From Mount Errigal to the Blue Ocean

The views from Mount Errigal to the blue ocean were spectacular when I reached the summit.

It was a perfect day to climb the highest peak in Ireland’s County Donegal in the Derryveagh mountains. I had stayed overnight in the nearby Errigal Hostel and woke early under a blue sky. Later, some clouds appeared but it was still sunny and warm, but with a cooling breeze that became stronger as I climbed up the mountain path. At the summit I put on my jacket, drank some water, and took some photos. Mainly though, I just took it all in: the sights, the fresh air, the physical feeling of having reached the top.

From this part of Ireland, the Atlantic Ocean is visible from high points such as this. The coastal Wild Atlantic Way winds northwards to Malin Head, then continues clockwise around the edge of Donegal until the border with the United Kingdom, near Derry.

I had made an early start, so there hadn’t been many people on the mountain, but by the time I was descending, more and more people were making the slow ascent. So I decided to take a different route and headed towards Mackoght Mountain. Almost immediately, I was alone. This is very much the less trodden path and it reminded me of Robert Frost’s words: “Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” In fact there was hardly any path at all, just occasional clues about the best way to go, so that the route opens up in front of you, just when needed, as it had done for me in Macedonia.

Now I was completely alone, walking upwards through heather and bog, occasionally on scree, rarely on anything that could be called a path. After a while I looked back towards Errigal and I could see tiny coloured dots on its ridge: some were moving upwards, others coming down, like an army of ants on their way to some source of food, then returning laden. There seemed to be hundreds of them on Errigal but here, just a few kilometres away on Mackoght, I was a solitary speck on the rugged landscape.

I wondered why nobody else had taken the alternative route, as I had. Most people simply follow the conventional paths, not only on the mountains, but in life, and in business too. We are social animals and have a herd instinct, feeling that there is safety in numbers, that the risks are less in going along with what everyone else does. Just like those climbing up and down the mountain path by the conventional well-trodden route, most people don’t even consider that there might be alternatives, let alone look for them. The vast majority of people in business, for example, including those who label themselves “creative” don’t apply their creativity to doing business differently. They do basically the same thing as everyone else and end up in direct competition with all of them, in a crowded market place. This over-supply of similar goods or services, all trying to sell into the same markets, only drives down prices for everyone.

It takes a certain kind of courage to dare to be different, to do the unconventional, to take the path less travelled, to step out of line. Today, by walking away from the crowded path, I had found another mountain; one I could have all to myself, instead of sharing it with so many others, all competing for the same footholds and getting in each other’s way.

It’s amazing what goes through your head when trekking over the mountains and for some reason I switched from the mountain scenario into a business context. They were all competing in the same “market” whereas I now had a whole “market” to myself; I had a mountain without competitors but they were all jostling for the same narrow path. Sure, their mountain was bigger than mine, which was of course its attraction, but in terms of “market share” they had to share the bigger mountain with hundreds of rivals. In contrast mine was smaller but I had it all to myself; my market share was 100%.

Do you want to head for the big city and compete with hundreds of rivals, or have a monopoly in a smaller city? Would you prefer to climb higher on a crowded mountain or have a lower peak all to yourself? In the past I’ve used the analogy of being “a big fish in a small pond” (rather than a bigger fish in an ocean of sharks). In business terms, they talk about Blue Ocean Strategy. In other words: why compete in an overcrowded part of the sea, bloodied red by fighting, when you can swim away to another part of the ocean, where it’s pure and blue, and do your own thing? That’s a good question for all of us to consider.

If we think smart, we can outmanouevre competitors. We can select different markets. We can choose to play a different game. Few dare to think and act differently, which means that while most people are cramped in the same conventions and mindset as almost everyone else, there is more space for those of us who choose to apply their creativity to doing business differently.

From the summit of Mount Errigal I had seen the Atlantic Ocean; and by taking the path less travelled, I had discovered a Blue Ocean in the Irish mountains.

Copyright © David Parrish 2018.

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Malin Head

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.”
– Robert Frost

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”
– Jack Kerouac

Read more travel quotes.