Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Colorado High Ground Screening

When High Ground had it’s world premier in Boulder, Colorado this spring, tickets sold out right away–and the film was voted People’s Choice award at the Film Festival! Since then, there have not been any public showings of this incredible movie in Colorado.
On November 2nd, Coloradans will have another chance to watch High Ground at a very special event at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden. The night will start with famed author Jon Krakauer introducing the film. Afterwards, John Meyer of the Denver Post will moderate a Q&A session with filmmaker Michael Brown, myself, and other members of the S2S Lobuche expedition.
This event is a fundraiser for Soldiers To Summits. Tickets cost $20 and may be purchased at Bentgate Mountaineering in Golden or online. Please help spread the word.
See you there!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Taking The “No More Adversity” Pill

Just wrapping up our 2nd weekend of training with our new Soldiers to Summits crew and as expected, I walk away with a profound sense of admiration and a great deal of respect for this year’s group of men and women. I can quickly tell that, even more than with our inaugural 2010 group, this assortment of soldiers and marines has reminded me that although I am the guide… one of the supposed experts in our endeavor…  I am truly the one that is learning and expanding through my participation in this project. Each of them has dealt with a tremendous amount of adversity and is attempting to stand back up in both the physical and emotional sense.  As I have engaged with them throughout both of our training weekends I am reminded how resilience lives and breathes in these dynamic and thought provoking individuals.

This round of training was primarily geared toward the physical and technical training that will be required to ascend our ultimate goal this December of the 18,000 ft volcano, Cotopaxi in Ecuador.  Two full days were spent up in the cold at the base of St Mary’s Glacier (approximately 11,000 ft) both dialing in crampon and ice axe work as well as collectively scaling a nearby 13,800 ft peak.  The cold and altitude were a constant reminder for the team, that we are preparing for a mission that will require each of them to dig down for an objective that is, at times, somewhat uncomfortable. And although none of them have any experience in the realms of climbing and high altitude, they each know that anything worth doing is going to require some suffering along the way.

One of our discussions on Day 2 revolved around adversity. This has always been one of the most compelling themes that I reference in all of my keynotes and teachings. I have learned much about how I personally deal with adversity in the 20 years that I’ve been guiding my blind buddy Erik on mountains, rock faces and adventure races around the world. Together we have been kicked around on multiple occasions…consistently being required to find ways of dealing with ass whoopings. Erik has always been a beacon of how to use adversity as fuel…turning a clear, life-numbing event into a catalyst for success. I have learned much from him on how to be an “alchemist” with turning challenging objectives into summits of success.

Our facilitator that day posed to the group a hypothetical question as he was wrapping up the topic of adversity. He asked each member of the group whether they would, if given the chance, ingest a pill that would guarantee a life void of adversity. Take the pill and you will never again feel pain or inconvenience.  No more red lights, hairs in your pasta or flat tires. No more cancer, trauma or mortgage defaults.

On the outset it seems a no brainer…who wouldn’t want to walk through life never having to deal with the daily bullshit that we all encounter.  You would be squeaky clean…permanent vacation. Easy Street.

Now clearly this exercise is to prompt the participant to delve into the fact that adversity is a good thing.  After some contemplative thinking and group discussion, one would say, “No, I wouldn’t take that pill. I need adversity in my life to make me strong.” We are prompted to conclude that without some hardcore adversities along our paths we would become complacent and listless.  

I’m confident that up to that point in his career, our facilitator had received this same answer in all occasions up to now…until he ran into this group.

The first person to speak up against the accepted paradigm was an amazing young man named Kevin. We all listened to him lay out exactly why he would choose to take the pill. He clearly and succinctly explained how he had experienced enough adversity in his short life and how, if given the chance, he would swallow that pill down in a second and apologize for being late.  “I don’t need anymore adversity to get strong. I’ve been through enough and I’m good with sailing on the rest of the way without pain and sorrow.”

A few more folks spoke up in this same fashion and those that didn’t say so in the big group setting volunteered the same response to me later in the weekend. It was unanimous amongst the group that the “No Adversity Pill” would be a big hit amongst this crew.

What I concluded that day was that in some cases, enough is enough.  We can all agree that the adversities in our lives help to weave our thread count into the characters we are. How we handle the daily grind challenges as well as the life changing, monumental throw-downs is what defines us as individuals. But perhaps there is a point where we have experienced plenty of hardships to provide us the fuel we need to combat complacency. I doubt there is a limit on what we can take…but perhaps there is a limit on what we need to be great.

On our final night, we sat around a campfire and swapped some of our favorite quotes.  All of them were meaningful and thought provoking, however one stood out to me and I’m still blown away by its timeliness and relevance. John Masters is one of our 2012 S2S class and his Teddy Roosevelt quote is the embodiment of our mission with S2S from the beginning.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

I am fired up about our upcoming adventure to Ecuador with these outstanding men and women. And although I know we will encounter some adversity along the way, I’m confident this group will handle anything that comes there way like the true heroes that they are.