Here we were, meeting for the first time at the Phoenix airport, in the midst of a global pandemic. Seven strangers, women from diverse backgrounds, we’d all flown here from different states to share, possibly, the greatest adventure of our lives: Hiking the Grand Canyon.

We connected on Zoom during lockdown as a part of an online self-development program. At the end of it, we decided to go on our first backpacking trip together. Little did I know that this one-of-a-kind adventure would teach me more about success, teamwork and entrepreneurship than years of running my own business. Here are just a few things I’ve learned. 

Great decisions are made spontaneously. You can focus on details later. I don’t remember exactly when one of us said: “Let’s go hiking.” And why would we all agree to such a spur-of-the-moment suggestion? I believe the boredom and isolation of the pandemic contributed to our decision process. We applied for a backcountry permit to camp in the Grand Canyon. At this point, we weren’t even sure if visiting one of the world’s seven wonders was allowed during COVID-19. The full implications of our decision hit me months later, once we finally received the permit. Most of us, myself included, had never camped before. Personally, I had no idea how to pitch a tent. The idea may have been spontaneous, but we spent hours on Zoom calls and Telegram chats to work out the logistics and equipment needed.

When the timing isn’t perfect, your determination makes things happen. When the trip finally arrived, I realized the timing couldn’t be worse. I’d been wrapping up several work projects with looming deadlines and had just moved to a new apartment. On top of that, a couple of weeks before the trip, I found out about family members I’d never heard of before, and couldn’t miss an opportunity to meet them. As it turned out, bad timing wasn’t just on my end. One of my teammates was in the middle of a divorce, another’s husband had recently been diagnosed with cancer, and someone else ended up driving all night to meet the rest of us on time. Not to mention that most of us had to find childcare for almost a week, during the COVID-19 pandemic! But somehow we all made it happen. 

You will never be 100 percent prepared. To be completely honest,I was extremely unprepared for the Grand Canyon challenge. I didn’t have time to break in my new hiking boots. My mind just wasn’t focused on planning for the trip. Also, I overestimated myself and didn’t buy walking poles. But, somehow, I made it. We all did. One of my more experienced teammates shared an extra pair of thick socks so I could protect my feet. Another gave me one of her poles. Setting up a camp wasn’t as difficult as I expected: Everybody helped each other, working as a team, and our tents were up in a matter of moments.

Team spirit and a good laugh are crucial for the success of any venture. We could have concentrated on looking good, judging, finger-pointing, withholding information, and competing instead of helping each other and working together. A very bad idea in the mountains, it’s unfortunately a normal situation in the corporate world. No wonder so many companies fail when people focus on themselves and their own individual goals when they could be thinking of ways to help everyone succeed. Also, I can’t remember another trip where I’ve laughed as much, together with other people, even when our ankles hurt or the weight of our backpacks seemed unbearable. Even when we’d been walking up the mountain for hours under the burning sun, we would stop to share a joke or just a beautiful moment. Now I wonder: How many failed projects could have gotten off the ground if people had faced their challenges with a sense of humor? 

Everyone climbs at a different pace, but we all reach the mountaintop in the end. One woman in our group, an artist with a passion for photography, stopped frequently to admire every cactus we saw. She couldn’t miss a single beautiful view, which slowed her down considerably. Another high-energy athlete was running ahead at the speed of light. We all moved at different paces during our hike, but eventually everyone contributed to the experience. Thanks to a slow artist, we now have hundreds of beautiful memorable pictures. The speedy athlete discovered some incredible places, including an ancient cave and a secluded wild beach. If we’d been focusing on our weaknesses and judging each other, we could have missed out on all these shared experiences. Celebrating and acknowledging our differences made us a successful team that eventually reached their destination.   

Thanks to trust, acceptance, and the laughter I shared with my group, an adventure that could have been a disaster turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. We started our trip as strangers and finished it as best friends and teammates. Standing by the exit from the Grand Canyon, looking at the breathtaking views one last time, we heard a passerby saying: “I’ve done it. It’s so hard, never going back.” And every single one of us, dirty and tired, said: “I’d do this again right now,” the best response you can hope to hear from your team.