Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mountain Climbing, Extreme Skiing, and the Art of Losing Everything, Part 1

Last night I talked my wife, Renée, into watching one of the newest extreme sports movies. Unless you spent Christmas or New Year’s in New York or Los Angeles, you probably didn’t catch the limited theatrical release of Steep: Without Risk… There Is No Adventure.

To say the least, I would have loved to have seen Steep on the big screen. It features classic and lots of contemporary footage of the world’s most extreme skiers and mountain climbers. You’ll never look at skiing or mountains the same.

Potential spoiler: This movie is a documentary. As a result, it’s true to life. Not all of the professionals interviewed and featured in this film are still alive today.

While watching Steep, I couldn’t help remembering what a mentor once told me: We sense God’s presence most when we’re most alive. By “alive,” he meant when we’re out in nature, when we put ourselves at risk, or when we find ourselves in a crisis.

Imminent danger—real or perceived—triggers the strongest of human emotions. Fear is hardwired into our minds. Without thinking, it causes us to shut up, freeze up, even give up. The good news: we can rewire our thoughts, beliefs, and automatic responses.

Life is full of circumstances that test our courage. Winston Churchill once said, “Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning.” It doesn’t matter that you’re honest, for instance, if you’re afraid to tell the truth. Or that you’re responsible if you’re afraid to try anything new.

I see myself as a fairly courageous person. The hard part for me is separating courage from recklessness.

Over the next two days, I’ll share two of my own mountain climbing and extreme skiing stories to prove my point.

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