What’s Your Project Possible?

gray and brown mountain

There are 14 mountain peaks in the world over 8,000 meters high – or as the mountain climbing community calls them the ”8-thousanders”. Summiting any one peak requires an incredible amount of time for planning, time for acclimating to the thin air and precise timing around limited weather windows. To date, 44 people have climbed all of them. The first person to climb them all needed nearly 17 years to do so. Until recently, the record was 8 years time.

But that changed dramatically recently. And it started with what sounded like a ridiculous goal. Nirmal Purja, or ”Nims”, as he’s commonly known, is a mountaineer from Nepal with a lust for extremely difficult challenges. In 2018, he had the very crazy bold idea that he could climb all 14 peaks in less than 7 months. Everyone told him that his idea was simply not possible so he decided to call his attempt “project possible”. In 2019, he finished this extraordinary feat in 6 months and 6 days and shattered over a dozen Guinness world records. [Nims is one rad dude, check out his documentary on Netflix “14 Peaks – Nothing is Impossible”]

Along the way he faced numerous unexpected challenges. Pausing to help stranded climbers, avalanches, worse than normal weather, and a denied permit from the Chinese government to name a few. But in every case, he found a way passed these obstacles and pressed on.

So how does this translate to those of us content closer to sea level?

In 2018, legendary venture capitalist John Doerr wrote ”Measure What Matters” and explained the goal-setting technique used at Intel and Google called OKR’s – Objectives and Key Results. One of the tenants of OKR’s starts with creating stretch goals. A stretch goal should be something ambitious that makes people nervous. It should be something you can’t accomplish in just a few months (unless your a Nepalese mountain climber!). As Doerr explains, ”Conservative goal setting stymies innovation. Innovation is like oxygen, you can’t win without it”.

When Shishir Mehrotra declared their goal at YouTube would be to have 1 billion hours of content streamed per day, no one believed they’d achieve it. After all, that was more content than the entire internet rendered at the time. But 4 years later, they accomplished that very goal. Great stretch goals will make your competition laugh at you. You will have to overcome obstacles to accomplish them, bigger and more unexpected issues than you imagine when you set out. The ability to dream big and the ability to adapt and pivot in the face of challenges are both needed for success!

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