not offered the position. Nevertheless, I must say that the process involved was quite an experience and I am certainly glad that I went for the job an application even though my application was not successful.
• Messages in self-help books about climbing the highest mountain and reaching great peaks in one’s business or career do not necessarily apply in a literal sense.
• One should look far and wide for opportunities.
In my profession of accounting, often the best opportunities are considered to be in large office towers in the city, either working for a large accounting firm or within the finance department of a large corporation.
These more conventional types of opportunities certainly have a great deal of potential. But what I personally found was that expanding my horizons to include positions which were outside the sphere of more conventional environments not only provided for an interesting and rewarding experience in itself, but also resulted in a much broader range of opportunities being available to me.