Home Leadership C-Suite Tips from an Experience Junkie: Five Lessons Execs Can Learn Heli-Skiing Down a Mountain

C-Suite Tips from an Experience Junkie: Five Lessons Execs Can Learn Heli-Skiing Down a Mountain

by Guest Writter
Bret Jorgensen, Chairman & CEO, MDVIP

I’m an experience junkie.

I’m an avid helicopter skier and snowboarder with more than 1,300 backcountry heli drops. I’ve completed the New York City Marathon and the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon.

I’ve skydived solo, bungee jumped in New Zealand, dove with great white sharks off South Africa, trekked in Bhutan, and hiked to the Mount Everest base camp.

I’m also a corporate executive. I’m currently Chairman and CEO of MDVIP, the nation’s largest network of personalized primary care physicians. I’ve led several businesses with hundreds of millions in revenue and thousands of employees, served on boards of directors of for-profits and philanthropies alike, and have almost three decades of leadership experience in fundraising, execution and value creation.

Some may think experience junkies have no place in the boardroom or C-suite. Yet, every adventure I’ve gone on has helped hone my leadership skills. My pursuit of fitness – biking, hiking, stretching, even surfing at dawn off the San Diego coast – contributes to what some call a Zen-like calm and helps me be a more centered and focused leader.

The comparisons between adventure and leadership are countless, but they boil down to one theme: be prepared to execute – and then execute.

So, what can you learn from a mountain chute or a cage surrounded by great whites?

Push your boundaries to get outside of your comfort zone. Plenty of bold executives are highly conservative when it comes to their travels and experiences. Yet, by pushing your limits, you force yourself to consider what you’re facing before you commit. Ask yourself in advance if you’ve got what it takes. Then, if you commit, really commit. You don’t want to suddenly discover you don’t have it in you.

Take calculated risks. Adventure travel may be an insurance underwriter’s nightmare, but even he or she knows that mitigating risk is part of life and business. I’m not reckless; I’m calculated. When hiking to base camp or trekking in Bhutan, I hire the best guides. When scuba diving, I check my gear – twice. I’m prepared to do whatever it is. An executive once asked if I make decisions in a reckless way. Another exec who knows me said I was calculated in assessing the risks I choose to take. “Bret may be bold, but it’s not ‘Damn the torpedoes.’” I definitely look before I leap. But I do leap.

Risk-taking has tremendous upside potential. What do we gain by taking calculated risks? In the outdoors, I gain confidence of having faced a new challenge. In the boardroom, you gain courage of your own convictions and a commitment to yourself and others. You’re emboldened. You tell yourself, “I’m going to do this;” then you do what’s needed to succeed. We have to make these commitments all the time to our team, our investors, our customers, even ourselves. In my view, when we create and foster the courage of convictions, it helps us lead on every front.

Being in the moment sharpens your focus. When you’re about to hop out of a helicopter to ski down a steep mountain chute, or drop in on a head-high wave, I guarantee you you’re not thinking about that board meeting or some dinner with investors. The same should be true when you’re in a board meeting or at a business dinner. Every experience is a great reminder of the power of focus and being in the moment. In each instance, the cell phone is off and distractions are quieted. Being in the zone – wherever that zone may be – crystalizes your attention. Whether on a mountain face or in an investor meeting, loss of focus can be disastrous.

What can we learn from pushing our boundaries? Hopefully, we learn to be a little more emboldened, and to do things we think we cannot do, or actively resist doing. It teaches us about courage, personal responsibility and accountability. If I fail, it comes back to how I prepared – or didn’t prepare – myself for the challenge. If you try to run a marathon, but trained by running 10Ks, then you know you really didn’t want it enough. You didn’t set yourself up for success. Every adventure, whether in our travels, in business or in life, should be done in pursuit of success.


About the Author

Bret Jorgensen is Chairman & CEO of MDVIP, the nation’s largest network of personalized primary care physicians. He has led a host of private and publicly-traded healthcare and healthcare technology companies, one of which was recognized as the second fastest-growing public company by Inc. magazine. Mr. Jorgensen received the “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award in Healthcare.

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