On April 26, 2003, Aron Ralston was hiking through the Blue John Canyon area in Utah. As he climbed down a narrow canyon a large boulder became dislodged and crushed his right hand against the canyon wall. He was trapped. Even worse, he had not informed anyone of his hiking plans so no one would know where to search for him.
He spent the next five days slowly consuming his meagre supplies of food and water whilst trying desperately to free his trapped arm but his efforts were in vain. He became dehydrated and delirious. Knowing that he would not be rescued and unable to free himself he made a momentous decision; to amputate the trapped arm. He had a multi-tool with a dull two inch blade. He knew that this would be insufficient to cut through the bone so he had to first break the bone in his forearm. He managed to do this. He then applied a tourniquet and proceeded to cut through his arm using the little tool. This took an hour of unimaginable pain. He suffered severe blood loss. After he freed himself his chances of survival were still slight. He had to rappel down a 65 ft sheer cliff. He then walked weakly in the hot sun before eventually stumbling upon a family of Dutch hikers who helped him to safety.
After treatment he made a recovery and was feted on the media and talk shows for his incredible fortitude. He continued to climb and hike. He became a sought-after motivational speaker. He is now married with a child. He told his tale in his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. The director Danny Boyle produced a much-acclaimed film on Ralston’s story, 127 hours.
There are some clear lessons for us as individuals and business leaders from Ralston’s incredible story.
Share your plans. Take a companion on your journey. Try every option. If it is a choice between a painful and dangerous operation or a slow death, choose the operation. Never give up.
However the most powerful and disturbing question that arises after you read Ralston’s book or watch the film is this. Would I be able to cut off my own arm if I had to? Would I have the strength of will to have done what Ralston did?