Globe and Mail Update
Published Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011 3:26PM EST
Last updated Friday, Jan. 28, 2011 2:22PM EST

A quote I stumbled on recently really resonated with me. It happened to capture perfectly an idea that had been formulating for a while in my mind. It was actually Oprah who said “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” This may sound quite ordinary to some, but it happened to encapsulate what I feel is a great strength of Business School.

In the short time that I have been in B-School, the breadth of knowledge I have been exposed to and the quality of talented business professionals has been immense. Getting to meet and chat with a CFO of a large multinational mining company, the head of a world-renowned advertising agency and the former chief economist of a large investment bank is just a taste of the experience that our cohort has had.

Meeting truly talented and successful business professionals coming from a wide variety of disciplines, who are willing to give their time to share experiences and inspirations, is an opportunity that not many get in their daily work environment. I believe the more exposure you can get to people excelling in the field, the more likely that success will rub off on you eventually.

Ultimately, the people who surround you in your daily work and school life will be the ones whom you learn from the most and will shape your career for the years to come. However, hearing from people whom you wouldn’t usually get to meet, who have been to where you want to go, can be instrumental in your personal and professional development.

I found myself thinking this when hearing the stories of author Jim Hayhurst Sr. when he visited this week.

Mr. Hayhurst had previously been in the advertising industry and then became a founding partner in career advisers The Right Mountain, as well as being a motivational speaker and philanthropist. He wrote a book on his 1988 expedition to Mount Everest and how his experience on the mountain taught him various inspirational lessons that changed his definition of success. Ideas such as knowing your core values, relating success to your true purpose in life and looking back on past successes to gain confidence for the future were all real experiences from the mountain that are applicable to the business world.

One story he told, in particular, truly stuck with me. He was climbing the mountain with a team that included his 20-year-old son Jim Jr. While stepping from stone to stone crossing a river, Jim Jr. slipped and fell into the water. The current caught him and swept him downstream. Just before going over a cliff, a rock caught between his pack and his body, leaving him hanging over the edge of the cliff.

Jim Sr.’s first inclination was to bolt over the riverbed and jump in, but reasoning soon took over. Knowing that he had one good chance of saving Jim Jr. by throwing a rope to him, Jim Sr. realized he wasn’t the person who should be doing the throwing. He knew a member of his team was more capable of getting the rope to Jim Jr. in one throw, as that was probably the only shot they had. Without delay, Jim Sr. handed over the rope to the trusted member of his team and all he could do was watch. The power was out of his hands.

This story is a great lesson for business. Whether you are the owner of your own business, managing a team of 10 or working closely with a colleague, sometimes you have to know when to give up control to a team member who can do it better. “Sometimes you have to let somebody else do it,” is how Jim Sr. put it.

In the end, Jim Jr. was pulled from the riverbed to safety and the two Jims’ journey up Everest continued on.

Building a career is a lot like climbing a mountain at times. You need a solid team to rely on and seasoned experts to guide you along the way. Nobody’s climbing Everest without a guide, and when you are building your career, why should it be any different? Surround yourself with the best people and get exposed to as much talent as possible and the mountain just got that much more climbable.