PPP80: 5 Professional Lessons I Learned from Hiking a Mile High Mountain

Gear is prepped

I still had 1/4 of a mile to go to reach the summit of Mt. Rogers. My feet ached from the previous day’s hikes as well as the 2.5 mile hike just before this one. I was also wearing my minimalist style workout shoes, not my hiking boots. Why the shoes? The day before I didn’t have my sandals to walk in the river with my family, so I took the inserts out and made sure to live in the moment. My boots were still wet, but it was worth it. My lungs were burning a bit with each new section of vertical hike and the acid in my legs was noticeable and the tight muscles in my upper back reminded me of the pack I was wearing. I knew I wouldn’t quit, but man, this sucked. But it was also amazing. My oldest son of 14 years was right behind me, step for step. We were going to make it to the top of the 5,728 feet of Mt. Rogers via the 8.5-9 mile round trip route. And we did.

So what does this and the rest of my trip deep into the Southwest Virginia mountains and woods have to do with Incident Management, Project Management, Public Safety or leadership? Nothing. And Everything. In addition to building on my family’s bond, allowing me time with my boys to teach them how to split wood, start fires, open and close knives and more, I realized during one of my morning reading and journaling sessions that these lessons translate to my life as a Senior Project Manager and to roles I’ve held in the past.

Just the beginning

While I learned much more, this week’s episode features five key lessons from my trip to and hike up the mountains that I’ll apply to my professional life and that I think you the reader could apply too.

  1. Prepare for what may happen: My experiences as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman, Firefighter/EMT and Disaster Response professional put me in a preparedness mindset outside of work, but the principle of preparing for the unknown is also directly applicable to projects, incident response and special event planning. The key is to…listen to this weeks’ episode to hear more
  2. Don’t let your discomforts limit others: As a father I don’t hover over my sons, but I do worry. I want them to grow while also not wanting them to get hurt. This week they were climbing rocks on the edge of cliffs, dunking themselves in cold mountain streams and chopping wood. It was great, but with #1 in mind, I always think worst case scenario. As I told my sons, keep learning and growing, but know where I’m coming from. In the business world we also need to…listen to this weeks’ episode to hear more
  3. Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable: I’m pretty calm in an emergency, but sometimes get stressed when my kids are yelling in the car. Weird dichotomy right? When you hike and climb a significant altitude (1,500+ ft) you will get uncomfortable. When you go through a military or Public Safety paramilitary style academy you will get uncomfortable. But what about dealing with the impact of project risks, losing resources or worse in the business world? This is where…listen to this weeks’ episode to hear more
  4. Remember why you started: It’s easy to lose sight of the “Why” when your legs and back hurt, the sun is baking down on you or when the 11-12 hour days start to stack up and you feel burnt out at work. This is where it pays to help remember the personal or professional goal we’re trying to achieve comes in. It’s important to …listen to this weeks’ episode to hear more
  5. There are always opportunities for others to lead: While I was on point heading up the mountain, my son was right there with me. I asked him if he wanted to take the lead on the ascent, but he declined. This is ok. Some young leaders are not quite ready or don’t have the confidence. Yet. This is where more experienced leaders can…listen to this weeks’ episode to hear more

*Bonus: A regular fitness routine definitely helps prepare the mind and body.

LISTEN HERE – PPP80:5 Professional Lessons I Learned from Hiking a Mile High Mountain
Mt. Rogers summit marker

Hardship, particularly self-imposed and collective hardships bind us together with the others that are suffering along side us. We also get a feeling of accomplishment. This is true of marathon runners, military veterans, Public Safety responders and folks who take part in physical challenges like the Murph Challenge each year. As humans, families, Incident Management or Project Teams we need to suffer a little bit together to get better as a team and as individuals.

I thank all of you for reading this post, listening to this episode and sharing the show with others.

Connect and follow on Facebook – Instagram – Twitter – Website – LinkedIn

Stay safe, wash your hands and Godspeed,


Kevin Pannell, PMP | Creator & Host, ‘People, Process, Progress’ | Connect and subscribe at https://linktr.ee/peopleprocessprogress

#mtrogers #mountrogers #familyvacation #hiking #mountains #backpacking #camping #southwestvirginia #leadership #hardship

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