For those who don’t know me, I’m a young business owner (Ground Shark Coffee) with an insatiable desire for the mountains of Colorado. I love the thought of big mountains (think Andes and Himalaya) but I’ve never been. For now, it’s the Colorado Rockies. I’m obsessed.
It’s been building for years and this summer I’ve finally let it out and have been crushing summits like it’s my job. It practically is, which is cool. Anyway, lately, I’ve been taking people up their first ones and have been teaching people how to go on Really Long and Steep Walks. It’s a ton of fun.
Janz reached out to me and asked me to write a post on Mountain Mentoring for this blog. It’s an interesting topic that might take a while to unpack. In July I took a big group of Fraternity of Excellence guys up their first Fourteeners. A Fourteener (14er) is any mountain over 14,000’ above sea level. There’s going to be around 12 of us total, including myself. Only 2 of us have been above 14,000’. It’s going to be an interesting day.
I’ve always said that no matter how big and boisterous your group, climbing a mountain is a solitary pursuit. During a long climb, we all have different demons we face. The last one I climbed, I had about 20 minutes where I was steadily climbing a steep incline and I totally zoned in. All I could hear was the wind and all I could feel was my blood pumping through my head. Those moments are what make mountaineering so cool: You find your limit.
All our limits are constantly changing and constantly growing. That’s the true mentorship of the mountain. I don’t need to take you up to the top of it and then ask how you feel about things. No, all I need to do is get you to bring yourself to the top. You’re going to go inside yourself. You’re going to look at the peaks all around you and think “This is amazing” right before you look at the trail ahead of you and think “This is horrible.” Any kind of climb – whether literal or metaphorical – has moments like those. The harder the struggle, the more intense the beauty. That’s the dichotomy of life.
You have to have the struggle to appreciate the beauty.
There’s a kind of deep fulfillment there, and I think a lot of modern depression can be explained by this.
A day trip up a Colorado 14er is only a microcosm of the greater idea that the harder something is, the more worth the work it is. More often than not the barrier to entry is simply “How hard are you willing to work?” and the barrier to greatness is “How much are you willing to sacrifice?” Today, we so often see people not even willing to work hard. And I don’t mean to put myself on a pedestal – of the Seven Deadly sins, Sloth is my most extreme. I know that, I accept it, and I’m working my ass off to beat it.
How many of your coworkers, classmates, or friends, go home and watch TV? How many people have told you “Once you’re 30, you’ll be out of shape? Just watch.” How many married men say they have a low-libido wife, but they haven’t ever looked in the mirror and thought “Maybe I’ve let myself go. Maybe she just isn’t attracted to me anymore, and that’s my own fault.”
It’s so rare these days – and maybe all the way throughout human history, I don’t know – to find someone who truly takes ownership of their situation.
I tried my best.
I did what I could.
No one can blame me for failing.
I’m so tired of hearing this. From myself and from others. It’s lazy, it’s ineffective, and it’s bullshit. The amount of wasted potential is a real goddamn shame. It hurts to even watch. It hurts to think about. Lord knows I’ve wasted my own potential time and again, and I know I’m not the only one.
I’ve heard it said that hell is when you die and meet the person you could have been.
Who is that?
Is he rich? Is she beautiful? Is he a family patriarch? Did she cure cancer? Was he a president?
You won’t know until it’s too late.
What are you today? That’s what matters. Are you a hard worker? Not yesterday, not tomorrow. Today. Are you a hard worker today? Are you in shape today? Are you a successful businessman today? Are you a good parent today? Focus on the six inches in front of your face. Everything else…well, everything else is just noise.
There’s so much to life. There’s so much stuff to do. There are so many things. Mountaineering. Sailing. Fighting. Business. Politics. Family. Racing. All kinds of sports. Painting. Making music. Dancing. Travelling. Building.
This life is full of so many things, and you’ll never get to all of them. That’s okay, you gotta pick the ones that matter to you.
But beauty and meaning sure as shit aren’t found planted in front of a TV.
Man was made to conquer. Go fucking conquer. Go climb a mountain. Whether that mountain is physical or metaphorical doesn’t matter. Point is, it’s hard and it’s bigger than you. When you get to the top or any good resting point look back on where you came from. Think about how you got here. Was it from relaxing? Or was it from working really hard, day in and day out, until you finally got to a place with a good view? And then, look ahead at the peak. Maybe your peak is a championship. Maybe it’s getting a pro contract, a black belt, a big client, or a million dollar payday. That’s not the summit, brother. That’s a false summit. Put your head back down and get back to work.
We’ve got a lot of work to do.
It might get easier; it might get harder.
But it will definitely be worth it.