Three Lessons in Success from a World-Class Mountaineer - Ed Viesturs Blog Feature

Office Technology

By: GreatAmerica on June 28th, 2022

Three Lessons in Success from a World-Class Mountaineer - Ed Viesturs

Ed Viesturs, a high-altitude mountaineer who demonstrates what it means to be a selfless leader, peer, and mentor, presented to the GreatAmerica sales team, sales support, and leadership recently. Viesturs grew up in Illinois and moved to Seattle to attend college and medical school in hopes of becoming a veterinarian. His first inspiration to become a world-class climber came from a book, Annapurna by Maurice Herzog. The book chronicled the first expedition to summit the 8000-meter mountain called Annapurna. At first a hobby for Viesturs, climbing became a full-time vocation. He made his way through medical school by working as a guide on Mt. Rainier. He built relationships with the climbing community and was often invited on various expeditions early on in his career. Fast-forward to today and he is currently the only American to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, and the fifth person worldwide to do so without supplemental oxygen (Ed Viesturs, 2022).  

So why is a financing company writing a blog about mountaineering? And how does it apply to you and your business? If you think about it, there are obvious parallels between mountain climbing and business: Having set plans and strategies, communicating goals that everyone can work towards, staying focused, and celebrating wins are imperative in both environments. We will focus on three lessons we took away from Viesturs over his 45-year career: the importance of teamwork, gratitude for your support system, and the value of preparation. Let’s explore how these lessons relate to the business world and examine how they might make or break your path to success. 

Related: Leadership Lessons From Harry Styles 


In mountain climbing, working alone is rare, and that’s likely due to how incredibly dangerous and difficult these types of endeavors can be. Having a team that one trusts, enjoys being around, and shares goals with is crucial to success and to safety.  

Viesturs was sure to point out that finding a team that works well together is never easy, and there is always someone who may not fit or even hold the team back... “a fly in the ointment” in his words. Viesturs emphasized how important it is to find out who these people are, and to help them adjust their goals and ambitions. For a team to work well together, it is crucial for there to be shared passions, goals, and similar values. “A fly in the ointment” can ruin an endeavor for the whole team if not addressed properly.  

Mountain climbing is a high-risk activity where decisions need to be made quickly. Trust among team members is essential to your decision-making process. Whether orchestrating a product launch or scaling an 8000-meter peak, decisions will need to be made within a team that trusts and feels safe with each other. You have the difficult or sometimes uncomfortable discussion ahead of time for optimal decision-making. Viesturs summed this up by saying, “You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.” Having a team with a foundation built on trust will help you make decisions that feel impossible.  

Related: Cross Functional Teams Play a Critical Role in Your Success 

Acknowledge Support 

Viesturs says his expeditions involve anywhere from 10-100 people. Each person plays a role in ensuring he gets to the top of the summit and back home safely. Support comes from sponsors, sherpas who provide guidance and safety, and camp managers. Acknowledging and thanking these behind-the-scenes players is critical to success and demonstrates appreciation for their efforts. A key to Viesturs’ success has been his selfless approach and consideration for his team (and sometimes even those not on his team, where he at times sacrificed his goal to rescue a climber.)   

His perspective here highlights the importance of gratitude. Acknowledge, thank, and recognize the unsung hero in your life and occupation. The staff who support sales leaders might go unnoticed because they do not work directly with customers. The sherpas who aided Viesturs in his expeditions are not famous for their work, but he is adamant about recognizing them because they provide critical guidance on his journey to the top of the mountain. 

Support goes further than the walls of the office, and the slopes on the mountain. Friends, family, partners, co-workers, and mentors all pave the path to success. A great leader and teammate is quick to praise those people, and never forget the support they receive along the way.  

Preparation is Essential to Success 

Viesturs titled his book, “No Shortcuts to Success: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks,” a nod to the importance of preparation. Viesturs says the preparation to climb a mountain is equally mental and physical. Mental preparation includes knowing and setting your limits, and rules to live by; you must know what line you will not cross.  

Shortcuts in mountain climbing can have deadly results and external pressures from sponsors or fans to make it to the top of the summit can interfere with sound decision-making. Viesturs affirms passionately how important it is to reach goals for yourself, not anyone else. People tend to get into trouble when they start thinking about what others think about them, rather than what they think about themselves.  

This is where mental toughness and preparation are so important; creating a sturdy foundation of limits and rules to live by is imperative to survival in the mountains. Viesturs says he will not compromise the safety of his team just to make it to the top of the mountain. In fact, Viesturs made three “unsuccessful” attempts to make it to the top of Mount Everest because of safety concerns. Viesturs shared something that is important to remember when meeting any goal: “if something prevents you from success, that’s not a failure, it’s simply a non-success."  


There is so much to learn from Ed Viesturs, and our GreatAmerica team was lucky to hear his perspective on leadership, planning, and team building...and to see the many parallels that naturally form in all goal-seeking endeavors. Ed Viesturs summarized it best, “Passion, that’s the key to success. If you love what you do, you will do it forever and you won’t care how long it takes or how hard it is.” 

To learn more about Ed Viesturs, visit his website and purchase his book or consider inviting him to speak to your group. 


GreatAmerica is the largest independent, family-owned national commercial equipment finance company in the U.S. and is dedicated to helping manufacturers, vendors, and dealers be more successful and keep their customers for a lifetime. A $2.4 Billion company, GreatAmerica was established in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1992 and has a staff of over 600 employees with offices in Iowa, Georgia, Minnesota, and Illinois. In addition to financing, GreatAmerica offers innovative non-financial services to help our customers grow.

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