By Scott Pell

If you’ve ever read a good management book, it is usually packed with great, simple analogies. Business, as it turns out, is mostly the application of common sense and wise experience. Most of us have to get our head out of the weeds to be able to come up with good ideas and apply our learned common sense. These opportunities can be few and far between, so you have to take advantage of any opportunity to lift up your head and put down your pencil.

Throughout my career, I’ve always had something to divert my attention for an hour or so. It has normally been some sort of exercise. When I was younger and a bit more daring, it was cycling. During the week, I would get 20 miles a day, or so, and on the weekend I would get in a long ride. It is certainly a way to clear your head, but it does take a good bit of time. The biggest benefit of cycling is the challenge. There is always something to challenge you, like scorching heat, a nagging headwind or a faster rider that you are trying to keep up with. The biggest challenge is facing a big climb. To survive, you have to learn to climb a hill.

Hills and business problems go together hand in hand. They are challenges that you may or may not be able to overcome, right now. If you want to succeed, you have no choice but to press on. This is why you need to learn to climb a hill.

To climb a hill, you have to develop a strategy. Conditioning is necessary, but if you don’t have a strategy, you will fail…and you will still have to finish going up the hill. There is always going to be a hill bigger than what you trained to climb, so always have a strategy.

Mine is easy:

  • Know the goal: We don’t climb hills, just to climb hills, we climb a hill to get it over with then continue the ride to the finish. People run out of gas on a hill because they started way too strong. Start slow, conserve energy for when you need it. Think about the issue and hand and visualize the answer. Think about the steps to get to the end, and work efficiently. Sprinting at the end carries much better results than sprinting at the beginning.
  • Don’t stop: Businesses are like bikes, the hardest thing to do on a bike is restart after stopping. If you restart, you wish you’d stayed by the side of the road a little longer. Once you are in a rhythm, it is easier to keep it than start all over.
  • Get help: Every business is a team, and teams solve issues together. In the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong needed the help of his team to make it to the finish. Teammates would play their part to get him to the next spot where he could use his strengths. He was pretty awesome on hills, but he relied on people to get him to the point where he could turn on the jets. The team can help by giving you pointers and advice that make the job of climbing the hill easier.
  • Be help: Teams help each other out, and that includes you! Return the favor, do not leave your climbing buddy partway up the hill. The easiest way up a hill is to coach someone up a hill, really. If you’re cheering someone on, it is more genuine if you don’t look like you’re going to pass out. So, suck it up and coach someone up a hill, as you ride alongside.
  • Repeat: Success makes us stronger, and smaller goals push us to larger victories. In a tough climb, you have to re-convince yourself that you are going to finish…not just the hill, but the race.

Do you have any goals at work that look like really big climbs? Same strategy. Personal battles that need to be won? Same. Raising kids? Yep. Exercise goal? Proved it. Now, go climb a hill.