Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Interview with Author & Mt. Everest Climber Paul Fejtek

Paul Fejtek has the unique distinction of being the first person ever with Brachial Plexus Palsy to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. He and his wife Denise are among only a handful of people in the world who have completed the “Peak to Heat Double” consisting of summiting Earth’s highest peak and also finishing the Triathlon World Championship, the Hawaii Ironman. Paul was named the Most Inspirational Athlete of the Year by the Challenged Athletes Foundation, and OC Metro Magazine named him one of the 25 Hottest People in Orange County, California.

Beyond his athletic accomplishments, Paul is a distinguished business leader. After the sale of his family-owned company, he began a flourishing career as an investment banker in 1997. Renowned for his deal-making prowess, Paul currently advises prosperous entrepreneurs on the sale of their businesses as a Managing Director of Ascendiant Capital Markets.

A popular business speaker and author, Paul has shared with millions his inspiring story and insights on achieving business success. Paul and his wife Denise have appeared on NBC News, ABC News, Fox News, and The Today Show. Together they are frequently keynote speakers for professional business groups and corporations, and have been honored to share their inspirational message on the prestigious TED Talk platform.

I am honored to have Paul with us on the blog today discussing his book Steps to the Summit!

What inspired you to write this book?
Steps to the Summit: Reaching the Top in Business and Life is first and foremost an adventure story chronicling my journey with my wife climbing the tallest mountain on each continent around the world, including Earth's highest Mt. Everest. The book also draws useful parallels that readers can apply to their own mountains and challenges in life. Very few people have the privilege of doing something like this in their lifetimes and I felt the incredible experiences and valuable lessons learned were worthy of sharing with others. I was also inspired and encouraged after recounting stories from climbing adventures to others and hearing in response, "You absolutely MUST write a book about this!" So after the 20th or 30th person said this, I finally did.

I would imagine that there are similarities between writing a book and climbing a mountain; for example, both endeavors require remarkable persistence, inner strength, and determination. Do you have any mountain-climbing lessons that you could share for writers?

Indeed there are many similarities and in fact I've often said that writing a book can actually be more difficult than climbing a big mountain like Everest. And similar to a mountaineering expedition, planning, preparation, and setting intermediate goals can make a seemingly daunting task much more manageable and attainable. In addition to the book being an adventure story, it's also a guidebook to achieving true success with each chapter providing readers with a brief lesson or "Step" to reach their own summit, whether that be writing their first book or any other major life goal. Some of the 15 Steps in the book that are directly applicable to writers include:
  • "Make a Decision"
  • "Discover Your Creativity"
  • "Maintain a Sharp Focus"
  • "Move Fast"
  • And one of my favorites, "Never Give Up."

What is your writing schedule? How do you find time to write?

I had to balance my writing with a full-time job as an investment banker, so my most productive time to write was early in the morning. In addition I always had my manuscript with me so if a clever idea flashed into my head in between conference calls or meetings, I was able to capture it in my notes or string together a few sentences or paragraphs before the moment of brilliance passed. I also put a schedule together with my co-author to make sure we stayed on track to complete a certain number of chapters by specific predetermined dates. The accountability factor made a huge difference and enabled us to complete a high quality manuscript within our self-imposed goal/deadline of six months.

What is your biggest advice for people facing their own challenges in life?

Good question. And I feel well-qualified to answer it because I was forced to begin overcoming challenges as an infant. During birth I sustained a paralysis causing injury to my right arm known as brachial plexus palsy. My advice is pretty simple: regardless of your challenges, whether physical or psychological, it's important to remember and truly believe that Anything is Possible!

Through my involvement with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, I'm fortunate to have many inspirational examples of individuals with far great physical challenges than my own. When I see regular people like you and me face something tragic like a double amputation of their legs or a spinal chord injury, and then come back and accomplish some amazing athletic feats, it's hard not to be motivated and put our own so called "challenges" into perspective.

Who are some of your favorite writers?

John Krakauer, of course. He did an amazing job keeping readers on the edge of their seat while recounting the '96 Everest tragedy in Into Thin Air.  I just wish my mother could have chosen a different book to read while I spent two months in Nepal climbing Everest!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) is a registered 501(c)3 charitable organization, and 100% of the profits from the sale of Steps to the Summit go to CAF to help severely injured and disabled individuals get back into the game of life. This is accomplished through grants to purchase specialized wheelchairs, sports equipment, prosthetic limbs, training and mentorship. Thank you for spreading the word about Steps to the Summit and supporting the cause!

BIG THANKS to Paul for being a guest on the blog today and sharing his amazing story!