The Walk

MMS 12122016Mark LeBlanc is known for many things: Exceptional small business coach, National Speaker’s Association Past President, philanthropist, loyal friend, and the best Uncle on the planet (his words.) He’s also walked one of the top three pilgrimages in the world… The Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James.

The Camino is a 500-mile trek through Northern Spain which culminates in Galicia at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which houses the shrine of the apostle James. It is believed his remains are buried there. “The Way” as it is sometimes called was an early Roman trade route and has been traveled as a pilgrimage since the Middle Ages. Today, it is a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site and in 2015 was traveled by over 260,000 people, 16% of them were over 60 years old.

So, it’s kind of a big deal and a remarkable achievement even once in a lifetime. Mark LeBlanc has done it, not once but twice, and will walk it again for a third time in May 2017.

Recently, at his Achiever’s Circle Weekend for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs, Mark mentioned some lessons learned on his “Camino” that he has found transferable to his business and his life. In many conversations with Mark about his epic journey and in reading his book, “Never Be the Same,” I’ve gleaned these two jewels among many from his wisdom:

1) You can’t speed-walk the Camino. It’s not the point. The Camino is not a race and there is no prize, recognition, or accolades for doing it in a particular timeframe or beating everybody or anybody else. The Camino requires patience and tenacity, and the lessons learned unfold in their own time. The Camino is 100% about the personal journey of self-discovery, strength, freedom, and awakening. Much like our personal journeys as professionals, leaders, business owners, and team members, there are no shortcuts. No bypasses. Everyone must pay a price. Everyone can win at their own pace and for their own reasons.

2) There are three stages to the Camino: Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual.
Physical: The first third of the trip is the most physically challenging with an elevation gain of almost 4100 feet. Think blisters, sore muscles, and overwhelming fatigue. A challenge of this magnitude will build your physical strength and capabilities quickly or knock you out at the start. Most pilgrims say they were 100% focused on just physically making it through the climb through the Pyrenees.

In business, most professionals must first learn the basic physical principles of business mastery. They must set their own alarm clocks, work until the job is done, learn to steward finances, and make many, many mistakes as well as painful sacrifices of time and money to see that their dreams can actually take flight.

Emotional: Back on the trail, once the body has toughened up and the muscles are in better shape, pilgrims move into a part of the Walk called the Meseta which has days and days of repetitive flat scenery without shade in the summer months. It’s now time for some emotional and mental calisthenics. In this section, some walkers cited trying to remember why they were even doing this in the first place, learning to maintain or create new interest when everything around them looks exactly the same day in and day out, or learning to master their mental focus by concentrating on one thing, one person, or one step at a time. This phase is about developing the mental and emotional discipline to forge forward even when the journey becomes boring and mundane and when you’ve lost sight of the excitement of beginning something but have not yet felt the adrenaline rush of seeing the finish line off in the distance.

This is very similar to the everyday march of business professionals who must find the mental discipline to execute the basic principles of business every day… long after the grand opening or first day on the job and long before you actually get the promotion or see the accomplishment of your ultimate goals.

Spiritual: The final third of the Camino is the spiritual phase. One traveler described it this way, “Here, having eased into a dependable rhythm with my body and my mind, I settled into a deep knowing, an understanding, and a fullness of purpose about why I was here. I found answers to questions I didn’t even know I had and connected deeply with a source I didn’t even know was available. By the end, I had discovered the reason I was walking the Camino was profoundly different than the one from which I started.”

And so it is with those of us who journey down our personal paths in business and in life. We often start out toward our goals for one reason only to realize along the way another more profound reason for the journey. One that makes all the physical, emotional, and mental challenges more than worthwhile and forges who we become as leaders. And the only way to that understanding in the third phase is through the journey of the first two.

Mark says that send offs in the morning from hostel owners and passing fellow pilgrims are often a shout of “Ultreia!” (“onward and upward”) which is a wish since the Middle Ages of undying courage or “Buen Camino” (Spanish for “Good Walk.”)

Thank you, Mark LeBlanc, for these lessons and for sharing your journey in multiple ways with all of us. Buen Camino!

If you are interested in Mark LeBlanc’s work, his Achiever’s Circle weekend, or in purchasing his book, “Never Be the Same” (also on audio), email Kylie@GrowingYourBusiness.com  for details.

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