Leadership Lessons Learned Facing Death At 8,000 Feet

March 2013





“Hey Bruce, your crampons are coming off!”



As my beloved brother-in-law turned to look at his boot and check what had
triggered my alarm, I didn’t for a second imagine that that he was going instantly
to lose his balance and initiate a fourteen hundred foot, hundred-mile-an-hour
plummet to his death at the foot of the glacier.


So begins my story presented within “Five Seconds at a Time” (Harper Collins,
2010)…an account of my having to spend the night near the top of Mount Ruapehu
(New Zealand), at temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius, dressed only in a sunhat,
tee-shirt, shorts and boots. The miracle of surviving the 8 hours before being
rescued by helicopter taught me several profound lessons about leadership and has
remained with me as truly a mountain-top story.


These lessons include the following…


1. To seize the day! There is no guarantee for tomorrow, so Carpé Diem! How
we see each day, primarily comes down to our attitude. I am now convinced
that leadership is a disposition, not a position; a thought-choice, not a title.
We become what we think, so as leaders we simply have to make the most of
every day/hour/minute/second that we have been granted.


2. That tragedies are potential blessings, and that we choose to be bitter or
better. Choice is our greatest freedom.


3. We can overcome the seemingly impossible as long as we keep our eyes
fixed on the vision. In my case it was to get through the longest night in my
life five seconds at a time, by hanging on to the image and expectation that I
would see the rising sun.


4. An obstacle is that which we see when we take our eyes off the vision.


5. Taking one step at a time isn’t just a cute expression – it’s a way of life and
means to survival/accomplishment…


6. Yes, we CAN eat an elephant! One mouthful at a time.


7. That mastery is the art of correction, not protection. Constantly correcting
my thinking and tendency to be pulled by fear off my determination to see
the rising sun was what saved my life.


8. Aristotle was right…. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not
an act but a habit”. We are slaves to our habits. Therefore…


9. …strive unceasingly to develop useful leadership habits.


10. Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. It
was Bruce’s love (by pulling his hand back from grasping my out-stretched
hand) that remains the supreme act of a leader.






Denis tells his harrowing story and lessons learned in “5 Seconds at a Time”

See it on Amazon here




About the author: Denis Shackel (left) and associate Jay Gilbert are a high performing
duo that work with corporate managers, executives, and their teams.





With Denis’ touching mountain top story as a foundation for the leadership curriculum, the giant
team of two will actively take your team through a journey of their own in pursuit of
unlocking their talents and reaching their highest potential.




On the web: www.shackelassociates.com




Watch Denis on TEDx…