Chapter 10

The Nine Keys to Success

Excerpted from Straight to the Top and Beyond:
Nine Keys for Meeting the Challenge of Changing Times


Man alone, of all the creatures of earth, can change his own pattern. Man alone is architect of his destiny. The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds can change the outer aspects of their lives.

- William James

Stated simply, the "Adventure Attitude"™ is a paradigm through which we can see the challenge of change with optimism and start to seek out the opportunities that change creates.

All too often, we see change as a threat, something to be feared. We are so consumed with the need for certainty and predictability, that we fail to accept that change is the only real constant in our lives. As a result, we often don’t seek the opportunities that change creates until we are forced to change by some external influence beyond our control, be it economic crisis, political realignment, or personal tragedy.

This was certainly the case on Everest, when we were forced to confront tragedy so early in the climb. We had to accept the inevitability of those deaths. We had not caused them by our own negligence. We had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But there were lessons to be learned.

In fact, as we struggled to pull the expedition together in the aftermath of the tragedies, we started to question whether we may have been trying to climb Everest the wrong way in the first place. We began to think that we had spent five years preparing for our expedition in the comforts of our homes, building a plan that was based upon a series of assumptions about what it would be like on the mountain half a world away. And when we arrived at the base of Everest, we had not checked to see if the assumptions were correct. We had assumed that the assumptions were correct and had become complacent, developing a tunnel vision that prevented us from looking around us, from seeing what was going on around us on the mountain. Because of this, we had not noticed how bad the weather was, or how dangerous the conditions had become. In the days after the tragedies, the Sherpas who know Everest better than anyone, told us they had never seen the mountain in such dangerous conditions.

It was the accidents and the resulting trauma that convinced us of the necessity of changing our plan. We had no choice. Ten of our strongest people were no longer with us; four people had died and six of our leading climbers had left the team. The tragedies had literally shaken us out of our complacency, and we had been forced to develop peripheral vision to see everything around us as we struggled to keep our dream alive.

A few years ago, while researching a book we commissioned called One Step Beyond: Rediscovering the Adventure Attitude, the author, Alan Hobson, asked me to describe the meaning of the word adventure. The answer has defined my life ever since. I replied: "Adventure isn’t hanging on a rope on the side of Mount Everest. That is just one arena where we chose to pursue our goals. Adventure is an attitude that we must apply to daily life — facing new challenges, seizing new opportunities, testing our physical and mental resources against the unknown and, in the process, discovering our own unique potential."

It is this generic approach to life that is at the root of all One Step Beyond WorldWide programs. I believe that the use of adventure as a metaphor for life can create a new paradigm for us all as we struggle with rapid change. And we are confident that the "Adventure Attitude"™ philosophy offers a light at the end of the tunnel as we contemplate the precarious transition into the next millennium of challenge.

In the spring of 1986, a second Canadian expedition went to Mount Everest to attempt to climb the West Ridge from the north side of the mountain in Tibet. On that team were six members of our 1982 expedition, some of whom I had met departing from Base Camp after the tragedies. Also on that team was Sharon Wood, a twenty-nine-year-old mountain guide from my home town of Canmore, who was soon to become a key associate in the One Step Beyond WorldWide™ organization.

On May 20th, 1986, after months of struggle and just as night was falling, Sharon and her climbing companion, Dwayne Congdon reached the top of the world. In doing so, she became the first North American woman to achieve that amazing feat and only the sixth woman in history to climb Everest.

Outwardly, Sharon Wood does not look like the kind of individual who could climb the world’s highest mountain. She is a slim, attractive woman, who is now the proud mother of two fine boys. When she speaks before audiences of business executives today, many are moved to ask the question of what it was that got her to the top. On such occasions, Sharon answers with these words: "I discovered it wasn’t a matter of physical strength, but a matter of psychological strength. The conquest lay within my own mind to penetrate those barriers of self-imposed limitations and get through to that good stuff, the stuff called potential, ninety percent of which we rarely use."

I believe that what Sharon is talking about is attitude. Clearly, attitude is the key to success. We can have all the education, all the knowledge, all the experience. But if we carry the wrong attitude in our minds, we are doomed to failure. The academic world agrees! A recent study of successful people by the Carnegie Institute concluded that eighty-five percent of success was attributed solely to mental attitude.

Similarly, our perception of the challenges we face in life is often more significant than the reality of the challenges themselves. In the words of Laurie Skreslet, who was the first of our team to reach Everest’s summit: "It’s not what you go through in life that makes you what you are; it’s how you react to the world you’re going through."

It is this generic approach to life that forms the roots of the "Adventure Attitude"™ philosophy.  A new paradigm that enables forward-looking people to meet the challenges of change with optimism and to deal with uncertainty as an exciting adventure. It is an approach that can be summarized by using the acronym: A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E.

In summary, the "Adventure Attitude"™ philosophy offers nine keys to happiness, fulfillment and success in life, no matter in what arena you are operating or what adversity you are struggling to overcome.

Here are the nine keys of the "Adventure Attitude"™ philosophy:

     A - Adaptability

     D - Desire and Determination

     V - Vision and Values

     E - Experience

     N - Natural Curiosity

     T - Teamwork and Trust

     U - Unlimited Optimism

     R - Risk-Ability

     E - Exceptional Performance

When I look at these nine basic principles, it becomes evident that achieving success in life is really quite simple. But we live today in a very complex world, where events on the opposite side of the earth over which we have no direct control are inexorably changing the way we live our lives. It is easy to become distracted and to lose focus.

In the final analysis, it is important to realize that the "Adventure Attitude"™ philosophy  has been crucial to the evolution of society over the centuries. As the world has changed throughout history, so have the people who struggled through those times. But they moved ahead despite the uncertainty.

In these challenging times, so must we!...

"Attitude is the key to success - not skill, not knowledge, not education - ATTITUDE!"

- John Amatt



















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