Philip James’s Journey From An Accident On Mount Everest To $25 Million In Revenue At Lot18
Sometimes getting a startup going can feel like an impossible task, sort of like climbing Mount Everest. People are constantly telling you that it’s hopeless, that it’s impossible, that you’re never going make it. The summit seems impossible to reach even as you inch your way closer and closer.
Yeah, it can definitely feel that way… even if you’ve actually climbed Mount Everest.
Philip James, the founder of the online wine distribution company Lot 18, quit his job at Merrill Lynch at the age of 23, sold his house, and moved to Tibet to spend a year preparing to scale the tallest mountain in the world.
A day away from the summit, something horrifying happened. One of the other climbers misplaced his foot, causing him to fall. The ropes binding the men together pulled James’ climbing partner Conan down the steep slope, crashing him onto a rocky ledge 20 feet below and breaking his leg.
Despairing, the other climbers gave Conan any medicine they had: ibuprofen, Vicodin, anything they thought might ease the pain. As they tried to help their fallen friend a few experienced, world-famous climbers passed them on their way back down.
They said it was hopeless. They said to leave the man to die.
Finally someone provided a syringe and without asking what it was, Conan stuck it in his body. Turns out the drug was adrenaline and while it made the blood run faster, it also gave him enough energy to get up off the ground.
The next five days were spent working their way back to base camp, during which time their guide died and another hiker lost three of his fingers to frostbite, but Conan made it down and survived.
Looking back at this experience years later, from his position as the head of a company that pulled in 25 million in revenue in 2011, James realized that a lot of what he learned during those two months on Everest contributed directly to his success as an entrepreneur.
Obviously the struggle of climbing the tallest mountain in the world can be related on a small scale to the struggle of getting a startup off the ground, but James says the biggest lesson he learned is not to listen to the doubters.
Anyone who has come up with an awesome idea and then entered into the arduous process of making it a reality knows that the haters are gonna hate. If James had listened to all of the people he had read about as a kid, all of the people who’d been doing what he was doing for almost as long as he’d been alive, his friend Conan would have died on the mountain that day.
While your business failing is obviously not the same as a human being losing his life, it’s still a huge deal. You’ve invested time, money, relationships, your whole life into this endeavor. Failure is scary and it can be really hard not to let the doubts crowd your mind to the point where you feel like giving up is the best option.
You don’t have to face death on Mount Everest to put what James learned into practice. Believe in your idea, believe in yourself, and persevere.
That’s the only way you’re gonna make it.