Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lessons from the Mountain (and then some Venture Capital)

So I am finally back and have recovered enough to write a post. As explained earlier, I was out during the Spring break as the Venture Fellow for the Wharton Leadership Venture to Cotopaxi - a 19347 feet Volcano in Ecuador. The trip was pretty hard on me physically because I was pretty ill when I headed out to Ecuador, and the illness does make acclimatization pretty hard. Quito is at 10000 ft and the itinerary involved a practice climb on Pinchincha (15500 ft), and life at Cotopaxi base camp (16000 ft) for a few days before heading off to the summit.

This time I did summit and it was pretty intense as expected. I remember an instance that was pretty memorable. It was 4:30am and we had been traversing the glacier towards the headwall for about 4 hours now. A snowstorm hit us from nowwhere and it became cold... very, very cold. My eyelashes froze, my glasses froze, the rope froze, everything that could freeze, froze. I remember panicking because I could only see a foot ahead of me and was practically blind. Then my training and experience (of having climbed this mountain last time) came to help. I remembered that this was the absolutely pits and things could only become better. The sun would be out soon and it would get better. Moreover the headwall was around the corner and then summit is not too far. And there in lay the lesson from this trip.

When faced with insurmountable obstacles, experience and patience usually help find that inflexion point from whereon things get better. An important lesson whether one is starting a venture or climbing a mountain. Experience can assist in moments when the spirit is down. I knew things would get better and they did. And in that feeling lay the source of great strength.

Another important lesson that I learnt was a result of my being pretty ill and weak through a large part of the eight day venture. I had been on trips with physically unfit people before and had always gone out of my way to facilitate a great experience for them. However, I have never been the weak person on a trip before. It was very humbling to see how it was to be constrained by one's physical conditions, something which is out of one's control at that point of time. You learn to conserve energy, stay humble, be aware of your limitations, and most importantly, swallow your ego and ask for assistance when needed. I believe it is important for everyone to be at a position of disadvantage at some point in their lives so that they can truly appreciate what it means to reach out and help someone else in that position the next time.

All in all, another great Wharton Leadership Venture and another great opportunity for me to learn as Venture Fellow.

And now to more mundane matters.
The search continues though things do look brighter with a few options in the horizon. If I play my cards right, I might have a couple of options to play with by the time school is out. On the flip side, that may not happen and life may suck. But right now, I have a sudden rush of perspective. Getting a job in Venture Capital (or any job for that matter) is about luck and timing as much as talent. I know I have the capability, the question is do I have the luck and timing?

As they say, you create your own luck. I know I am.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Trying to climb a 19,347 feet Volcano

I have had a fever for two days before I started this trip and am probably at 50% fitness levels. My head has a constant headache because of the elevation (I am in Quito, capital of Ecuador, 10000ft above sea level). The illness makes it difficult for me to acclimatize.
The practice hike up Pinchincha (15,500 feet, 8 hours) that I complete on a gallop last year, took my last ounce of energy yesterday.
Today is a rest day. Tomorrow we go to the base camp which is at around 16,000 feet. And on Friday, we try to summit Mount Cotopaxi.
But right now, I am wearing Bergen wicking clothes, red bandana, cool shoes, and sitting in a internet cafe near my hotel in downtown Quito. Nirvana lits up the background.
I am a Wharton venture fellow and thus am leading the expedition. I have two jobs. One, faciliate the experience for the participants. Two, climb that summit. My 2nd job is a personal whim and my first one is the real reason Wharton sent me here. And I am doing that one.
Now, the question is, will I overcome fever, cold, altitude sickness and general weakness to make it to the top?
My life is so fun!