In 2019, Nirmal “Nims” Purja set out to climb all 14 of 8000+ meter mountain peaks. The previous record was 7 years. He set a goal of doing it in 7 months.
Everyone thought it was impossible. He couldn’t get any sponsors and had to remortgage his house to fund the expedition.
He completed his climb in 6 months and 6 days.
If you haven’t watched the documentary 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, you should: it’s a great lesson in leadership and what it takes to achieve audacious goals.
Here are five leadership principles that enabled Nims and his team to make the impossible possible.
1. It Takes A Vision
In life, you have to keep doing what you believe. You have to ask yourself, do you really want this from your heart? Is it for the self-glory? Or is it for something bigger? Sometimes, the idea that you come up with may seem impossible to the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to you. And if you can inspire one or two people in a good way, then you can inspire the world.Nims Purja
Without an inspiring vision, you can never achieve audacious goals.
The vision must be driven by something deeper than just profit or competition. It must be driven by a purpose that seeks to create a positive change in the world.
A vision points the direction of change. It says how you believe the world should be in a way that can be meaningful to everyone in the organization.
Think about the changes you plan to make this coming year and consider if they are truly meaningful. If they are not, how can you replace them with something that is?
2. It Takes Grit
Nims: Giving up is not in the blood, sir. It’s not in the blood.
Don: That was the first daylight for me about his project. This guy believed that they were going to do it. And they pushed through.Nims Purja and fellow climber Don Bowie
To achieve an audacious vision, you need to have an unwavering belief that you will actually achieve it with enough confidence to make your team believe it too.
Any roadblocks you run into shouldn’t make you waver from the larger vision.
Great leaders show daring, determination, and grit.
3. It Takes Constant Improvement
In early life, I always used to compete against other people. I never knew how to back off. When I joined the Gurkhas, the biggest thing I learned was I have to compete against myself. To be better than who I was yesterday.Nims Purja
Great leaders have the desire to constantly become better, even if it’s just 1% each day.
This is in contrast to many people in leadership positions who get stuck in the day-to-day and don’t set aside the time for improving both themselves and their ability to lead others.
Constant learning and setting aside time for reflection are hallmarks of leaders who can achieve what others believe is impossible.
4. It Takes Compassion
In the military, I have never left anyone behind. I wasn’t gonna do that on the mountains. So we gave the climber our oxygen. And we made the radio contact on all the camps saying, “Hey, guys, we need help.” … It’s not in my blood to leave a person behind.Nims Purja
In business, we’re often taught that success is a zero-sum game. But, when you’re motivated by a vision that’s greater than yourself, achieving it can’t solely be driven by the ego.
Just because you pause to help others, doesn’t mean you can’t still achieve what you set out to do, even if what you set out to do seems impossible. In fact, sometimes if you want to truly live up to the values it will take to achieve that goal will require you to pause, offer help, and bring others along with you.
5. It Takes A Team
So many Western climbers have climbed with a huge help from the Sherpa. What I have herd most of the time is, “My Sherpa helped me.” And that’s it. That is wrong because he has a name. What they should be saying is, “Mingma David helped me.” … Or, “Gesman Tamang helped me.” … If not you are a ghost.Nims Purja
Nothing great can be achieved alone. It takes a talented team.
A leader needs to set the vision and inspire the team. But, they also need to both believe in the value of the team and give credit to all the team members.
A team that feels uninspired and underappreciated will never achieve greatness. And, if the teams can’t achieve greatness, an organization can’t make an audacious vision a reality.
We made the impossible possible by our teamwork. Good leadership is also required to achieve success, and Nims demonstrated that very well.Mingma David Sherpa
The combination of vision, grit, constant improvement, compassion, and teamwork can transform what is seemingly impossible into something possible over and over again.
In 2021, Nils and his team became the first team to summit K2 in winter.