Could you walk the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail in it’s entirety from Springer Mountain GA. To Mt. Katahdin, ME.? 

What if you were blind, how about then? You’re probably thinking of course not. Each year millions of people hike part of the Appalachian Trail. About 50,000 attempt what’s called a “through hike” which is walking the entire 2,175 miles of the trail from Springer Mountain Georgia to Mt. Katahdin Maine. 8,000 finish the hike in it’s entirety. Only 5 of those 8,000 were blind.

Trevor Thomas was the first of five blind people to complete the entire Appalachian Trail.

Here’s the kicker, he did it alone. On April 6, 2008 some friends started the hike with him but dropped off as they fatigued or the trail got too tough for them. He kept going without them, without a seeing eye dog, without a GPS. Basically his GPS was following other hikers he heard and met on the trail and reading the writing on trail signs he encountered by running his fingers on the grooves of the letters. When Thomas got lost he’d ask a hiker who came by to verify his location and confirm if he was headed in the right direction. Trevor had a chipped bone in his hip, cracked ribs and stopped counting how many times he fell after about 3000.

When he neared the summit of Mt Katahdin Thomas encountered some dangerous ice and it was at this point that his trekking poles broke. Other hikers on the summit were making as much noise as possible so he would know where the summit was and that they were cheering him on. On this final stretch when he couldn’t walk on the ice, he used the broken trekking poles as ice picks to climb the last few feet to the top.

What motivated him to do this? Shortly after losing his vision at age 35 Trevor went to hear another blind man give a speech. His name was Eric Wehenmayer and he had just climbed Mt. Everest. Hearing this made Thomas think,“If he can climb Everest there’s no reason why I can’t do whatever I want to accomplish in life.”

After reaching the summit, a television reporter interviewed him and asked Thomas how he did it. His five word response left me thunderstruck…

“One step at a time.”

You’re in this story too.  Life’s trails are full of surprises and not easy to navigate. Yet the most rewarding ones are the most challenging ones. They’re going to be filled with twists, turns, peaks and valleys. You can best handle these challenges by following in the footsteps of someone who has seen success doing what you’re attempting and by having a tried and true process to follow.

I have one client who is fairly early in her career and is relatively successful but hasn’t risen to that “next level” that’s expected of her at this stage in her profession. She’s had the benefit of “lucking into” some great referrals simply through personal relationships. So I asked her “What happens when that dries up, which it eventually will?”  You could hear a pin drop… She had no answer, which was in fact a very revealing answer. She had no tried and true process to follow (that is until she got herself a coach).

The Takeaway: 

If you can’t describe what you or your people are doing as a step-by-step process, you don’t truly know what you’re doing. You’re just shaking the magic 8-ball and hoping for good results. (Sorry but hope isn’t a very effective business strategy.)

You can’t expect to succeed at something difficult without a plan, a system and preparation/training. Thomas didn’t just throw on a backpack and start hiking, he studied what he needed to learn and know for 18 months leading up to his journey before he ever hit the trail. The hours, weeks and months of preparation were all part of the process of taking it “one step at a time”.

The Bottom Line:

There are certain step by step fundamentals to success in anything, follow them. Be present in the moment, one step at a time. How? Focus on the process and keep moving because effort will release its reward only after you refuse to quit.

Your aspiration is only limited by your imagination. What’s one step more that you need to take today?

To be continued next week…

P.S. Speaking of taking things step by step, day by day. To celebrate feBRUary, I’m holding a contest where I’ll be giving away prizes each day all month totally over $2000.00. The big ones are an Ergotron standing desk and a pair of Anderson Bean cowboy boots. Keep your eyes open for an email with the contest link and prize details !

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