This is the second in a four-part series from Guest Blogger and UpLync CEO Mike Bristol sharing his six-month epic experience running a VoIP phone business as a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson
Business classes and books love to talk about planning – identify your mission, set clear and actionable goals, develop strategies…I’m sure you’ve heard them all. But, if you’ve ever built a small business from the ground up, you know not everything goes as planned. There’s so much that we don’t know that it’s impossible to foresee every scenario.
In looking back on my 26 years in business, rarely did anything go according to plan. (Plus, I’m more of a big-picture guy, so my plans were always a little rough!) Instead, as business owners, we have to be flexible and adaptable for when we’re caught off-guard.
Plan, Improvise, Repeat
The adaptability skills I’ve learned running a hosted VoIP phone company saved me more than a few times as I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Each day required planning for my hiker-life – how many miles to go that day, what campsite to stop at, how much water and food I’d need, etc. I also had to plan for my business-owner life back home – would I have cell coverage for staff meetings, did I have enough battery on my laptop, did I need to submit payroll, etc.
Inevitably, I’d have to throw the plan out by 11 a.m. most days and improvise. On more than one occasion, the water source I’d planned on refilling at had dried up, or I’d hear from other hikers that the campsites were all taken where I’d planned on staying. I also hung my cellphone from a tree branch one time to get enough service to attend a meeting back home on my laptop. What saved me, in the end, is that I maintained a flexible attitude.
Embracing the Suck
Was it easy to always have a flexible, positive attitude? No! Most days, I felt like I was getting punched in the face by Mike Tyson himself. But, I kept going, just like you do when you have tough days at the office.
“Embracing the suck” is a common phrase among thru-hikers, and for a good reason. Sometimes, living on the trail just plain sucked, but perseverance got me through to the good days, and, let me tell you, the good days made it all worth it.
I saw breath-taking views from mountain tops and watched flowers and trees blooming in the spring. I had unusual insects and animals randomly appear in front of me. I met the most diverse group of people I’ve ever known and developed life-long friendships. Those are just a few of the reasons thru-hiking the A.T. was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I read books about hiking the A.T., watched YouTube videos from people who had done it, and even did a five-day “training” hike in North Carolina in preparation for my adventure. None of it fully prepared me, but I’m still glad I did it because planning is essential. But, more importantly, is knowing, expecting, and accepting that your plan will change. It nearly always does. Whether you’re setting out on a new life adventure or building a business, just get started. You’ll figure out the rest as you go.
More to Come!
Over the next few months, I’ll share more stories from the trail and how being a thru-hiker is similar to owning a business.