This week I attended my very own, seat for one, annual Vision Quest. I started these retreats about 20 years ago when I was in the early days of running a practice and I realized there was no “stop and breath” button when you own your own business. No built in time allotment for deeper business planning and reflection. So I had to create it. My first retreat was an afternoon, about 4 hours,  at the local library. The one I just finished was four days. You can see the value I put on this time has increased! The week before the retreat I spend time pulling data, stats and inspiration and motivational business junk I have been meaning to read but haven’t taken the time. I hole up, turn my devices to airplane mode and away I go. Four days later it is like I am a new person – full of ideas, revitalized and typically in possession of at least the loose version of a strategy for the following year. 

5 Business Lessons From A Hike Up A Hill

When I embark on these retreats, it is equally important to me to get out into nature and allow my brain to meander as it is to sit in front of a bunch of spreadsheets. The second day I decided to hike Black Mountain and enjoy the sunrise (okay, it ended up being a lot later than sunrise.) Within minutes of starting the hike, because I was in the planning mode, I realized what a parallel hiking has to the business perspective. Little connections were made as I put one foot in front of the other.  

In business and hiking…

1. You can set a trajectory, but all you have is the three hundred feet ahead. What you do with that three hundred feet determines whether you move forward toward your goal or away from it. Your immediate action steps create mobility to can carry you upward. But without initial and immediate action (navigating those first steps so to speak)  you will not move forward. 

2. Each step or stumble is where the learning happens. We become greater people on the path, not at the top of the mountain. Our character is refined, we gain empathy for others in struggle, we learn how better to address the problem head-on when we encounter it next time. (Hello loose shale pieces, you little devils). It is not the top of the mountain but the path where we become truly great. 

3. Getting off track doesn’t mean you are not going to make it, (Whoops, howdy backside of Black Mountain) it just means your path might be a little different than planned. It means adjusting and troubleshooting. It means having faith and letting go.  Keep looking up toward the end goal and carve your own way if the traditional path is not available.  

4. There are parts of the trail that are freaking hard. I was stumbling over boulders and prickly cacti, losing my footing every three or four steps. So what do we naturally do during these times of hiking trial? We break, breath and stop to stare up at the peak. “That is where I want to go.” As I sip some water. “I’m gonna get ‘er done!!!!” Then you begin again with a new sense of energy and optimism.  Refocusing on the final goal makes the immediate obstacles a little more manageable. 

5.  I plan, I prepare, but in the end, in this case, I lost my car key. I had no way to get home. Completely stranded. I did not throw my hands up and claim “well that was a waste of freaking time.” I still loved the hike, and I love the memory even more now that I had to employ the services of a chatty Romanian UBER driver to get me home (to grab my second set of keys). Sometimes diversions are the richest part of the experience.


first-steps-logo-RGBI always love the memories I come away with on these Vision Quests. The data gets crunched, the numbers get scrubbed, and goals are made but it is the “stop, stand up and stare at the peak” time that is the most valuable. I think many of us don’t know where the hell we are going to our businesses and we think we “don’t have time” to sit down and plan it out. Having just done my 18th retreat I can encourage you, you don’t have the time not too! Gauntlet is thrown. Before the end of the year take at least a half day to reflect and plan your business strategy for next year. Whether you are an artist with a few things on Etsy or a Chiropractor with a huge practice this time can change your whole business experience for next year. If you would like assistance with this, I am happy to help you design an outline for your own personal Vision Quest. 




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Here is the planner I use! 


Here are the two business books I am reading right now!

5 Business Lessons From A Hike Up A Hill