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Yahoo’s Grind TV: Polar Explorer Alison Levine on Finding Adventure and First Ascents

Polar explorer Alison Levine on finding adventure and first ascents

alison levine first ascent

Levine nears the summit of Hall Peak during a first ascent out of Larson Valley in Antarctica. Photo: Courtesy of Levine

Alison Levine caught her breath at the top of Antarctica’s Hall Peak, surveying the frigid Larson Valley from her vantage point more than 7,000 feet above. Walter Hall — the geologist who studied the region back in the ‘60s — may have gotten naming rights, but Levine and her expedition teammates got the view. And that deserved a drink.

“Chris [Haver] lugged a bottle of 50-year-old scotch to the top of the mountain,” Levine laughs. “Typically when you’re on a climb, people are concerned about how much weight is in their pack. Then there’s Haver, with a full bottle of liquor. I don’t even like scotch, but I had to take a swig.”

RELATED: Everest relief climber gifted Adventurer of the Year award

Sipping scotch in the glaring sunlight just a month ago, Levine, Haver and five of their teammates completed their first ascent of Hall Peak, making them the first known people to explore the mountain.

But it’s only the latest descriptor to tack onto Levine’s multi-hyphenated title — making her a first-ascent-grabbing, North-and-South-Pole-skiing, Everest-expedition-leading, best-selling author. “Firsts” are kind of her thing.

alison levine first ascent

Levine is one of only a handful of people to complete the Adventurer Grand Slam by reaching the top of the highest mountain on every continent. She’s skied across the North and South Poles (fewer than 30 people can say the same) and was the first person to complete the 600-mile journey from west Antarctica to the South Pole via the Messner Route.

In 2002, Levine was named captain of the first American Women’s Everest expedition (which stopped short of the summit due to dangerous conditions). She returned to successfully summit Everest in 2010.

RELATED: Explorer attempting to cross the Antarctic solo dies

In short, she’s the type of person who, when a childhood friend asks her to join him on a first ascent to celebrate his 50th birthday, simply doesn’t consider “no” to be one of the options.

“The climb was [Haver’s] brainchild,” Levine says. “I was just one of the lucky ones who was invited to be part of the fun. I’d been to Antarctica twice before. I jumped at the opportunity to go back again, because Antarctica is hands-down the most unique environment I’ve ever experienced.”

alison levine first ascent

Not many people have stepped foot in Antarctica in general, but places like the Larson Valley remains almost completely untouched, surrounded by unclimbed peaks.

“The lack of beta is the main challenge,” says Levine. “You have absolutely no idea what to expect; you can’t do a Google search to get the 411. What really makes this type of challenge different is the total lack of predictability that is associated with anything in Antarctica.”

Should something go wrong out in Larson Valley, help isn’t coming — at least not quickly.

RELATED: Young mountaineer is picking off 8,000-meter peaks and planning an Antarctic expedition

“No one is passing through there like they are when you go to the South Pole,” she explains. “Good communications are critical since you have to stay in touch with the folks back at Union Glacier, which is the main camp where most of the expeditions launch from. You are never really even sure when you can fly home after a climb. The weather has been known to delay flights by weeks, so you have to be prepared with enough gear and supplies just in case.”

alison levine first ascent

In an ever-shrinking world, charted by hashtags and mapped out by travel blogs, Levine is making the case for real adventure — but, she explains, that doesn’t always mean bagging peaks at the bottom of the world.

“My thoughts are that ‘discovery’ doesn’t have to be about a geographic destination,” she says. “It can be about a destination that holds excitement, challenge and opens up a new world for you; and that will be someplace different for everyone.

“I mean, no one should say, ‘Oh, Hall Peak in the Larson Valley … that won’t be fun or interesting because people have already been there.’ Discovery can be about going to places that are new to you, and it can also be about adventures that teach you new things about yourself.”


Read more at http://www.grindtv.com/random/polar-explorer-alison-levine-finding-adventure-first-ascents/#zY2MiD1wYiEpAgFG.99

Forbes: What One Woman Learned From Climbing the Seven Summits

FORBES/Investing

What One Woman Learned From Climbing The World’s 7 Highest Peaks

NOV 25, 2015

By Natalie Burg

Alison Levine knows adventure. The 49-year-old polar explorer, mountaineer and businesswoman has completed the Adventure Grand Slam, an accomplishment that includes climbing to the highest point on every continent and venturing to the North and South Poles. She has faced failure and set records—all while enduring three heart surgeries and a rare condition that makes her more susceptible to frostbite.

In the meantime, she has also built an impressive business career. She has worked in the health care, technology and finance fields, including a stint at Goldman Sachs and serving as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s deputy finance director in his campaign for governor of California.

Her professional success is due in part to lessons she learned in the face of intense physical and mental challenges in extreme and remote situations. “A lot of the lessons I learned in the mountains helped me in business,” said Levine, author of the New York Times bestseller On the Edge: Lessons from Mount Everest and Other Extreme Environments. “But, on the flip side, a lot of the lessons I learned in business helped me in the mountains.”

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Levine shares four lessons she has learned from her extreme adventures, and explains how she has effectively applied them to her professional life.

1. Fear is good — it’s complacency that will kill you.

The Khumbu Icefall is one of the most dangerous areas on the route to Mount Everest. It’s made up of large towers of ice, which are known to collapse suddenly, and deep crevasses that can open just as quickly. The path is always at risk of shifting below climbers’ feet.

“You’re in constant danger of being crushed,” said Levine. “It is a super, super scary part of the mountain. If you’re not able to act and react quickly, that’s what’s going to kill you.”

Sound like anything you’ve encountered in your career? Levine draws comparisons between the importance of staying alert and responsive on the Khumbu Icefall and in business—and the consequences of complacency.

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“There are so many stories of companies who were out in front and became complacent,” said Levine. “BlackBerry is one of them. They were the leader in the handheld device market for so long, but then came apps and touch screens and things they weren’t able to accommodate.”

Those innovations in the mobile device market became the equivalent of the shifting ice of the Khumbu Icefall for BlackBerry, said Levine, who believes the company should have been more fearful.

“Fear is what prevents me from becoming complacent,” she said. “Fear is actually a useful tool. You have to be able to act and react quickly when you’re in environments that are constantly shifting and changing.”

2. Everyone on the team must be a leader.

Not only is leadership critically important when navigating extreme environments, said Levine, but also everyone on every team needs to be a leader. You may have seen this first-hand if you have ever tried mountain climbing—or if you’ve seen the new movie Everest, which chronicles a real event from 1996.

“Two of the world’s best, most experienced climbers were killed at that time,” said Levine. “One thing that led to people dying was that once the leaders were gone, nobody knew what to do. If you leave leadership to one person, that can be very dangerous.”

In business, as well as in extreme environments, everyone must empower themselves to be leaders—and to support their entire team, said Levine.

“Leadership has nothing to do with title or tenure or how many people report to you,” she said, “Leadership is about realizing that every single member has an equal responsibility to move the team toward a goal.”

3. Networking is everything.

In the mountains, your very survival can depend on your network. It’s not uncommon, she said, for people on the mountain to walk right past someone who is in need of help—dying even, in the extreme conditions—and not even realize it. Without a reason to stop and ask, climbers often assume someone on the side of the trail is just resting.

“One thing that always works in people’s favor is when they happen to know the people who are walking past when they’re struggling,” said Levine. People who know you are likely to stop to see if you need help, and even take on personal risk to assist you: “I tell people to put the effort into networking—you never know when it’s going to pay off.”

Similarly, when you’re challenged in your career or with a professional project, the person who will notice and stop to offer help is more likely to be someone you’ve made a meaningful connection with.

4. Keep adventuring—and be relentless.

For many people, completing the Adventurers Grand Slam while also having a high-powered business career would be enough accomplishments for a lifetime. Not for Levine. She’s preparing for two new adventures: She’s heading to Antarctica for the third time to do a first ascent of an unclimbed peak, and she’s the executive producer of a documentary film about the first Nepali woman to climb Mount Everest.

“I’m probably more excited about [the movie] than I am about anything else in my life,” she said. “It’s such an important story to tell.”

She also feels anxious because film making is uncharted territory for her. Fortunately, the lessons Levine has learned in other uncharted territories will help her deal with anything that comes her way.

“There are times when you’re just going to feel defeated and exhausted, and you may feel like you can’t keep going,” she said. “But what I’ve learned is you don’t have to be the best, strongest, fastest climber to get to the top of the mountain. You just have to be relentless about putting one foot in front of the other.”

A former downtown development professional, Natalie Burg is a freelancer who writes about growth, entrepreneurialism and innovation.

This article is not an endorsement or advice, and was written to promote awareness and is for educational purposes only

New York Times’ Women in the World: Meet Alison Levine

Life in the death zone: Alison Levine says “Everest” is  real

Having summited the highest peak on each of the planet’s seven continents, this intrepid woman can vouch for the legendary mountain’s ferocity.

World-class mountaineer and polar explorer Alison Levine. (Eric Philips)
World-class mountaineer and polar explorer Alison Levine. (Eric Philips)

On her second climb up Mount Everest, caught in a vicious midnight snowstorm in the region just below the summit, known as the Death Zone, Alison Levine felt her corneas starting to freeze. She had removed her goggles, which had fogged, and though she knew Chewang Nima Sherpa was just a few feet behind her, she was battling against the profound negative effects of altitude, fatigue and – Everest’s specialty – intimidation.

“We started out at night and it was snowing, and it really did not ever let up, so all I could see was white,” Levine, 49, recalled, in a far-ranging interview earlier this month. “They call it the Death Zone for a good reason. At 26,000 feet, the human body is literally starting to die.”

But Levine and her eyeballs did not die, and at 8am on May 24, 2010, she stood, elated, at the highest point on Earth, 29,029 feet above sea level. Elated, in part, because she had just joined the tiny fraction of humanity that has summited the highest peak on each of the planet’s seven continents and skied to both poles – a feat known as the Adventure Grand Slam.

Mount Everest is in the news again lately, this time as the focus of a new movie – named Everest, of all things – that portrays a disastrous 1996 attempt by a group of climbers to reach the summit in blizzard conditions. Eight people died. When she first heard about the movie, Levine said, she assumed it would be awful. “I thought it was going to be some cheesy adrenaline-junkie movie,” she said. After attending the Hollywood premiere of the film along with the director, Baltasar Kormakur, Levine told me it authentically captured the mountain’s ferocity and the emotional ambiguity over who, if anyone, was to blame for the fatal consequences.

“The cinematography and the special effects are nothing like I’ve ever seen – anywhere,” she said. “All of the footage looked like it was on Everest,” though the Dolomites in Italy were used for some scenes. “It’s just such a realistic portrayal of what life is like climbing up into the Death Zone.”

Beck Weathers, a member of that 1996 Everest expedition, whose book about the episode formed the basis of the movie, told Levine that the storms his group faced on the mountain had been even more severe than those the movie portrayed, she said. “Here is one instance,” she told me, “where Hollywood was less dramatic than reality.”

I first met Levine in 2009; we were introduced by a mutual friend who recognized our shared interest in outdoor adventure, and to be extra clear about what that means: she is a world-class mountaineer and polar explorer, and I am not. Since her Everest summit, Levine has built a wildly lucrative career as a public speaker and leadership expert out of her physical accomplishments. And she’s managed to do all of that by overcoming two serious illnesses that would keep most people from climbing no more than a long flight of stairs.

Levine was born with a potentially fatal heart condition, Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, that sent her to emergency rooms more than a dozen times, until a 1996 surgery corrected the abnormality. She still suffers from Raynaud’s Disease, a disorder of the blood vessels that, in cold weather, puts her in fingers and toes at extreme risk of frostbite.

Levine says she also manages a third debilitating physical condition: she is so short and slight – at five-feet-four-inches tall and 112 pounds – that her stature creates a size and speed disadvantage on expeditions that often include men of Viking proportions.

In 2014, Levine published, On the Edge: Leadership Lessons from Mount Everest and Other Extreme Environments, a business book that translated her extreme adventure experiences into bite-sized corporate leadership lessons. Those lessons also extend to the military: from 2009 to 2013, she was an adjunct faculty member at West Point, where she taught courses on leading teams in extreme environments.

For each of the last several years, Levine has earned her living by giving more than 100 polished multimedia presentations, which she calls “speeches,” that spoon-fed leadership insights to corporate groups around the country. She now grosses over $1 million a year for appearances that her audiences seem to love. She is, she says, her speaker bureau’s most requested booking.

All this paints an almost ridiculously impressive portrait of a tenacious, tough woman of extraordinary ambition and talent. But it doesn’t reveal how she got that way or explain the complex personality that quietly resides behind the mirrored polar goggles and neoprene face mask.

Levine was raised in Phoenix, and her parents became her two greatest influences. Her father, Jack, now 81, was a young FBI agent in 1962 when he became among the first within the bureau to publicly condemn J. Edgar Hoover for his brazen malefactions. It didn’t take long before “he was railroaded out of the FBI,” Levine said of her father. “Hoover blocked my dad from the Arizona bar. My dad sued the state bar, and he won.”

Her mother, Corinne, is a former president of Planned Parenthood of Arizona who went on to start a small business that sold china, crystal and high-end bed linens.

“I get my street smarts from my mom,” Levine said, “but my sense of determination from my dad. What I learned from him is you go to the mat for the things you believe in. And you absolutely go down swinging.”

When I asked her to describe the biggest turning points in her life, Levine mentioned only one related to her physical adventures: The realization that she was, due to her small size, the slowest member of the 2008 South Pole ski expedition, and how her teammates responded with grace instead of acrimony. “It really changed the way I approach challenges, teamwork, decision making,” she said. “I used to think if there’s someone who is weak, you just need to cut them loose.”

Another moment came during Levine’s first trip to Uganda in 2005 to climb the Rwenzori mountains, when she learned that women were not allowed to serve as porters or to even make the ascent. “Nobody knew the reason that women weren’t allowed on the mountain,” she said, “it was just tradition that they weren’t.” She kept asking why until, finally, local elders relented. “That was a huge light bulb moment for me,” she said. “I could be an architect of change, simply by asking the right questions.”

The experience led Levine to create the Climb High Foundation, which trains Ugandan women to work as trekking guides and porters.

The other big life lesson came when she was 17, after doctors diagnosed her congenital heart defect. “I learned that when people tell you, ‘You can do anything you want,’” she said, “that’s pretty much bullshit.”

Alison Levine is nothing if not a persistent opportunist. During a shift as a restaurant hostess in Tuscon, during her undergraduate years at the University of Arizona, she turned a chance meeting of local Mattel executives into a marketing internship at the company. After the Army rejected her attempt to enlist (she was too old, having turned 42 a few months earlier) Levine called a general she had met at a conference, who asked her to teach at West Point. As a low-level analyst at Goldman Sachs in San Francisco, she turned the task of introducing Arnold Schwarzenegger to a conference room full of investment bankers into a job as the deputy finance director of his successful 2003 campaign for governor.

“When they said, ‘Arnold Schwarzengger is going to be in San Francisco and has a couple of hours to kill,’”Levine told me in an email message, “that’s when I started thinking about what happens in his movies (since each one is a couple of hours in duration) and memorized the body counts of each of them.”

Wit and tenacious charm play a significant role in Levine’s success; she leverages an abundance of both with precision. But to borrow a phrase from Donna Summer, she works hard for the money. In hotel rooms, where she sleeps more often than not each month, thanks to a nearly nonstop speaking schedule, she improvises workout routines with “a gazillion pushups and lunges and wall sits.” On airplanes, Levine says she spends all her time answering every one of the hundreds of emails she receives each day, mostly from people who have recently seen her speak.

“I just try everyday to be a clutch player and come through for people and overdeliver what I am supposed to deliver,” she said. “I have a chapter in my book where I talk about my mantra, Count On Me. If I tell you I am going to do something, I do it.”

But unrestrained accountability has a dangerous tipping point, and Levine admits she’s started to reach it in her personal life. While she’s showing up for clients and expedition teammates, she’s not showing up for her friends and family members; important events involving people she cares about routinely happen without her.

“That’s what probably hurts me the most,” she said. “I miss weddings. I miss funerals. I missed my goddaughter’s high school graduation in Phoenix, because I had a speech booked that day.” She later added, “What I aspire to be, I’m not that person.”

What excites Levine the most nowadays is a documentary film she is executive producing about Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the first Nepalese woman to climb Mt. Everest, in 1993, on her third attempt, before she died on the descent. “It’s amazing to me that no one has ever told this woman’s story,” she said.

But she can stay out of the extreme outdoors only so long. In January, Levine plans to return to Antarctica, disappear behind her mirrored polar goggles and neoprene face mask, and join yet another expedition team of which she’ll likely be the smallest member. The goal this time, she said, is to complete a coveted first ascent of a yet-unnamed mountain range.

“I place value on what I can learn from these experiences and environments — like how to get psychology to pick up where physiology stops,” she said. “It’s empowering to learn that everything you need to get by in life can be carried on your back,” she added. “Once you figure all of that stuff out, not much can rattle you.”

Paul von Zielbauer is a literary explorer based in Los Angeles. He spent 11 years as a reporter for The New York Times before launching Roadmonkey.

Fortune.com: Here’s What You Can Learn About Leadership From ‘Everest


by Alison Levine  |  September 20, 2015

Alison Levine, who’s climbed the Seven Summits, says the new movie nails the details of climbing Everest—and the importance of authentic leadership.

Authenticity. It’s a word often associated with successful CEOs, high-ranking military officers, coaches of championship-winning sports teams and heads of state (well, a few of them anyway). It’s not, however, a term typically applied to anything related to Hollywood or the entertainment industry. But there is one director who’s out to change that: Baltasar Kormákur.

This weekend marks the opening of Kormákur’s $55 million feature film, Everest, one of Hollywood’s most anticipated movies of the fall. With a star-studded cast that includes Jake Gyllenhall, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Michael Kelly, Emily Watson, Keira Knightly, and Robin Wright—there is no shortage of A-listers in the credits. The movie is based on a true story and follows two groups of climbers as they attempt to scale the world’s highest peak.

I attended the premiere of the film last week at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and had no idea what to expect. Sure, the trailer looked good, but don’t they all? It’s the other 99% of the movie that typically never lives up to the hype.

I was skeptical when I first heard there was another Everest movie in the works. While there have been a couple of fabulous mountaineering films released in the past, the majority have been cheesy and ridiculous. I’ve climbed Everest twice, so I know what the mountain looks like and what it feels like. I wondered if the new movie would be another adrenaline-junkie film that would mainly appeal toCliffhanger devotees. I prepared myself for disappointment, because here’s the thing: You can’t out-Stallone Stallone.

But as Kormákur addressed the 3-D goggled audience before the start of the film, he made it abundantly clear that he “didn’t want to sanitize the people and the events.” Rather, he hoped to “humanize them and make them real.” He went on to explain that he shot in temperatures as low as -22F and at altitudes of 16,000 feet. He said he took the cast and crew as high as any insurance company would allow them to go. He wanted his actors to feel the stress and discomfort that’s associated with being up high, because that was the only way he could make sure that what came across in the final cut did indeed feel authentic.

They filmed a great deal of the movie in Nepal, with the balance filmed in the Dolomites in Italy and on a sound stage. I caught up with actors Michael Kelly and Jason Clarke (separately) after the screening, and talked to them about what it was like to film at altitude in the cold temperatures. They both mentioned how difficult it was to be flown right to the shooting location. They didn’t have time to properly acclimatize and were plagued with the headaches, nausea and insomnia that commonly accompany altitude sickness. Bummer for the actors, but another brilliant Kormákur move as far as “keeping it real,” since Everest climbers deal with these ailments on the mountain.

So, how did Kormákur get his celebrity cast and crew to deal with such uncomfortable conditions on top of an already-grueling shoot schedule? He did what any good leader would do: He went through the hardship with them. In his own words: “I think what’s helpful is that I will stay right there with them, in the same conditions, show them what they need to do…So they are more likely to work with you than if you’re sitting someplace warm and telling them, ‘Keep going.’”

Bingo. It’s important for leaders to show their teams that they’re willing to make the same sacrifices and endure the same hardships as everyone else. As a leader, you can never expect the people on your team to be willing to endure anything that you are not willing to endure. By getting out there with his cast and crew, Kormákur was building trust and loyalty—two incredibly important aspects of high-performing teams. And he needed these actors to perform, because they were re-creating scenes that would require them to withstand some of the most physically challenging conditions they had ever experienced.

You may know how the story unfolds: On May 10th, 1996, several groups of climbers left Camp 4 (which is situated at a place called the South Col at 26,000 feet) and headed for the summit, marching higher and higher into what is known as the “Death Zone.” They call it the Death Zone for a pretty good reason: because once you hit an altitude of about 26,000 feet, human life can no longer be sustained and your body is literally starting to die. Your muscle mass is deteriorating as you climb further and further up. And the more your body decays, the more the mountain demands from you. Summit day’s recipe is one part irony and one part cruelty as you’re tasked with making life or death decisions as your brain is oxygen starved and you’re suffering from hypoxia.

(SPOILER ALERT) The deadliest storm ever to hit the mountain enveloped the climbers who were stranded up high on the mountain. Visibility went to zero. Ferocious winds and ice tore at peoples’ skin. Human beings froze like statues and became part of the landscape on the mountain. Among those who died in the storm were two of the world’s best, most experienced mountaineers. The cold hard reality of mountaineering is that sometimes no matter how good you are, and no matter how experienced you are, things can still go wrong. And plenty did.

Everyone’s efforts to make Everest feel authentic paid off. The mountain scenes feel as real as any documentary. The cinematography and special effects are nothing short of spectacular. After the movie ended, I approached Kormákur and told him that he had made the most realistic mountaineering movie I had ever seen. Variety reported that he was on cloud nine after my comments. At least I know that he’s used to the altitude.

Alison Levine has climbed the Seven Summits and skied to both the North and South Poles. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller On the Edge: Leadership Lessons from Mount Everest and Other Extreme Environments.

Oprah.com Shares Alison’s Advice on Resilience

Alison Levine: How to Keep Going When You Think You Can’t

We’ve all hit the wall: that moment when carrying on feels impossible. Polar explorer Alison Levine—who has skied to both poles and summited Mount Everest—explains how to find the will when you think you’ve got nothing left.

Photo: Harry Kikstra
Photo: Harry Kikstra

1. Remember that backing up is not backing down.
Climbing a mountain is never a straight shot to the top. Because of Mount Everest’s altitude, you spend two months on the mountain acclimatizing your body (you know, so you don’t keel over and die), which means that every time you move forward, say from Basecamp to Camp 1 or from Camp 1 to Camp 2, you turn around and climb all the way back down to Basecamp and start over again the next day. Although going backward is extremely frustrating, it’s not a setback. It’s an opportunity to regroup and regain some strength. One of my favorite phrases is, “Backing up is not backing down.” When you return to where you started, it’s not defeat, it’s not backing down. So often we think in order to achieve something we have to go in one particular direction, but I’ve learned from my experience on mountains that progress doesn’t only move in one direction.

2. Give 150 percent to one thing at a time.
Initially when I was working full time while training to lead the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, I wasn’t doing a good job of anything. I would go to the gym at crazy hours—between midnight and 5 a.m.—and then I wouldn’t get enough sleep. That left me unfocused at work and meant I couldn’t give my colleagues what they deserved to get from me. So I thought, “During the week I’ll focus on work, and when I get home I’ll fundraise, but I’m going to save my training for the weekends.” By compartmentalizing, I could devote my best self to each task. It’s not just about getting everything done, it’s about getting things done the way they should be.

3. If you can’t pull, you can dig.
When I was skiing to the South Pole, I had a really hard time pulling my 150-pound sled full of gear across the frozen terrain. I kept slowing my team down because my 5-foot-4 frame, no matter how hard I trained, couldn’t keep up. I felt so defeated and even convinced myself everyone on my team hated me for it. Instead of giving in to those thoughts, though, or pushing myself too hard in some radical effort to overcome my size, I compensated by doing things I was good at. My taller teammates had a hard time shoveling snow when we made camp every night, so guess what I did? I shoveled like a maniac. In return, they carried some of the gear from my sled, which made pulling my weight—literally—a manageable feat.

4. Put your fear to work.
Here’s what you need to know about fear: It won’t kill you. You can be scared from morning until night, and it only becomes dangerous when you let it paralyze you. Whether you’re at 29,000 feet or sitting at a desk back on earth, that spark of fear can help you stay ahead of the game. If you acknowledge it, welcome it and refuse to let it paralyze you, you’ll make smarter decisions every time.

5. Don’t assume failure is final.
Fun fact: the first time I climbed Mount Everest with the American Women’s Everest Expedition, I had to turn back less than 300 feet from the top. After months of training, fundraising and media appearances, we failed. Coming up short on that climb in 2002 gave me the skills to summit Everest in 2010. If you only pursue challenges you know you can accomplish, you’re never going to achieve anything worthwhile.

Alison Talks Everest in Variety Magazine

‘Everest’ Director: We Need to Make Films that Feel Real

Everest premiere Tim Bevan, Baltasar Kormakur
CHELSEA LAUREN/VARIETY/REX SHUTTERSTOCK

Mannie Holmes | September 10, 2015

Everest” director Baltasar Kormákur was feeling on top of the world at the film premiere Wednesday night at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Kormákur was joyful when he learned that mountaineer Alison Levine called the film trailer the most accurate film portrayal of Earth’s highest mountain. It was a feat the director wanted to make while filming at the Italian Alps and near Everest’s South Base Camp in Nepal.

“When I heard that they were making this movie I thought, ‘Oh great, another cheesy, adrenaline-junky-Everest movie that seemed so unrealistic,” Levine said on the red carpet. “I could not believe how close this trailer looked to the real conditions on Everest. This, to me, looks like the most realistic climbing movie I’ve ever seen.”

And she would know. The explorer accomplished the Adventure Grand Slam in 2010 — climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents and reaching the north and south poles. Variety‘s Justin Chang wrote in his review, “the ever-present howl of the wind and the scrape of boots on snow are kept in just the right balance with the characters’ voices.”

“I just felt like we should do everything that we could possibly do with the elements,” the director responded. “The more that we make the Marvel studio films fantastic for what they are, the more we need to contradict that and make films that feel real.”

The chilling story in “Everest” follows the 1996 climbing expedition, where eight people lost their lives after a severe snowstorm. At the time, the disaster marked the mountain’s largest death toll during a single season.

“The crew had the hardest time because you have to walk up the mountain and then… you have to shoot for twelve hours,” Kormákur revealed about the most difficult filmmaking effort. “There were avalanche warnings every day on the course, we had to evacuate. We lost our sets due to the avalanches, but what I liked about it was that you’ll look up at the mountain and wonder, ‘What is this mountain going to let me do today?’”

He stated that Josh Brolin was the most “macho” on set and that the actor weathered through his fear of heights while filming. Actress Naoko Mori also felt up to the challenge to conquer a potentially dangerous role.

“There are no cars, no heating, no facilities and basically we had to carry everything ourselves and trek,” she started. “Lunch would be like two boiled eggs and a bit of Yak cheese… but we loved it.”

(Universal’s Jeff Shell and Donna Langley flank Cross Creek’s Brian Oliver.)

The after-party at The Roosevelt Hotel was not a far hike. Guests trekked only a few feet to the late night buffet and drinks provided after the 3D screening. Entering the hotel was an adventure in itself. The party wound around the inside of the hotel and out onto the pool area with more food, dessert trays and the opportunity to take pictures in front of a green screen — putting guests atop the Himalayas.

Film’s stars Michael Kelly and Jason Clarke were looking cool as they mingled at their reserved tables by the pool. The most noticeable absence — aside from Jake Gyllenhaal — was Jack Frost. It was nearly 80 degrees at nightfall while the party had backdrops of snowy mountaintops sprinkled throughout the venue.

Universal releases “Everest” Sept. 25.

Image and Style: Ms. Adventure Alison Levine

alison levine

At age 44, this American mountain climber, explorer, sportswoman and entrepreneur completed the last degree Adventure Grand Slam by reaching the summit of Mt. Everest. She has since transitioned into being a motivational and leadership speaker as well as being an author who penned a New York Times bestseller. She’s an inspiration to us and we hope you’ll feel likewise. Meet Ms. Adventure Alison Levine.

I&S: In your travels around the globe you have most likely met hundreds of fellow travelers. What do you perceive as the commonalities among those who seek the thrill of adventuring? Have you any reason to believe that some people are born adventurers?

AL: One thing that most adventurers have in common is a strong sense of curiosity. Curiosity not just about what lies “off the beaten track” – but a curiosity about themselves. They aren’t afraid to test themselves and operate completely outside of their comfort zones. Adventurers also have a need to see, feel and understand what lies outside of the everyday environments that surround most people on a day-to-day basis. As far as being “born” an adventurer – I actually think that anyone can catch the adventure bug and that it is more a function of the combination of that sense of curiosity mixed with open-mindedness and encouragement from people in your circle (and by that I mean parents, friends, teachers, siblings, etc. – anyone who has an influencing role in someone’s life).

I&S: What triggered your desire to mountaineer and/or expedition to the North/South poles? Can you describe the feeling of accomplishment you get from achieving your goals?

AL: From the time I was younger I was always very intrigued by the stories of the early mountaineers and the early Arctic and Antarctic explorers. I would read books and watch documentary films about them…and could never seem to take in enough information about these adventurers. I had my second heart surgery when I turned 30 (the first was at age 17 was not successful at correcting the heart defect I was born with) and after that a light bulb went on in my head and I thought: If I really want to know what it’s like to explore these extreme environments, then I should go experience them myself instead of simply reading about them.
As for the feeling of accomplishment, the things I focus on have changed over the years as I’ve grown older and wiser (well, hopefully wiser!). Instead of focusing on getting to the tops of mountains, I focus on what I can do to be the MVP of my team. While it’s always a bonus to get to the top of the mountain or to the North or South Pole, my goal is for the people on my team to look back on the experience and think, ”I am really glad she was part of our team.” That is what gives me that sense of accomplishment.

I&S: Preparation must play a large part in your journeys. Can you tell us about the physical, mental and practical considerations leading up to the start of one of your trips? Where do sponsorships come in with regard to going on expeditions?

AL: The only way to really prepare for a serious expedition is to simulate what it is that you’ll be doing during the trip. For example, if I am going to try to tackle a big mountain, I have to get out to the mountains to train. That means a six hour drive for me (each way) as I prefer to train on Mt. Shasta which is about 300 miles from my home in northern California. If I’m going to be dragging a 150 pound sled across the Arctic Circle or across the Antarctic continent then I have to try to simulate that experience. That means going out to the beach and harnessing a couple of tires to my waist and dragging them across the sand in order to simulate dragging the heavy sled across the ice. This is part of the physical and mental training because a lot of the time it can feel monotonous – and that feeling can certainly be part of these expeditions too! Training in a gym is not really going to help me prepare properly—mentally or physically.
As far as the sponsorships go, I have been very lucky in that I have been able to secure fabulous sponsors over the years. Ford sponsored the American Women’s Everest Expedition and had it not been for them, I would never have had the opportunity to climb that mountain. Finding financial sponsors is no easy task; you have to cast a very wide net and be okay with rejection, because you typically get a hundred companies that say “no” before one says “yes.” You need the “never give up” attitude not only when you’re on the mountain, but also when you’re in search of funding. If there’s something you really want to do, you’ll figure out how to get the money.

I&S: How have your experiences helped you in your career as a leadership author/speaker? Do you equate expedition planning with an executive’s ability to guide his/her company to success in the market?

AL: There are a lot of parallels between the challenges I face in the mountains and the challenges faced by businesspeople. The environments we operate in are similar in that they are unpredictable and are constantly shifting and changing. You have to be able to manage risk and deal with the unexpected. Had I not had these expedition experiences, I wouldn’t have the fabulous opportunities that I have today. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent several years on the adjunct faculty at West Point and to currently serve on the board of the Thayer Leader Development Group (which shares West Point leadership best practices with corporate executives). I also serve on the board of the Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics at Duke University, which is also a privilege for which I am very grateful. Yes, I teach, but I also learn. I will always be a student of leadership no matter what it is that I am doing.

I&S: Is it possible to teach leadership to others if they have not faced adversity? Or is it possible to create exercises to evoke leadership?

AL: Yes! I believe it is indeed possible to teach anyone about leadership and I also believe that leadership has nothing to do with having an “official title.” Leadership is everyone’s responsibility because we are all responsible for looking out for the people around us. Of course if you have faced a lot of adversity then you already have the inner-strength and determination which helps build strong leaders. The other thing to remember is that one person might view a particular situation as challenging when someone else could look at it and think it is no big deal. Everyone has a different definition of adversity. One of the reasons I wrote the book was to give people guidance on how to become a leader of consequence that has a positive impact on those around them.

I&S: You’ve held several jobs over the years in parallel with your time spent abroad. Is the author/speaker role going to be your profession going forward or do you expect some new challenge to lure you away? What would cause you to drop everything right now and go?

AL: I am loving the author/speaker job because it gives me something I could never have in a corporate job: flexibility in my schedule and unlimited vacation time (should I choose to take it). I can tell my agent, “hey, don’t book me for any speeches in July because I am heading to the mountains.” I can take two months off if I am doing a big expedition and then hit the ground running again on the speaker’s circuit when I get back. Of course this year has been a little more intense because of the book tour, so I haven’t had much “vacation time.” But heck, it’s my first book (my baby!!!) so I don’t mind being on the road all the time in order to promote it. I don’t see my career taking any major turns anytime soon. The only thing that would make me drop everything right now is if someone I loved needed me to be there to care for them. People are always more important than jobs.

I&S: Can you tell us about your book, On The Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership? From first draft to final format, how long did it take you to write? How was your reception from potential publishers? How did Hachette win you over?

AL: Never in a million years would I have thought I could write a book that would end up on the New York Times bestseller list. I had been approached by a number of publishers and literary agents over the past decade but never really followed up with any of them because I did not feel a sense of urgency to actually start writing—probably because I just didn’t feel “ready” at that point. Well, I hit the speaking circuit in 2006 and after every speech a bunch of people would come up to me and say, ”Oh – that was great! What is the name of your book? I really want to read it.” Awkward moment…”Uh…I don’t have a book.” Then they would say, “WHAT? How can you not have a book?” After hearing that for a few years I decided it was time to make it happen. I thought it was important to share the lessons I have learned in these beautiful yet dangerous places, and given I can only reach so many people through my speeches, I figured a book was the best way to increase my “reach.” I wanted to tell the good, the bad and the ugly. I did not want it to be a book about accomplishment. I wanted to focus on the hits and the misses, the stumbles, the heartbreaks and the failures. I wanted to be able to share the things that I might not be able to share when there are people from the Human Resources department standing in the back of the room. The book allows me to do that. It is definitely edgier than the speech (although the speech is fairly edgy as well). I probably spent six months in “serious writing mode,” but you could say that my expedition journals were the beginnings of it all…and those were started back in 2002.
Because the book presents a very unique view on leadership and achievement, we had a lot of interest from publishers. My literary agent (Dupree Miller) was able to set up meetings with four of the “Big Five” publishers. Hachette won me over because the editor I met with had published other leadership books by people I really admired—like Coach K, Hank Paulson and Tiger Woods (pre-scandal). And also…they were willing to give me a very generous advance, which signaled that they really believed in me as an author and were willing to throw a lot of support behind my book.

I&S: Where can readers find your book along with your schedule for upcoming presentations?

AL: On the Edge is available online at 800CEORead , Amazon,  Barnes & Noble, or people can buy it from their favorite independent book-seller. It is also available as an audiobook (and it’s my voice reading the audio version).

As far as my presentations go, most of them are keynotes I deliver at corporate events. But several times a year I speak at events that are open to the public. Those will always be listed on the homepage banner of my website at www.alisonlevine.com and will be announced on my twitter feed @levine_alison.

I&S: Potential is realized only when one pushes beyond the comfort zone. Who among us can say we really push ourselves beyond our limits? Is feeling “stressed” a response to such situations or is this an emotional consequence of not preparing for the ordeal ahead? We urge you to read Ms. Levine’s book so you understand the difference…and how action and preparation can lead to better outcomes in your life.

At age 44, this American mountain climber, explorer, sportswoman and entrepreneur completed the last degree Adventure Grand Slam by reaching the summit of Mt. Everest. She has since transitioned into being a motivational and leadership speaker as well as being an author who penned a New York Times bestseller. She’s an inspiration to us and we hope you’ll feel likewise. Meet Ms. Adventure Alison Levine.

I&S: In your travels around the globe you have most likely met hundreds of fellow travelers. What do you perceive as the commonalities among those who seek the thrill of adventuring? Have you any reason to believe that some people are born adventurers?

AL: One thing that most adventurers have in common is a strong sense of curiosity. Curiosity not just about what lies “off the beaten track” – but a curiosity about themselves. They aren’t afraid to test themselves and operate completely outside of their comfort zones. Adventurers also have a need to see, feel and understand what lies outside of the everyday environments that surround most people on a day-to-day basis. As far as being “born” an adventurer – I actually think that anyone can catch the adventure bug and that it is more a function of the combination of that sense of curiosity mixed with open-mindedness and encouragement from people in your circle (and by that I mean parents, friends, teachers, siblings, etc. – anyone who has an influencing role in someone’s life).

I&S: What triggered your desire to mountaineer and/or expedition to the North/South poles? Can you describe the feeling of accomplishment you get from achieving your goals?

AL: From the time I was younger I was always very intrigued by the stories of the early mountaineers and the early Arctic and Antarctic explorers. I would read books and watch documentary films about them…and could never seem to take in enough information about these adventurers. I had my second heart surgery when I turned 30 (the first was at age 17 was not successful at correcting the heart defect I was born with) and after that a light bulb went on in my head and I thought: If I really want to know what it’s like to explore these extreme environments, then I should go experience them myself instead of simply reading about them.
As for the feeling of accomplishment, the things I focus on have changed over the years as I’ve grown older and wiser (well, hopefully wiser!). Instead of focusing on getting to the tops of mountains, I focus on what I can do to be the MVP of my team. While it’s always a bonus to get to the top of the mountain or to the North or South Pole, my goal is for the people on my team to look back on the experience and think, ”I am really glad she was part of our team.” That is what gives me that sense of accomplishment.

I&S: Preparation must play a large part in your journeys. Can you tell us about the physical, mental and practical considerations leading up to the start of one of your trips? Where do sponsorships come in with regard to going on expeditions?

AL: The only way to really prepare for a serious expedition is to simulate what it is that you’ll be doing during the trip. For example, if I am going to try to tackle a big mountain, I have to get out to the mountains to train. That means a six hour drive for me (each way) as I prefer to train on Mt. Shasta which is about 300 miles from my home in northern California. If I’m going to be dragging a 150 pound sled across the Arctic Circle or across the Antarctic continent then I have to try to simulate that experience. That means going out to the beach and harnessing a couple of tires to my waist and dragging them across the sand in order to simulate dragging the heavy sled across the ice. This is part of the physical and mental training because a lot of the time it can feel monotonous – and that feeling can certainly be part of these expeditions too! Training in a gym is not really going to help me prepare properly—mentally or physically.
As far as the sponsorships go, I have been very lucky in that I have been able to secure fabulous sponsors over the years. Ford sponsored the American Women’s Everest Expedition and had it not been for them, I would never have had the opportunity to climb that mountain. Finding financial sponsors is no easy task; you have to cast a very wide net and be okay with rejection, because you typically get a hundred companies that say “no” before one says “yes.” You need the “never give up” attitude not only when you’re on the mountain, but also when you’re in search of funding. If there’s something you really want to do, you’ll figure out how to get the money.

I&S: How have your experiences helped you in your career as a leadership author/speaker? Do you equate expedition planning with an executive’s ability to guide his/her company to success in the market?

AL: There are a lot of parallels between the challenges I face in the mountains and the challenges faced by businesspeople. The environments we operate in are similar in that they are unpredictable and are constantly shifting and changing. You have to be able to manage risk and deal with the unexpected. Had I not had these expedition experiences, I wouldn’t have the fabulous opportunities that I have today. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent several years on the adjunct faculty at West Point and to currently serve on the board of the Thayer Leader Development Group (which shares West Point leadership best practices with corporate executives). I also serve on the board of the Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics at Duke University, which is also a privilege for which I am very grateful. Yes, I teach, but I also learn. I will always be a student of leadership no matter what it is that I am doing.

I&S: Is it possible to teach leadership to others if they have not faced adversity? Or is it possible to create exercises to evoke leadership?

AL: Yes! I believe it is indeed possible to teach anyone about leadership and I also believe that leadership has nothing to do with having an “official title.” Leadership is everyone’s responsibility because we are all responsible for looking out for the people around us. Of course if you have faced a lot of adversity then you already have the inner-strength and determination which helps build strong leaders. The other thing to remember is that one person might view a particular situation as challenging when someone else could look at it and think it is no big deal. Everyone has a different definition of adversity. One of the reasons I wrote the book was to give people guidance on how to become a leader of consequence that has a positive impact on those around them.

I&S: You’ve held several jobs over the years in parallel with your time spent abroad. Is the author/speaker role going to be your profession going forward or do you expect some new challenge to lure you away? What would cause you to drop everything right now and go?

AL: I am loving the author/speaker job because it gives me something I could never have in a corporate job: flexibility in my schedule and unlimited vacation time (should I choose to take it). I can tell my agent, “hey, don’t book me for any speeches in July because I am heading to the mountains.” I can take two months off if I am doing a big expedition and then hit the ground running again on the speaker’s circuit when I get back. Of course this year has been a little more intense because of the book tour, so I haven’t had much “vacation time.” But heck, it’s my first book (my baby!!!) so I don’t mind being on the road all the time in order to promote it. I don’t see my career taking any major turns anytime soon. The only thing that would make me drop everything right now is if someone I loved needed me to be there to care for them. People are always more important than jobs.

I&S: Can you tell us about your book, On The Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership? From first draft to final format, how long did it take you to write? How was your reception from potential publishers? How did Hachette win you over?

AL: Never in a million years would I have thought I could write a book that would end up on the New York Times bestseller list. I had been approached by a number of publishers and literary agents over the past decade but never really followed up with any of them because I did not feel a sense of urgency to actually start writing—probably because I just didn’t feel “ready” at that point. Well, I hit the speaking circuit in 2006 and after every speech a bunch of people would come up to me and say, ”Oh – that was great! What is the name of your book? I really want to read it.” Awkward moment…”Uh…I don’t have a book.” Then they would say, “WHAT? How can you not have a book?” After hearing that for a few years I decided it was time to make it happen. I thought it was important to share the lessons I have learned in these beautiful yet dangerous places, and given I can only reach so many people through my speeches, I figured a book was the best way to increase my “reach.” I wanted to tell the good, the bad and the ugly. I did not want it to be a book about accomplishment. I wanted to focus on the hits and the misses, the stumbles, the heartbreaks and the failures. I wanted to be able to share the things that I might not be able to share when there are people from the Human Resources department standing in the back of the room. The book allows me to do that. It is definitely edgier than the speech (although the speech is fairly edgy as well). I probably spent six months in “serious writing mode,” but you could say that my expedition journals were the beginnings of it all…and those were started back in 2002.
Because the book presents a very unique view on leadership and achievement, we had a lot of interest from publishers. My literary agent (Dupree Miller) was able to set up meetings with four of the “Big Five” publishers. Hachette won me over because the editor I met with had published other leadership books by people I really admired—like Coach K, Hank Paulson and Tiger Woods (pre-scandal). And also…they were willing to give me a very generous advance, which signaled that they really believed in me as an author and were willing to throw a lot of support behind my book.

I&S: Where can readers find your book along with your schedule for upcoming presentations?

AL: On the Edge is available online at 800CEORead , Amazon,  Barnes & Noble, or people can buy it from their favorite independent book-seller. It is also available as an audiobook (and it’s my voice reading the audio version).

As far as my presentations go, most of them are keynotes I deliver at corporate events. But several times a year I speak at events that are open to the public. Those will always be listed on the homepage banner of my website at www.alisonlevine.com and will be announced on my twitter feed @levine_alison.

I&S: Potential is realized only when one pushes beyond the comfort zone. Who among us can say we really push ourselves beyond our limits? Is feeling “stressed” a response to such situations or is this an emotional consequence of not preparing for the ordeal ahead? We urge you to read Ms. Levine’s book so you understand the difference…and how action and preparation can lead to better outcomes in your life.

At age 44, this American mountain climber, explorer, sportswoman and entrepreneur completed the last degree Adventure Grand Slam by reaching the summit of Mt. Everest. She has since transitioned into being a motivational and leadership speaker as well as being an author who penned a New York Times bestseller. She’s an inspiration to us and we hope you’ll feel likewise. Meet Ms. Adventure Alison Levine.

I&S: In your travels around the globe you have most likely met hundreds of fellow travelers. What do you perceive as the commonalities among those who seek the thrill of adventuring? Have you any reason to believe that some people are born adventurers?

AL: One thing that most adventurers have in common is a strong sense of curiosity. Curiosity not just about what lies “off the beaten track” – but a curiosity about themselves. They aren’t afraid to test themselves and operate completely outside of their comfort zones. Adventurers also have a need to see, feel and understand what lies outside of the everyday environments that surround most people on a day-to-day basis. As far as being “born” an adventurer – I actually think that anyone can catch the adventure bug and that it is more a function of the combination of that sense of curiosity mixed with open-mindedness and encouragement from people in your circle (and by that I mean parents, friends, teachers, siblings, etc. – anyone who has an influencing role in someone’s life).

I&S: What triggered your desire to mountaineer and/or expedition to the North/South poles? Can you describe the feeling of accomplishment you get from achieving your goals?

AL: From the time I was younger I was always very intrigued by the stories of the early mountaineers and the early Arctic and Antarctic explorers. I would read books and watch documentary films about them…and could never seem to take in enough information about these adventurers. I had my second heart surgery when I turned 30 (the first was at age 17 was not successful at correcting the heart defect I was born with) and after that a light bulb went on in my head and I thought: If I really want to know what it’s like to explore these extreme environments, then I should go experience them myself instead of simply reading about them.
As for the feeling of accomplishment, the things I focus on have changed over the years as I’ve grown older and wiser (well, hopefully wiser!). Instead of focusing on getting to the tops of mountains, I focus on what I can do to be the MVP of my team. While it’s always a bonus to get to the top of the mountain or to the North or South Pole, my goal is for the people on my team to look back on the experience and think, ”I am really glad she was part of our team.” That is what gives me that sense of accomplishment.

I&S: Preparation must play a large part in your journeys. Can you tell us about the physical, mental and practical considerations leading up to the start of one of your trips? Where do sponsorships come in with regard to going on expeditions?

AL: The only way to really prepare for a serious expedition is to simulate what it is that you’ll be doing during the trip. For example, if I am going to try to tackle a big mountain, I have to get out to the mountains to train. That means a six hour drive for me (each way) as I prefer to train on Mt. Shasta which is about 300 miles from my home in northern California. If I’m going to be dragging a 150 pound sled across the Arctic Circle or across the Antarctic continent then I have to try to simulate that experience. That means going out to the beach and harnessing a couple of tires to my waist and dragging them across the sand in order to simulate dragging the heavy sled across the ice. This is part of the physical and mental training because a lot of the time it can feel monotonous – and that feeling can certainly be part of these expeditions too! Training in a gym is not really going to help me prepare properly—mentally or physically.
As far as the sponsorships go, I have been very lucky in that I have been able to secure fabulous sponsors over the years. Ford sponsored the American Women’s Everest Expedition and had it not been for them, I would never have had the opportunity to climb that mountain. Finding financial sponsors is no easy task; you have to cast a very wide net and be okay with rejection, because you typically get a hundred companies that say “no” before one says “yes.” You need the “never give up” attitude not only when you’re on the mountain, but also when you’re in search of funding. If there’s something you really want to do, you’ll figure out how to get the money.

I&S: How have your experiences helped you in your career as a leadership author/speaker? Do you equate expedition planning with an executive’s ability to guide his/her company to success in the market?

AL: There are a lot of parallels between the challenges I face in the mountains and the challenges faced by businesspeople. The environments we operate in are similar in that they are unpredictable and are constantly shifting and changing. You have to be able to manage risk and deal with the unexpected. Had I not had these expedition experiences, I wouldn’t have the fabulous opportunities that I have today. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent several years on the adjunct faculty at West Point and to currently serve on the board of the Thayer Leader Development Group (which shares West Point leadership best practices with corporate executives). I also serve on the board of the Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics at Duke University, which is also a privilege for which I am very grateful. Yes, I teach, but I also learn. I will always be a student of leadership no matter what it is that I am doing.

I&S: Is it possible to teach leadership to others if they have not faced adversity? Or is it possible to create exercises to evoke leadership?

AL: Yes! I believe it is indeed possible to teach anyone about leadership and I also believe that leadership has nothing to do with having an “official title.” Leadership is everyone’s responsibility because we are all responsible for looking out for the people around us. Of course if you have faced a lot of adversity then you already have the inner-strength and determination which helps build strong leaders. The other thing to remember is that one person might view a particular situation as challenging when someone else could look at it and think it is no big deal. Everyone has a different definition of adversity. One of the reasons I wrote the book was to give people guidance on how to become a leader of consequence that has a positive impact on those around them.

I&S: You’ve held several jobs over the years in parallel with your time spent abroad. Is the author/speaker role going to be your profession going forward or do you expect some new challenge to lure you away? What would cause you to drop everything right now and go?

AL: I am loving the author/speaker job because it gives me something I could never have in a corporate job: flexibility in my schedule and unlimited vacation time (should I choose to take it). I can tell my agent, “hey, don’t book me for any speeches in July because I am heading to the mountains.” I can take two months off if I am doing a big expedition and then hit the ground running again on the speaker’s circuit when I get back. Of course this year has been a little more intense because of the book tour, so I haven’t had much “vacation time.” But heck, it’s my first book (my baby!!!) so I don’t mind being on the road all the time in order to promote it. I don’t see my career taking any major turns anytime soon. The only thing that would make me drop everything right now is if someone I loved needed me to be there to care for them. People are always more important than jobs.

I&S: Can you tell us about your book, On The Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership? From first draft to final format, how long did it take you to write? How was your reception from potential publishers? How did Hachette win you over?

AL: Never in a million years would I have thought I could write a book that would end up on the New York Times bestseller list. I had been approached by a number of publishers and literary agents over the past decade but never really followed up with any of them because I did not feel a sense of urgency to actually start writing—probably because I just didn’t feel “ready” at that point. Well, I hit the speaking circuit in 2006 and after every speech a bunch of people would come up to me and say, ”Oh – that was great! What is the name of your book? I really want to read it.” Awkward moment…”Uh…I don’t have a book.” Then they would say, “WHAT? How can you not have a book?” After hearing that for a few years I decided it was time to make it happen. I thought it was important to share the lessons I have learned in these beautiful yet dangerous places, and given I can only reach so many people through my speeches, I figured a book was the best way to increase my “reach.” I wanted to tell the good, the bad and the ugly. I did not want it to be a book about accomplishment. I wanted to focus on the hits and the misses, the stumbles, the heartbreaks and the failures. I wanted to be able to share the things that I might not be able to share when there are people from the Human Resources department standing in the back of the room. The book allows me to do that. It is definitely edgier than the speech (although the speech is fairly edgy as well). I probably spent six months in “serious writing mode,” but you could say that my expedition journals were the beginnings of it all…and those were started back in 2002.
Because the book presents a very unique view on leadership and achievement, we had a lot of interest from publishers. My literary agent (Dupree Miller) was able to set up meetings with four of the “Big Five” publishers. Hachette won me over because the editor I met with had published other leadership books by people I really admired—like Coach K, Hank Paulson and Tiger Woods (pre-scandal). And also…they were willing to give me a very generous advance, which signaled that they really believed in me as an author and were willing to throw a lot of support behind my book.

I&S: Where can readers find your book along with your schedule for upcoming presentations?

AL: On the Edge is available online at 800CEORead , Amazon,  Barnes & Noble, or people can buy it from their favorite independent book-seller. It is also available as an audiobook (and it’s my voice reading the audio version).

As far as my presentations go, most of them are keynotes I deliver at corporate events. But several times a year I speak at events that are open to the public. Those will always be listed on the homepage banner of my website at www.alisonlevine.com and will be announced on my twitter feed @levine_alison.

I&S: Potential is realized only when one pushes beyond the comfort zone. Who among us can say we really push ourselves beyond our limits? Is feeling “stressed” a response to such situations or is this an emotional consequence of not preparing for the ordeal ahead? We urge you to read Ms. Levine’s book so you understand the difference…and how action and preparation can lead to better outcomes in your life.