October 25, 2012
Recently, we had the second training session for our Soldiers To Summits Cotopaxi program. What makes this so remarkable—and difficult— is that we aren’t just trying to achieve a mountain climbing adventure. I don’t want to pour my heart and energy into just helping people learn how to climb mountains.
In itself, climbing mountains doesn’t help you change your life. You can stand on a summit and you’ve achieved something but it doesn’t mean that you’ve learned anything about life off the mountain. For S2S, climbing isn’t an end but a means to better things.
My Everest team is a perfect example. The mountains have transformed our lives in many ways and we know that climbing can be a metaphor and a laboratory for transformation. The mountains are an ideal setting for learning No Barriers tools and developing a new mindset, which is very hard to do.
I believe that standing on a summit or surviving a battlefield doesn’t strengthen your approach to adversity. In these situations, there is a lot of adrenalin flowing and your brain is working in overdrive.
The kinds of adversities in life are different. My friend and co-author Dr. Paul Stoltz describes them as a “swarm of mosquitoes that are biting at you.” It’s that feeling that you are treading water but are still drowning. Our brains aren’t as well equipped for these more nuanced adversities.
As part of our second training weekend, we had Paul, who is a world-reknowned authority on adversity, come in and talk about how the daily life problems can become almost bigger barriers that wear people down and stop them. Our goal isn’t just to climb Cotopaxi in December but to equip the soldiers with the tools that will help them move forward and thrive in life.
After this crucial workshop, we went out to the mountains and worked on more traditional climbing skills such as using crampons safely and how to self-arrest with an ice axe. This culminated with a successful ascent of James Peak—a 13-294 foot mountain west of Denver—on cold and nasty day, which proved to be an awesome analogy of the whole adversity principle!
Check out this video from that weekend:
If you haven't visited the Soldiers To Summits site in a while, you can read the profiles of all the participants and mentors here. Our program is constantly evolving since we are committed to doing things right so that it truly transforms people and puts them on a new trajectory. We want to make S2S better than any other veterans program out there. Next up...Cotopaxi!