Former Wall Street exec shares life lessons from the mountains

Adventurer uses lessons learned mountain climbing for business world


Alison Levine was the first American to ski 600 miles across the Messner Route between west Antarctica to the South Pole.

She did it while carrying 150 pounds in gear and supplies in a sled harnessed to her waist.

The adventurer and former Wall Street executive said she has a passion for exploration.

"From the time I was younger, I was just always very intrigued by the stories of the early Arctic and Antarctic explorers. I thought if they can do it, why not me?" said Levine.

In 2010 she completed what's called the Adventure Grand Slam, climbing the seven the highest peaks on each continent.  She has also skied to both the North and South Poles. According to her website, AlisonLevine.com, fewer than 30 people in the world have completed all of these climbs.

Levine has reached these high-climbing goals despite having a congenital heart defect and a serious neurological disease.

She said her mountain climbing has taught her so much that she can use in her everyday life.

"I found that so many of these lessons I learned on the mountains really carried over to challenges I faced in the business world," said Levine.

Levine's career accomplishments include working for Goldman Sachs in New York, serving as deputy finance director for Arnold Schwarzenegger during his bid to be governor of California, and working as an adjunct professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

She is also a New York Times best-selling author who travels the country speaking to people about the lessons she has learned.

Lesson #1: Effort Matters.

"You don't have to be the best, strongest, fastest, most skilled climber to get to the top. You just have to be absolutely relentless about putting one foot in front of the other," Levine said.

Lesson #2: Fear is Good.

Lesson #3: Embrace Failure.

"Fear keeps me awake, alert, on my toes," Levine said. "I think, in general, we're not really a failure-tolerant society, which is really too bad because a lack of failure tolerance really stifles progress and innovation and prevents people from taking risks."

Lesson #4: Keeping Pushing Outside Your Comfort Zone

"What is dangerous is complacency, and that's in the mountains and in the business world," Levine said.

Levine has spent this last year on tour for her new book called "On the Edge: Leadership Lessons from Mount Everest and Other Extreme Environments."

Levine said for her next adventure, she wants to try climbing a peak in Nepal that has not yet been climbed.