The Appalachian Trail runs for 2,160 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Katahdin, Maine. It was originally laid out in 1937 by an idealist named Benton MacKaye with the idea of creating a continuously marked trail that would stress land preservation and community. It is estimated that it takes 5 million steps to walk the entire length of the trail. Most thru-hikers walk north, starting in Georgia in spring and finishing in Maine in fall, taking an average of 6 months. Two thousand people attempt to accomplish that goal every year. Fewer than 1 in 4 make it the entire length.

I’ve read 10 books about those brave adventurers who have attempted and completed the journey. Each one of them is a fascinating study of planning, will, courage, and persistence. They’ve all had different reasons to walk with spring through 14 different states, but their conclusions are all very similar. In fact, most take on “trail names” during their trek, as they find their identity on the “A.T.” bears little resemblance to who they were beforehand.

What makes the difference in being able to complete the journey versus the majority that start with the same intentions, but ultimately fail in their quest? Walking continuously for 6 months certainly takes a physical toll, but what mental challenges do you face? How do you push through the self-doubt, agony, and isolation? How do you last half a year enduring constant hunger and thirst, no bathrooms, and sleeping with various rodents on a nightly basis? After all, there is no monetary gain. There is no fame attached to the accomplishment. Heck, you don’t even get a trophy.

Here’s some advice from those who have beat the odds.

• Immerse yourself in the trip. The journey is what counts.
• Take along pictures of loved ones.
• Accept that you may have bad days, but don't dwell on it, each dawn brings a new day.
• Have faith in yourself, you are stronger than you think.
• Consider keeping a written journal, but don't make it an overwhelming task, just somewhere to jot down observations and thoughts when the mood strikes.
• Remember that you don't have to do it all in one day, you just need to keep on keeping on and make it to your next goal, whether that's your next camp or to the top of a peak.
• Take pictures of the people you meet. Log their names. These snapshots might be in town, too, not just on the trails.
• Take your time and "Hike your own Hike".
• Pack light. You won’t need as much as you think you will. The more you have to carry on your back, the harder and slower the hike will be.

How can you apply these principles to your business? How about your life?

1. How can you go from start-up to a large, thriving corporation? One step at a time. As Henry Ford once said, “nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”
2. Do your job and/or lead your company for the right reasons. It can’t just be for the money. Only you can answer the “why” for yourself. Without it, it’s doubtful you’ll succeed.
3. Don’t succumb to self doubt. If you have the right “why”, you can deal with any “what” that becomes an obstacle. Always keep the end in mind. “An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he's in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.” – Charles Kettering.
4. Value your support – not only your employees, but your loved ones. Nobody succeeds by themselves. Oprah Winfrey was clear to point out, “for every one of us that succeeds, it's because there's somebody there to show you the way out.”
5. You can accomplish the impossible. When you do, you will change and grow as a human being, and every one you touch will be the better for it.

How do you hike 2,160 miles? You put one foot in front of the other.

Recommended Reading:
Walking with Spring by Earl Shaffer.
• A Walk for Sunshine by Jeff Alt.

Author's Bio: 

Dave Eisley has worked in Sales Management and Training for over 15 years. Through this experience, he has learned what works, and more importantly, what doesn't.