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In Tanzania there’s a saying — pole, pole (pronounced pole-ee, pole-ee). It means slowly, slowly, and that is how you have to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s a great lesson in patience and persistence.
Move too quickly and you’ll likely be overcome with acute mountain sickness before reaching the 19,341-foot peak. But when traveling at a determined, steady pace, the mountain can be conquered.
I found out firsthand the importance of pole, pole when I summited Mount Kilimanjaro last month, with the help of a dedicated crew from Alpine Ascents International. We climbed roughly 16,000 feet in six days — hardly setting any speed records. But all the members of our team made the summit, without severe altitude effects.
As it turns out, deliberate and steady is also a strategy that has applications far beyond the world of trekking. In the business world, too often companies and investors are in pursuit of rapid returns — beating the next quarter’s earnings estimates, or doubling an investment in the latest asset fad. While that might work for some, I believe that the mindfully steady route is the better prescription for long-term success.
When I changed careers to corporate communications after two decades as a reporter at The New York Times, I was struck by the whirlwind of activity that a communications representative had to step into. Of course, there are times when fast movement is not only necessary but vital — during a crisis, to take advantage of opportunity, or to gain first-mover benefits.
But I have found that the best answers are most often those that emerge after careful deliberation — those that aren’t delivered in the heat of the moment, but which have the assurance of having been measured against the totality of a situation and its implications. Intentionally steady doesn’t mean lazily — it means taking the time to make sure that your next step is on solid ground and won’t send you tumbling. Whether in mountaineering or communications, taking deliberate, thoughtful steps is a practice that can yield great results.