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The Mountains are Calling and I must Go

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Hallet Peak - Dream Lake

My wife, Kristy (5 months pregnant with Abby) at Dream Lake, below Hallet Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park

“The Mountains are Calling and I must Go”, the quote is from famous naturalist and mountaineer John Muir. It’s a beautiful quote that adequately proclaims my love and enjoyment of the mountains. My love for the outdoors was instilled in my by my father, who from a very early age took me fishing, hunting, and camping in Colorado. Although we never took backpacking or climbing trips, my love for mountains eventually took me there, and now it has taken me from road running to trail running.

On a trip last Summer to Estes Park with my wife, we passed a placed called Hermit Junction, a place I was destined for had I not gotten married two years earlier. At times I envy the free spirt dirt bags that do nothing but climb rocks hike and sleep under the stars, but then I remember nature was often times medicine for when I felt lonely, confused, or frustrated with life. But now, we have a beautiful daughter and one more child on the way. I can’t wait to share the outdoors with them.

Abby has already survived numerous camping trips with us, and she is not even one year old yet (she turns one next week). There is just something about being outdoors, especially in the mountains that soothes the soul. There is something about being in nature that I feel draws one closer to God. I can’t say that everybody that enjoys the outdoors experiences the same thing, but for me it’s an undeniable experience. I have yet to take a trip to the mountains and not return refreshed with new perspective.

The outdoors provides something you don’t normally get while living in the city….silence! The opportunity to dialogue with yourself, to talk to God, to enjoy the beauty of creation. It gives you the opportunity to slow down (even when you are running). Trail running has become a way of escape for me, as opposed to road running where I would just plug in my headphones and jam out for 4-13 miles. Now, I’m running 6-25+ miles on the trails, sans headphones. Granted a lot of my focus and attention is on the run, but at times I’m able to just zone out, let the worries of the week fade away and enjoy nature. This is especially true on mountain runs, as I’m more focused on taking in the scenery than on how fast I am going.

Experiencing the outdoors is something I would encourage everybody to do. Even if it’s a short two mile hike from the trail head, you can see and experience things that most of the world never will. It changes your perspective, it makes you realized how small you really are, it helps clear the mind, it refreshes the spirit, and renews the mind. So, get outdoors, enjoy nature, let loose of the hustle and bustle.

Business is stressful, being a good leader is critical

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First Flatiron

Climbing the First Flatiron, Boulder Colorado.

In many ways being a business leader is like being a rock climber, specifically a lead climber. In rock climbing, the lead climber is responsible for protecting the climb as he ascends. Every 10 feet or so (if the rock allows) a piece of protection is placed into the rock (a cam, nut, or hex – usually into a crack) and in some cases the protection is pre-placed, then the climber clips his rope into the protection with a carabiner.

As he ascends the rock the climber gets higher and higher, and there are times when the last piece of gear is 10-15 feet below . This means that if the climber were to fall they would fall a minimum of 20-30 feet before the rope caught the fall. Needless to say, it takes a cool head to be a lead climber. It takes calculating moves and assessing risks.

I was once climbing the First Flatiron in Boulder, Colorado. I ended up finding myself about 20 feet above my last piece of gear, and on top of that the gear was considered “sketch”, meaning that If I took a fall on it, the piece likely would not have caught the fall. We were already on the second pitch of the climb, which meant we were about 200 feet off the ground. I had two choices, I could down climb back to my piece of gear, on easier terrain, or I could keep climbing and hope I found another crack to place gear.

The rock in front of me looked smooth with no places to protect with gear, it also appeared to get more difficult. So, assessing the risk I decided to climb back down to my last piece of gear. After doing this I realized we had gotten off the main route. I had ended up on more difficult terrain, but managed to keep a cool head and make good decisions. Once my climbing partner and I got back on the main route, we were cruising, and the rest of the day went fairly well.

Lead Climbing in Joshua Tree

Lead climbing in Joshua Tree National Park

“Business is stressful. A good leader remains composed, stays in the moment, focuses on one good move, then the next. No matter how radical the fall you face, keep your cool” – Gary Erickson (Cif Bar)

The quote by Gary reminded me about how important it is to keep your cool in business. At times it can seem like the odds are stacked against you; a vendor hasn’t delivered on time, and at the same time you are short staffed and can’t keep up with demand. All you can do in situations like that is make one move at a time, all while keeping a cool head, because the moment you panic, that is when you fall.

I’ve been tempted many times (and failed many times) to lose my cool during turbulent circumstances. But the truth is nothing you can do will solve the problem immediately, so there is no use in stressing over the situation. As Gary said, “no matter how radical the fall you face, keep your cool.” Failure to do so will surely result in a fall.

Your climbing partner (your team members) depends on you to continue on and finish the climb. You will also build trust and earn their confidence when you remain calm during difficult times. Somebody has to keep a cool head, and that should always be the leader (or leaders) or an organization.