In 1996, Deysel was part of the first group of South Africans to make history by planting the country’s new democratic flag on the top of Mount Everest. Over her 15-year career as a high-altitude mountaineer, she has been on 14 major expeditions to five continents.

Prior to her high-profile mountaineering career, Deysel suffered from suicidal depression. “I was a victim of my upbringing, my circumstances, my choices and it made me a very unhappy and rudderless person,” she says. “It wasn’t until I made a conscious and empowering decision to live life differently from how I had done up to that point, that my life dramatically changed.”

Braving entrepreneurship

Deysel later launched her company Deshun Deysel & Associates, which uses coaching, seminars and adventurous experiences to focus on encouraging and equipping leadership in a context of change and diversity. Actively promoting high-altitude climbing among women in Africa, she has led expeditions to Mount Everest Base Camp and Mount Kilimanjaro.

“My business merges the metaphor of climbing big mountains with what the world’s experts have discovered about effective thinking and doing,” she says. “I work in various parts of the world, bringing practical and positive thought techniques to improve performance levels.”

Her company developed the Peak Performance Toolkit, an app that measures five areas of effectiveness. Companies around the world are using the app to identify areas for potential growth. Her company also provides an online coaching platform that can be accessed in any English-speaking country.

Conquering challenges

Deysel says her experiences summiting mountains have taught her many lessons which have better equipped her for entrepreneurship.

“I’ve learnt to stick out the hardships, humiliation and setbacks that come with pursuing your dreams. This doesn’t mean I don’t experience the sense of failure and disappointment, it just means I have a strong sense of how temporary all difficulty is.”

She adds that she’s encountered countless business challenges along the way, which includes a lack of access to business training and convincing the marketplace that her business is not a hobby.

“I was pinned into the box of mountaineer and motivational speaker,” she says. “While I love the inspirational speaking aspect of my work, it’s not all I’m capable of. I’m serious about building something sustainable.”

Moving forward, she plans to establish a global footprint for her business, while providing the average African access to specialised knowledge to help lift them out of erroneous patterns of thinking and doing.

“A big part of the reason I started this journey is to bring world-class research to the average person,” she concludes.

Deysel’s tip for overcoming even the greatest challenges:  

  • Have a strong vision. Ensure that it’s yours and not one that was suggested to you.
  • Surround yourself with supporters and be supportive.
  • Improve your skills. Learn, learn, and learn.
  • Aim to conquer the world, not just your neighbourhood.
  • Develop a tough skin – you’ll need it every day.