Irrational fear

Every year five people are killed by sharks. In contrast, every year people kill over 100 million sharks.


Because of fear.

Fear is irrational. It doesn’t play by our rules, it plays on our emotions. It is reactionary. We are programmed to eliminate other possible threats/predators. This is how we survived.

The facts are clear: You are 250 times more likely to be killed by a deer in a car cash than by a shark.

No one is afraid of deer. It’s not a threat. I guess that is why no one has made a movie of killer deers but plenty have been made on killer sharks.

Fear controls so much of what we do in our everyday decisions. We don’t need to be afraid of sharks, bears or saber tooth tigers anymore. Predators are no longer the problem. Getting out of our way, developing a posture of courage, getting past the default setting of fear is the new challenge of our day.

When seven and half billion people make a knee-jerk reaction, what happens next?

[Fact: there are more gerbil attacks reported in New York in one year than shark bites in Florida.]

Conservation vs. preservation

Arches National Park was once a multi-day adventure to see natural wonders. Now, it only takes a couple of hour to drive through.

Conveniences of the modern world have saved us tremendous time.

The question is: what are we doing with all this time?

We are always doing something but not enough of something worth doing.

The thing is, by lowering the bar for the masses, you now have the problems of the masses to manage.

Conservation and preservation at its core is an issue of access. The more difficult the access, the less a site is disturbed. The funny thing is the easier it is to see something, the less we appreciate it.

It gets better with more attempts

Centered Sunset is a shot by Scuba Tom off the coast of Brennecke’s Beach in Poipu, Kauai.

It took him two years, 93,124 attempts to get this shot.

93,124 attempts.

93,123 ways it failed until he found the one that worked.

The thing is, anyone can now go out and buy a camera. That part is easy.

What’s hard is venturing out day after day waiting for the perfect moment to capture. Only a few are willing to put in the emotional labor it takes to capture such an incredible shot.

That’s the magic.

That’s what makes all the difference.

While most of us are okay with settling for mediocre pictures off the highway, Scuba Tom is in the water patiently working.

Centered shot may not be Scuba Tom’s most popular picture, but it certainly is one of his most important pieces of work.

What climbing in Little Cottonwood taught me

A friend of mine once told me, “If you can learn to climb in Little, you can climb anywhere.”

LCC routes are known for their old school/sandbag rating system meaning routes are often more difficult than they are rated.

The quick history about this: In the pioneer days of climbing, routes never went above 5.10. Anytime a route felt more difficult, climbers in fear of being called soft would call it 5.9 or 5.10.

Today, the rating system has been expanded, the hardest in the world being 5.15. But there are still old school ratings that hang around. LCC has become somewhat locally famous for some 5.10 routes being easier than some 5.11 routes. (The key is to look when the first ascent was made.)

In addition, the LCC standard is to use gear that makes sense and to preserve the nature of the first of ascent and the finite resource as much as humanly possible. Basically, if it makes sense to use removable gear, use it. If you can justify a bolt, you may (or may not) choose to use one.

Often, this meant adding an element of what climbers call “spice”. 30+ foot run outs with nothing between you and your last piece of protection were sometimes necessary (a fall is measured by the distance of the climber and the last piece of protection times two plus rope stretch, in this case about a 70 foot fall).

What climbing in LCC taught me is this:

Not every route is for every climber. Routes are all about raising your abilities to meet the challenge, not lowering the standard to yours. 

There are “classic” climbs that I would need to put more work in for me to do. Right now, I’m not willing to put in that kind of time in my life. It doesn’t mean I get to lower the bar just so I can get another check mark off my climbing to-do list. It has been a tremendous analogy for me in other facets of my life.

(40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year) x 35 years

Equals 72,800 hours you’ll work in your lifetime.

That is way too much time spent dreaming of the next weekend.

Survival is no longer enough. Survival doesn’t help us make things better.

The alternative then is to evolve, to play a different game.

What is your life’s work going to be?

Who is it going to help you become?

Who are you helping along the way?

You deserve something better than a day-to-day grind.

Distance matters

Empathy fades the greater distance we put ourselves between us and those who are suffering.

The closer we put the problems and struggles of others, the closer we feel what it is they are going through.

The more we feel, the more we are likely to act.

The opposite is true too.

The farther away something is the more disconnected we are from it.

It’s easier to watch things fall apart when it isn’t in your backyard.

Vietnam changed our views of war. Because it changed our views, many were empowered to act.

The internet changed how we see the world. This is the first medium to connect three billion people together.

And as we can see, the more connected we are, the better the world becomes.

[Interestingly, things that are far away (and small) appear simple. Things that are close (and large) are much more complicated.]

Luck is a cop out

I’ve written that I don’t believe in luck.

The only type of luck you can convince me of is the luck of the genetic lottery–born in a thriving period in human history with a particular family or natural ability (like being 6’3) or with access to education or healthcare vs. a period of war or poverty or disease.

Too often, our culture has convinced us that we are subjects to a cosmic Powerball, that success is a product of luck. We seduce ourselves into believing ‘us’ and ‘them’ are different from ‘you’ and ‘I’ and ‘me’. “I wish I was that lucky” becomes our calling card.

Of course, we’re wrong. It doesn’t take us off the hook.

Because they are, we are, all the same.


Except the choices we make along the way. Except the opportunities we take when they are presented.

It’s true, everyone is born with different access to resources–far too many are born into circumstances that are less than ideal. But I would argue that anyone who spends an hour a day watching television has demonstrated they have an hour of their time to make something that needs to be made.

Too often, we use luck as a way to demean the hard, emotional work of others. I think it’s time to smash that false limit we put on ourselves.