How to build Sherpa level resilience

How to build Sherpa level resilience

Step 3: Risk

Risk comes in all shapes and sizes and there are going to be plenty of times in your life you’ll find yourself managing some type of risk. Physical risk, emotional risk, reputational risk, financial risk and social risk just to name a few. Putting yourself “out there” invariably involves risk and it almost certainly means you’re personally invested in the situation.

Not surprisingly, physical risk is one that most of us are heavily wired to avoid. Why? Because we don’t relish the prospect of getting hurt, injured or even worse. That said, there are plenty of people that are prepared to take calculated risks even if it means they might get physically hurt, usually because the rewards are high. But other types of risk, such as emotional and reputational risk, often prove to be a barrier that’s just as hard to overcome.

Risk is risk and while some people will take it on and relish it, many will avoid it at all costs. But what if you had to front up to the prospect of real and present physical risk every day just to make a living? Just so your family could have food on the table and a place to call home.

If your living happens to be guiding people safely on the highest mountains in the world, then it goes without saying you need to become very adept at accepting and managing significant physical risk. This is not a responsibility or undertaking taken lightly by the mountaineering Sherpa guides of Nepal. The documentary film “Sherpa” highlights the many dangers faced daily by the high-altitude climbing Sherpas that work in this hostile and unforgiving environment. It also explores the thoughts and feelings of the family members that watch their loved one’s head into the mountains and risk their lives each climbing season.

Risk isn’t necessarily right or wrong and I’m not suggesting you dive straight into a physically risky activity. The ability to successfully and safely mitigate risk comes through knowledge, practice and repetition. Slowly building your skills and capability in whatever the activity may be.

Fact is, it’s often the presence of some form of risk that makes a range of activities and sports challenging and fulfilling. Snow skiing is risky – especially when you begin – as you fall over a lot and the weather can be cold and miserable. But the more you persist, the more you learn and the better you get. The better you get, the less you fall and the more fun it becomes. There are inherent risks in hundreds of activities people like to pursue, but as we begin to master the skills required, we don’t stay as conscious of the risk involved.

A dose of well managed risk, or the perception of risk, is a healthy ingredient for developing our capacity and resilience. It certainly ensures we get switched on and pay attention to the task at hand. It won’t guarantee we succeed but it will almost certainly guarantee we’ll try pretty hard. And when we try hard and get a good result after being challenged, how good does it feel.

Developing your willingness to confront and tackle situations that involve risk is an important component of the resilience building process. Sometimes you’ll take a hit, and you won’t get the result you want. The key is the ability to see these setbacks as just another learning opportunity. We never fail, we just learn. Putting yourself out there, trying new things and having a crack, is part and parcel of building Sherpa level resilience.