Jake Meyer is one of those throwback British adventurers, in the mold of Shackleton, Scott and Fiennes. He’s tough but refined and well-educated, positive but not giddy, understated but confident, and has that mix of derring-do and panache that we admire. Meyer, who at one time was the youngest Brit to summit Everest, is now a management consultant who applies what he learned on the world’s highest peaks to business best practices. But don’t think he’s gone soft and given up a life of adventure for a corner office. He’s still finding time to get out and explore the more inhospitable corners of the world, and for that we admire him. We recently had a chance to catch Meyer in his London offices, and he was gracious enough to answer some questions about what he’s up to, what he’s reading and what meal he would dream of when he’s hunkered in a snow cave in the Death Zone.
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Q. What’s one thing every man should know?
A. Good manners cost nothing but are inordinately valuable. Oh, and make sure that you always have a physical map and compass to back up a GPS.
Q. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
A. Physically: An attempt on K2 (the second highest mountain in the world) in 2009. Despite not summiting, I am more proud of my achievements and experience on that expedition than any other trip. K2 made Everest seem like a Sunday afternoon stroll.
Mentally: Deciding it was time to stop climbing and adventuring full-time and grow up and get a proper job. Taking that leap (into management consultancy), was a major step into the unknown, but one that has been incredibly rewarding. Although it somewhat curtailed my flexibility to climb whenever I wanted, in the past 3 years I’ve still been able to go on 5 expeditions, and spend 7 months in Afghanistan on an operational tour with the British Army. My life now has the perfect balance.
Q. What are you working on right now?
A. Right now? I’m getting married in 8 days time, so preparation for the big day is taking up a fair enough share of my time at the moment!
I strongly believe that each and every one of us has the opportunity to light small fires in the darkness and make a difference to those around us. It is of course down to the individual to decide on how, and in what capacity, they do this.
Q. Name one thing you can’t live without.
A. Wikipedia. My first stop for info on mountains and travel and a major contributing factor in much of my university work (for better or worse). I have an insatiable thirst for facts and random knowledge, so just love randomly browsing. When you have a spare 5 minutes, why not try the “6 wiki-degrees of separation”? Pick 2 completely random things and try and get from one to the other purely by using the wiki-links in each article.
Can I add a second, more tangible thing? A Bremont watch on my wrist. I’ve been wearing timepieces from this British brand since 2006, and they produce the most exquisitely beautiful, yet wonderfully rugged and hard-wearing watches [Editor’s note: as we know]. The watches have survived numerous mountaineering exploits, extremes of temperature and an Operational Tour of Afghanistan with much fewer scars than I have. I can hand on heart recommend them to anyone who wants to share the passion that Bremont has with inspired design, mechanical flawlessness and extreme endurance.
Q: Who or what influences you?
A: Inspirational people. It’s not about hero leadership, but about those people in our lives (whether constant or fleetingly), who by their behaviours or actions are inspirational in their own special way. My climbing instructor at school who taught me that “success on a mountain is not about reaching the top, but about coming back safe and sound with lessons learned”. My colleagues at work, too, each of whom is inspirational in their own unique way, whether it is their intellect, their commercial acumen, their dedication or their charisma. To expand on a quote by Charles Handy, I strongly believe that each and every one of us has the opportunity to light small fires in the darkness and make a difference to those around us. It is of course down to the individual to decide on how, and in what capacity, they do this.
Q. What are you reading right now?
A. Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan by Frank Ledwidge. Having served out in Afghanistan and seen first-hand the challenges and thankless task faced by British, American and International Forces, this is a fascinating and frank account of how and why operations have not been as successful as we would have hoped, and the resulting lessons in strategic, operational and tactical leadership.
Q. Name one thing no one knows about you.
A. People always assume that I must have climbing and mountaineering qualifications up the yin-yang. I don’t have any!
Q. It’s your last drink and meal on earth. What’ll it be?
A. A nice pint of Doom Bar (a Cornish Ale), tuna carpaccio with mustard dressing followed by a medium rare sirloin steak with skinny fries (with balsamic vinegar and lots of salt) and salad, followed by Eton Mess (crushed meringue, summer berries and whipped cream).
Q. If you could go back and tell your 16 year old self something, what would you say?
A. There may be bumps along the way, but everything will work out in the end. Make the most of every opportunity that comes your way, you’ll only ever regret the things that you didn’t do, rather than the things that you did do. Oh, and when you are 27 and your best friend encourages you to down a shot which looks like Apple Sourz, DON’T DO IT — it is washing-up liquid.
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
A. Passionate, dedicated and always with a smile on his face.