Talk to Summit about including Scott’s book as part of your keynote event. Learning In Thin Air (book) is a great addition to your keynote event as a take away for participants or a gift for key team members. Learning In Thin Air is a combination story book and text book. Scott wrote it in a similar fashion to which he presents the keynote. The story of his climbs of Everest and other mountains is what engages and captures the imagination and the addition of models, tools, theories and strategies connects it to the participant’s goals and challenges. Scott wrote this book to tell his story, but also to provide insights for personal, team, leadership and organizational development.
This is my personal story. It is about life, it is about adventure, and it is about learning, but most of all it is about passion and vision. My passion for the mountains and my long internship in vision has helped me achieve great rewards in life. These rewards have not been without loss and tragedy, but that is what makes up our lives. The following is the story of my journey in life and what I have learned along the way.
This book recounts an adventure that is born in a small child’s backyard in Woodstock, Ontario. The adventure begins with a simple, innate love of climbing up and onto whatever is at hand in a child’s world. As the child grows, so does the adventure. The adventure moves beyond the picket fences, beyond familiar local crags and passes through dozens of remote mountainous realms in far-flung, exotic countries. The story culminates half a world away and 40 years later on the summit of Mount Everest, the World’s highest mountain. The child who began that journey was neither overly ambitious nor extraordinarily gifted. As you might guess, that child was me.
This is not a simple mountaineering story, nor is it a simple autobiography. This is a distillation of adventures and lessons learned by an average guy who keeps one foot firmly planted in the corporate world and the other planted in the mountains. Ultimately, it is a story about success and failure and what separates the two. It is a story about passion, self-determination, teamwork, leadership and holding one’s self personally accountable for results. At the time of writing, I am the president of two training and development companies Summit Training and Frontier Team building, an international public speaker, a corporate trainer and an Executive MBA professor.
I have founded several companies along the way (including a mountain guiding business and climbing school) and I have won the “professor of the year” award at the Odette School of Business two years in a row. I also teach in the Executive MBA and Omnium MBA program’s at the Rotman School of Management and teach a leadership class for the University of Edinburgh MBA program. Additionally, I am a climber, climbing instructor and mountain guide who has climbed mountains every continent. I have stood on the top of Mount Everest, and have just completed one of the climbing world’s ultimate challenges – the Seven Summits .
How have I accomplished all this? I was neither a star athlete nor a brilliant student when I was young. In fact, my first two attempts at “higher education” were abandoned pretty quickly. In climbing, I have had notable successes, but not without first suffering some notable “failures”. (Of course, one could argue that in the climbing world, living to climb another day is always a success by some measure.) I believe that four main things have enabled my success in both climbing and business: having a vision, hard work, perseverance and a focus on learning. You will note that all of these things reside mainly within one’s own circle of influence . They do not depend on what happens on the world stage. They do not, for the most part, depend on inherent, immutable personal abilities or traits. Rather, they are all under our own immediate control to some extent. Of the four things I mention, the last – my learning – is the piece that I can most readily share through this book. The book is broken up into three main sections; The Early Years, Cho Oyu, and Everest.
The Early Years
The Early Years tells the story of Scott’s entry into climbing and how it opened his eyes to so much more beyond climbing. Lessons in personal performance, teamwork, and leadership became obvious when set against the backdrop of various expeditions. This section lays the foundation and sets a tone for the story.
Cho Oyu is the 6th highest mountain in the world and one of the 14 mountains in the world to rise above 8000m. This line of 8000m is known as the “DEATH ZONE” and is exactly that. Anyone who ventures above 8000m is working on borrowed time and if they do not descent within 3-5 days they will perish.
For Scott Cho Oyu represented a training platform and a test to see if he was ready for Everest. Without giving too much away, this dramatic story of team dynamics and leadership is full of innumerable lessons. This was one of the greatest learning opportunities of Scott’s life and you will be surprised at all the crazy events that unfold.
Everest is literally the top of the world and for many climbers the ultimate goal. There may be harder routes on other mountains, but none are taller than Everest. It would take the application of a lifetimes worth of learning to overcome the myriad of challenges presented on Everest. You likely already know that Scott made it to the summit, and this will provide you with the insights of how it all unfolded.
“Leadership is a vital commodity, but in short supply these days in business, teams and family life. Scott Kress has managed to use his professional and climbing experience to distill key lessons for people of all experiences to learn from. Learning in Thin Air is not a story of how he did it, its a journey that provides a framework for us to grow as leaders within the backdrop of some of the most challenging environments the world has to offer. An excellent read with a clear message for leadership growth, I highly recommend Learning in Thin Air.”
“As a CEO and Board member or a variety of organizations I am always looking for ways to focus our leadership and build our teams. This book was not only an interesting read, but it provided me with new ways to think about leadership and team development. I’ll definitely encourage our Executives and other Directors to read it. I know it will help them re-define how they lead and motivate their teams.”
“As MBA Director in a leading Business School I read more than the usual amount of rubbish about leadership. Scott’s book is a beacon of clarity. Its readable, avoids jargon, uses the exciting mountaineering example to illustrate a high level of leadership theory and afterwards leaves one with a clear toolkit that’s of practical use. I’m glad that every one of our MBAs reads this book.”
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