This past October, I ventured to Morocco with 25 well-intended top entrepreneurs for a cause that transforms the lives of young people in a unique way.
It’s hard to explain in words, but here goes 100KM of riding through desert mountains, through dust, sand, gravel, and wind storms, 14,000 feet of vertical hiking to the highest peak in Northern Africa and 14,00 feet of descent all in 4 days.
The challenge was organized by the Big Change, an organization that gives young people access to the growth mindset. Above financial advantage is access to the growth mindset- which can give them a happy and productive life, not just short-term resources. They do so by backing big ideas at an early stage of development, allowing young people to learn, grow, and prove their impact. They focus on tackling problems that have the potential to create a new, scalable reality for the better, and values and lessons that last for a lifetime to create ongoing prosperity and happiness.
I quickly felt that this was not just a fundraiser or a challenge, but a series of lessons and reminders of what exactly creates big change. Below are my key takeaways:
1) Entrepreneurs are resilient
On day 3 we woke up at 2 am to hike 18 hours to the summit and back down. Not one entrepreneur quit. There were bumps along the way; Some passed out and had to be revived to consciousness, others had atmospheric sickness and vomit. But every single entrepreneur finished, and nobody had to teach these people grit- they all have it.
2) When Leaders finish the job at hand everyone else follows
One thing that I noticed is when the leaders of the group kept going, everyone else followed. When times were physically and mentally challenging, the leaders finished; after a brief rest when they’d pick up their hiking poles and tightened their shoes, everyone else followed them.
3) We bond when we go through difficult times successfully, especially if you authentically need help and make yourself vulnerable
The strongest connections you can make is when you’re all hurting together and you’re willing to talk about it. Whether it was talking about a creaky knee or foot, we were all struggling and expressing our pain together. Bonds form when you get through these tough times together- if you try to be perfect and act like you’re not hurting when you are, you’re going to miss the chance to connect. This idea is reiterated in one of my favorite Ted Talks of all time The Power of Vulnerability by By Brene Brown.
4) Berber children were very happy with little material goods
In the Morrocan Atlas Mountains, we rode through very small towns where Berber children were the first ones to smile, high five us, and route us on. These children are far from iphones, TV sets, or material possession. Material wealth is certainly not a predictor of happiness.
5) Clean Water and Sanitation transform the human experience
Material wealth may not result in happiness, but the basics are essential to health and growth. We went through periods where we didn’t have clean water or sanitation, and the human experience completely changes, it’s the one thing you miss when you’re far from civilization. Every human being on earth deserves these basics as a foundation to grow from.
6) Enormous seemingly impossible missions succeed with one step at a time
After hiking 12 hours, you’d look up at our next climb; the mountain soaring into the clouds. “How are we gonna climb this thing?” We started with the first step, we just kept taking steps and kept going. And eventually, you end up taking your last step. I couldn’t believe we really made it to the summit.