Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What's Next...

Now that Expedition Impossible has run it's course, I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea of "What's next?".

I answered that a lot after Erik and I climbed Denali 16 years ago. Then after we climbed El Capitan 15 years ago, the same question surfaced. Then of course after summiting Everest 10 years ago I was hit with that inquiry on an almost daily basis for several years. I knew that I would be unsatisfied allowing the climb of one mountain to define who I was...I had to "answer another call".

For those of you that don't already know, I am an avid fan of Joseph Campbell's "Heroes Journey". Without getting too cerebral with the concept...the basic cliff note is that every myth and story throughout the history of humankind follows a few basic principles and through this universal synergy, we as humans are linked in what drives us. Taken a step further it creates a fraternal link between all of us regardless of race, culture, era or gender.

The concept fundamentally is that each of us is a "hero" and that we each have our own "call to action". We may choose to answer this call and take on the inevitable struggle that will ensue or we can "disregard" the call which many folks do for countless reasons.

If you elect to answer your call to action you will be faced with a certain "battle". For me this has taken the form of mountains, rocks and adventures around the world as well as medical school, writing a book and raising a family. Whether "victorious" or not, what is important is to answer the call.

It's clear to me that many folks choose to not answer their call. Perhaps they are scared of failure. Perhaps their support network is not substantial enough to provide the "safety net" we all hope to have in place. Or maybe complacency has got them by the neck and they are paralyzed with their current auto-pilot status. There are a myriad of reasons to not answer...some of them valid for that particular challenge and as many calls as I have answered, I have also disregarded as many. I have used all the same excuses that I presented earlier. It's easy to do. Accepting the call is intimidating and takes a substantial amount of effort.

I have been so inspired to read and hear so many messages generated from watching No Limits on the show each week that essentially translate to, "watching you guys has inspired me to...", you fill in the blank. This is the call to action! Many folks have answered their call and are taking on their challenges right now...today. Whether it's to quit smoking, climb a mountain, reach out to their estranged sister, walk one mile or perform at a higher level at work...I love hearing about how folks are answering and kickin "it's" ass.

Campbell finishes his concept by describing "re-entry" for the hero as being immediately faced with a decision...to share his new found knowledge or to keep it to himself. It may seem like a given that once an individual returns from "battle" that he will unconditionally "share and impart" the "gifts" that were obtained. This is not particularly easy to practice however. Exposing oneself to others regarding an event that in some cases was painful or humbling is difficult to say the least. It takes energy and courage to share events and pearls that were gleaned in battle.

If you buy into Campbell's premise, it becomes clear that each of us walks a challenging path should we choose to do so. Perhaps it is easier to sit back and watch others answer their call. Could be that you answered a call awhile back and have decided that you have done your part....it's up to someone else now. It's easy to think that way...I did it immediately following our successful ascent of Everest.

However I am not willing to sit back and watch. It is important to remember that we are faced with many calls...perhaps even daily. Everyday I choose to actively parent my son is a "mini call to action". I could elect to put him in front of the TV and check out. It's much easier to do so....however, being present and actively parenting requires more bandwidth and energy. You have to actively accept the call to be a good parent.

Then professionally for me...next year I will lead the second round of Soldiers to the Summit where we will climb Cotopaxi in Ecuador. A soldier returning from battle is the epitome of a person returning from the Heroes Journey. I look forward to this adventure on many levels.

I will also look to help other folks answer their calls as we trek through Peru in July on our "Friends and Family" trip. And then again on my annual Kilimanjaro Grand Expedition in August.
Then of course the one most folks want to hear about...Erik and I are currently in development with an adventure show for next year loosely based on "The Call to Action" concept.

What is your Call to Action? Are you prepared to answer it? Are you ready to take on your adventure? Go get some!