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Caution! Sudden Changes Ahead for Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs will be challenged

My wife and I had spent two weeks journeying all over Switzerland a couple summers back. We hopped from one B&B to the next, taking in the stunning countryside and friendly communities during a period when the weather was perfect – near 85 degrees every day and blue sky all around.

On one of the final days of our trip, we decided to take the world’s longest aerial cable car ride up to the Schilthorn mountaintop in the Swiss Alps. At nearly 10,000 feet elevation, the view at the top was spectacular, to say the least; and once again, the weather was perfect.

We had a 360 degree view of mountaintops steeper than anything I had ever seen (I live near the Rocky Mountains so that is saying something). With paragliders in the air, looking down I saw sporadically placed cows on the hillside, turquoise lakes and lush greenery – it was something out of a movie.

paraglider at the Schilthorn
One of the paragliders effortlessly floating above us that day.

Matter of fact, precisely where we were standing was the location of a famous scene in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – a James Bond film (the scene filmed where we were is below – pretty spectacular).

After about an hour of quite literally just standing and gawking at the view, my wife suggested we hike down the mountain to where we started the aerial cable car ride. It was about an 8000 foot descent along, for the most part, relatively uncharted paths. I knew it would be a spectacular trek and probably take us a couple hours given the steepness. My wife and I love to hike and go for walks in the wilderness, but we hadn’t done so for about 5 months. The reason why we hadn’t hiked for so long was because she was now 6 months pregnant. Naturally, I was a bit apprehensive for that reason. But when my wife sets her mind to something, well…

We started the trek down the mountain. For the first 45 minutes, the setting was phenomenal. We stopped at lookout spots for pictures, I posed with a cow that had wandered astray and we even took a drink from a nearby lake. Not to sound cliché, but it was somewhat magical.

hiking down the Schilthorn in Switzerland
Walking along a narrow stretch of mountainside about 5 minutes before the hail storm began…

Then, out of nowhere, a thunderous crackle came from above. The sky, for the first time in two weeks, was rapidly turning dark and grey.

Given the weather for our entire trip thus far, I was wearing a thin T-shirt and running shorts, my wife pretty much the same. ‘Oh great” I thought to myself. “It’s going to rain and we are going to get soaked.” “I guess we better pick up the pace” I said to my pregnant wife. She looked at me rather unamused. “We’re probably an hour from the station.” Although we weren’t too concerned about getting wet – I was kind of looking forward to it given how hot it had been – we started to move down the mountain a little quicker.


From Bad to Brutal

About ten minutes after that first thunderous crackle, without much warning, the sky started to drop golf ball-sized hail. “Fuck.” I immediately looked at my wife, then glanced down at her belly. The hail started pelting us on the head, and it hurt. I scanned the steep landscape in search of shelter. There was nowhere to seek cover, except for an oddly shaped boulder leaning on a 45 degree angle. I grabbed my wife and we ran to the rock. I told her to get under it, and protect her head. I put my backpack on her belly to make sure our precious cargo was protected. The rock was barely big enough to provide shelter for her, and I started to get hammered by the hail. I put my hands on my head for protection, and said a prayer. I was pretty much defenseless.

Hiking down the Schilthorn
What started out as a beautiful hike quickly turned to trouble…

Thankfully, my wife and baby, due in three months, were protected from the vicious hail. But after about 5 minutes of being repeatedly pelted by icy golf balls, I started to worry that I couldn’t take much more of it. I had no cover. My hands started to bleed a bit, and my legs were beat red from being hit a couple hundred times. The most painful part was when the hail hit my ears. It stung like hell. After about ten minutes I didn’t think the hail would ever stop and I started looking around for my own shelter to make a run for, but given that my wife was covered under a rock, I had no choice other than to wait it out.

I’ve experienced earthquakes, a tornado and even a flood, but never had I felt so vulnerable to Mother Nature’s power. Completely taken by surprise and totally unprepared, Mother Nature had kicked the crap out of me. Then, the small mudslides started. Out of nowhere streams of mud started running by us. They weren’t much of a threat, but they certainly added to my uncomfortableness, soaking my feet with brown muck as they rushed pass.

Then, as if God hit a button, the hail stopped just as quickly as it started.

[Tweet “Expect both blue skies and thunderstorms along your entrepreneurial journey.”]

I exhaled and my wife crawled out from under the rock. Completely soaked, bruised and now bitterly cold, we gathered ourselves and moved down the mountain as fast as we could, hoping to avoid a recurrence if the hail decided to start up again.

Traditional Swiss home on Schilthorn
The first houses I saw after the storm had passed. The window covers were latched shut. Evidently they were more prepared than we were…

About twenty minutes later the sun emerged from the clouds and we started to see other people on the trail. Cheese farms, traditional Swiss houses and cows littered the landscape as we made our way down through beautiful woods and open fields. Once again, we were in paradise. What a rollercoaster.

After making it to the cable car station, we were greeted with hot chocolate from the tourist guides. Dogs and people filled the station, all with their own tale of surviving the hail storm along the trail that day.


A Lesson for Entrepreneurs

The moral of this story is very applicable for entrepreneurs, and one I often reflect on. Ups and downs are part and parcel of running a business. You will go from euphoric states to uncontrollable slides, but just remember that nothing is forever. The business climate will change, for the better and for the worse. Some of your products will sell like hot cakes, while others will fail to make a profit. At the end of the day, however, the success of your business depends solely on you continuing the journey.

Entrepreneurship is about perseverance. Ride out the dark times, and be aware of everything that’s happening during those moments. Those rough patches are when you will learn how to succeed.

Never get too comfortable with success, and never let failure deter you from future progress. Expect both blue skies and thunderstorms along your entrepreneurial journey.

Stay hungry,
Aaron Hoddinott signature