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Adventure, Hiking, Leadership, Presence of Mind

Why We Are All Meant to Be Climbers

March 3, 2017

After sitting most of the work week and being inside for so long, I knew I needed some time outdoors. I can sense it when my energy gets pretty low, and my surroundings start to feel too confined.


That Sunday morning, I drove down to Crowder’s Mountain. The moment that I stepped out of the car and I smelled the pine and saw the trailhead, I felt myself begin to relax. Oftentimes at this point, I feel the urge to snag a picture or adjust my music. But, this time, I left my phone in the car.


I set out on a run. I set out on a climb.


As I ran deeper onto the trail, I started to see some rocks and boulders. Running on rocks is almost meditative – as much as they make me pay closer attention as I climb the trail, navigating their natural puzzle, they always seem to relax me.


I looked over my left shoulder. The morning sun was beginning to come out over the mountaintop.  It was a beautiful view through the trees and I started to lose track of time.


I was about halfway up the mountain when I felt my body and mind settle into the pace of the run. That felt about right; it usually takes me just about 20 minutes to settle into it and then see what’s around me – the greenery, the path, my dog running ahead looking back with that “this-is-so-awesome-Dad-let’s-keep-going” face.


I approached the top. The trail got steeper. And my run turned into a slower hike.


As I hit the last few steps to the summit, I could feel the air on my face. It was much colder. Almost out of breath, I started to see the view from the top.  The sky was so open and so clear and so blue.  There was nothing but open space in my view. And, in that moment, an overwhelming sense of wonder hits me.


That sense of wonder turns into a sense of possibility and excitement.  I wonder what else is out there; I wonder what else could be?


This wasn’t simply a Sunday morning run. This was a climb – a purposeful move into and out of a confined space; a shift from the thick of a forest to the open view of a mountain’s summit.


I think we are all meant to be climbers; not social climbers or actual rock climbers. Climbers as in seekers of open space.


There’s clearly great power in the climb but as much as we think our work is the actual climb, there’s a step before that. In order to climb, we must identify the confined space in which we find ourselves.


For me, I am inside a lot during the day. So when I have been sitting for a long time and I feel the natural urge to move I know immediately what my confined space is – the office – and I know what I need to do – get outside, run, explore, climb, wander.


During the week, I find being outside on a run, bike ride or hike keeps me centered. But what seems to feel really impactful is a weekend climb up the mountain and a view of a wide open vista.


I climb for a few reasons. To feel that sense of freedom, curiosity and wonder. To feel more alive and in the moment. To see new possibilities and open up my thinking. But, also to feel more connected to what’s important; what’s simple. Those are all the things that will get me out of any confined space.


As I make my way down that mountain many times I find myself laughing out loud like a little kid.  I think I laugh at how something so simple can also be so profound.

Adventure, Hiking, Leadership

Why it is important to have great people on your climb

February 2, 2017

I think one of the most important things in life is to have great friends and mentors who challenge us and push us.  One of my good friends Peter Lowry does that for me.  Whether it was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or getting across this snow wall below, he has also been there to keep me going.


However, when I first came up to this snow wall I wanted nothing to do with it.  I really wanted to turn around and below were some thoughts on how I got through it.


What I got to see instead of turning back…

Thanks Petey!



Adventure, Running

What inspired me to run up Big Sky Mountain

January 27, 2017

Last year I had a chance to stay up in Big Sky, Montana.  When I arrived I saw this amazing peak and something hit me.  I had this sense of wonder of “hey maybe I could run to the top of that.”

It was like trying to get up there had me really curious and feeling moved.  I always think of my grandfather Poppy too when this happens.  Below were some reflections from about half way up.

This sense of wonder, curiosity and inspiration kept me going that day.  Even when I thought I hit the summit pretty early :).

Ya, I wasn’t quite there yet. So just kept running to see what would happen.  I just got more curious and had more fun with the terrain.  This was me after hitting the top.


Adventure, Biking, Exercise, Gym, Hiking

A workout that keeps me coming back

April 26, 2016

Below is a post I wrote recently for the Madabolic blog.

I have been going to Madabolic for almost three years now.  This is unusual for me as I tend to move from gym to gym and have tried almost every workout in the city. What I love about Madabolic is from the very first time I walked in, their team asked me about what I like to do and my fitness goals. I told them I wanted a good workout but also love to run, bike, do Flywheel, the occasional yoga, hike, ski and just about anything else outside. They said “greatyou should keep doing all of that and let’s figure out how to integrate our workouts into your lifestyle.” 

I appreciated that the team at Madabolic was more focused on how I could improve my lifestyle versus how many times I came to the gym. Most weeks I go to 2-3 classes with some running and other outdoor activities mixed in.

Recently, I told the trainers I was going to join some friends to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro which is the highest peak in Africa. The trip was only three weeks away when I made the final decision to go. I believe my training at Madabolic was a big reason I could say yes to an opportunity like this. Will Smith once said, “you don’t have to get ready if you stay ready.” The trainers even gave me a few things I could do outside of class to prepare for the climb.

I had an amazing experience on Mt. Kilimanjaro. We made it to the Summit (19,341ft.) after a 6.5 day journey. The view was incredible at the top.

mad trucker hat at summit

Leading up to the trip, I was a little worried if I would make it to the Summit. I used to do this with my workouts too…always wondering if I was doing the best one and so focused on the end result. However, the best part of Kilimanjaro was not at the top. What I really enjoyed was going on a journey with great people. I learned to appreciate the simple things. I loved doing something active everyday, taking in the surroundings and not knowing what the next day would bring.  “How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.” – Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia Founder)

After getting back from Kilimanjaro, I have started to put these lessons into practice. My typical Saturday is a good example of this and is also my favorite day for Madabolic classes. The day starts with a 1 mile jog to Mad with my dog Brooks. He sits patiently outside while I workout.

brooks at mad

The workout keeps my mind stimulated, and I never know what to expect since the intervals change everyday. The trainers (Brandon, Kirk, Cristina, Sarah, Carl, Rae and Finley) are very intentional to watch my form and make sure I am getting the most out each repetition. The music is awesome and I am energized by the atmosphere.

mad workout


I usually leave tired, breathless but also with the satisfaction of feeling like an athlete again. After I catch up with a few friends, I grab Brooks and we jog over to Atherton Mill Market. The smell from Not Just Coffee is amazing so I grab a coffee and a Bruks Bar. I talk to my favorite farmers and sometimes buy things I have never heard of like Chinese Kale :).

The afternoon may call for some bike cruising around Southend with music playing on my speakers.

bike crusing

I usually have some Lord Huron, Kygo, Chvrches, Frightened Rabbit or “Beat It” by Michael Jackson going. I may have even poached a few songs from what I have heard during my workouts at Mad :). Another favorite activity is heading to the Whitewater Center for some Mt. Biking or kayaking with Brooks.

Dinner could be one of my favorite food trucks like Tin Kitchen, something healthy or making some homemade pizzas :). It just depends on what I want to enjoy most!

I usually hit the pillow at night pretty hard appreciating days like this. I am thankful for the team at Madabolic. I have a greater quality of life since starting there a few years ago.

I still get energized thinking about the next Kilimanjaro but until then…I am keeping the focus on how I climb.


Pictures with a Story

April 16, 2016

I thought I would share a few of my favorite pictures from a trip to Africa this past January.



Boy meets chewing gum…


Above the clouds


I wouldn’t come any closer


What is that???!!


I see you


If you must…get my good side


In line to the sun

Adventure, Exercise

A 10 Minute Morning Adventure

April 9, 2016

Yesterday morning I finished up a doctor’s appointment about 30 minutes earlier than I expected. As I walked out of the office I was thinking about how I missed my morning workout, and it was beautiful outside.

Usually I would have used the extra time to go get some extra work done. But as I walked out to my car I spotted a little park down the road. I decided to wander over and the below video is the end result.


A few pictures…







Exercise, Hiking, Leadership

What made climbing Kilimanjaro so memorable

February 29, 2016

Summit day. 3am wake-up. We were a mixture of nervous and excited as we talked quietly over some warm oatmeal. It was very cold and pitch black dark. We had 4,000 ft left and 7 hours to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Step by step we were making progress up the mountain. It was very hard to see except for a few feet in front of you. I was breathing pretty heavy and intently focused on my steps. All the while wondering would I make to the top? Would my body adjust to the steady altitude increase? With my attention on the ground and in my thoughts, I almost forgot to look up. When I finally did I saw the sunrise to my left.



I was so focused on getting to the top that I almost missed it. The beauty of the mountain had slowed me down, and I began reflecting on why I was on this climb. I was surprised a few moments later when I started experiencing some pretty strong emotions. I remembered all the people who had been part of “the climb” to get here – but also in my life.

I thought about my grandfather who passed away six years ago. He was the one who inspired me to be more active and live a healthier lifestyle. I thought about my family, close friends and colleagues who encouraged me to go on this trip when I struggled to make a decision. I thought about the clients and the work I care so much for. They were part of this journey with me. I was climbing for them.

I felt connected to my most important values…living with purpose, connecting with people, stretching my limits and feeling energized by possibility. I was able to do this with an awesome group of people that included some of my best friends from school. In just six days, we had also formed some special friendships with our amazing Tanzanian guides and the porters (the guys who helped carry our stuff up the mountain).

When we reached our last stop before the Summit at Gilman’s Point (18,562 ft), the taste of salty Pringles was amazing. I ate some more sour patch kids, and we all fueled up for the coldest part of the climb and our first snow.

For the first time the skies became very cloudy, and I was worried that we may not have a view at the Summit. Then as we made the ascent up the last few hundred feet, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. The air was cold, I was out of breath and my heart was pounding – I was feeling more alive that I had been in awhile.

As we walked up the last few feet to Uhuru Peak, I marveled at the sight of something I had never seen or felt before. 19,341 ft and the highest peak in Africa. For the first time in my life I could see across an entire continent. It was a special moment, and I smiled once again thinking about all the people who made the climb so memorable for me.

Below are some of my favorite highlights from the trip.


The view


Getting some air at the top!


Our friend Jeff proposing at the summit to Angela…she said yes!

Our crew

Our crew on the first day


Some kids I wanted to steal on the way up 🙂


With our lead guide Joshua…this guy was amazing!


Giving my boots to Felix after the trip…after seeing his ripped up shoes I figured he needed them much more than me


Our whole crew (7 of us, 26 porters and 3 guides)

“If you want to fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

Dancing with our porters on the first morning…it seems everyone speaks Michael Jackson 🙂

How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.” Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia founder)





Exercise, Hiking, Leadership

The mindset it takes to make it up the toughest climb in the world

February 10, 2015

19 days on a vertical rock wall. Sleeping in a tent hanging on the side of a mountain. Pulling yourself up on ledges that are two credit cards thin. It was a climb that many said was completely impossible.

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And having failed to make it to the top of this climb five times previously, what kind of mindset would it take to accomplish something like this?

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Meet Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson who were the first two climbers to “free climb” the Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Their story has captured the hearts of a nation and even had President Barack Obama tweeting about it. Read more details of their incredible accomplishment here.

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I started to follow their journey for several reasons but mainly because of an INC interview I read in October of 2013. It was about Caldwell teaching a course with Jim Collins (Author of Good to Great) to a group of cadets at West Point.

At that time Caldwell had already made three unsuccessful attempts at climbing the Dawn Wall. Collins and Caldwell discussed the challenge that this climb offered when Collins asked, “Why do you keep throwing yourself at this? All it does is give you failure upon failure. Why go back?”

“Because success is not the primary point,” Caldwell said. “I go back because the climb is making me better. It is making me stronger. I am not failing; I am growing.”

As stated in the article, “Caldwell viewed failure as an essential part of his search for the outer reaches of his capabilities as a climber.” “To find your limit and experience the most growth, you have to go on a journey of cumulative failure,” Caldwell said.

“Even if I never succeed in free climbing the Dawn Wall, it will make me so much stronger, and so much better, that most other climbs will seem easy by comparison.”

I thought Caldwell’s response was incredibly inspiring, and it definitely re-shaped my thoughts around ‘failure.’  The word ‘failure’ itself carries a negative stigma for many people in our society and can also stifle the best innovation within our organizations. When we start thinking about new ideas or our goals the potential for failure can sometimes overwhelm us and might hold back from pursuing our biggest aspirations as a result.

I remember this exact feeling when I wanted to start my own ‘climb’ which meant shifting from a career in commercial real estate to leadership development. It definitely delayed my decision for awhile as I was afraid it wouldn’t work out or I would fail.

But what if we saw ‘failing’ on the pathway toward a compelling personal or professional vision as a growth opportunity? What if it was just a necessary step in the process. It might shift our thinking from why it won’t work out to the thought of what might be possible?

“For me, I love to dream big, and I love to find ways to be a bit of an explorer,” Caldwell said in a recent NY Times article. “These days it seems like everything is padded and comes with warning labels. This just lights a fire under me, and that’s a really exciting way to live.”

On December 27, 2014, Caldwell would start his sixth attempt at the Dawn Wall with Jorgeson. Many continued to believe this route was not possible. But I believe for Caldwell, success was not always about making it the top. It was more about following his passion and stretching the limits of his potential along the way. He accepted that failed Dawn Wall attempts were a natural part of the process and had been planning for this climb since 2007.

After 19 grueling days and 7 years of work, they made it to the top. What a moment.

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It was certainly time to celebrate with a toast. It had been more than just a ‘climb’ for Caldwell as he shared with National Geographic. “For me the Dawn Wall is the perfect venue for some of the most important values I want to show [my son] Fitz,” said Caldwell… “Optimism, perseverance, dedication and the importance of dreaming big.”

Tommy/Kevin, thanks for inspiring us with your dream. You remind us that when we stretch the perceived limits of our potential, it might just be true that anything is possible.

I think this is why so many people around the world could relate to their story. As Jorgeson explained for the NY Times, “I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.”

As you reflect today, what is something compelling that you want to go after? What is your Dawn Wall?


Energy Management, Exercise, Gym, Leadership, Presence of Mind, Productivity, Uncategorized

Is exercise the access to greater performance?

November 3, 2013

A few months ago, I noticed I was starting to slack on some of my workouts. I had been running but not really putting the time in for some of my workouts at the gym. I would try to squeeze in 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there and always validated reasons to cut it short. Did I really have time for a whole hour????

However, this all changed when I joined a gym called Elite Wellness with a trainer named Jason Boudrie who puts together some amazing group interval workouts. After the workouts, I immediately noticed I was more focused and my energy levels were through the roof into the afternoon.

On one particular day when I did a really tough workout, one of my colleagues said my some of my work was the best she had seen in several months. I could tell my heart rate was up more than ever during Jason’s workouts. And lately, I have I started doing some fantastic group interval classes at Madabolic. Not only is it a great workout, but I leave feeling refreshed by the sense of community and comraderie.

What I have noticed over the past few months is that I am able to get difficult tasks done quicker and with better outcomes than usual. My concentration levels and general sense of well-being and aliveness have been great.

box jumps

What I experienced is that making my exercise a priority is the access to greater performance. A noted Harvard Medical School professor and brain science expert named Dr. John Ratey outlined these ideas in a fascinating book called “Spark.” Dr Ratey’s research showed that “the real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping (through exercise) is that it makes the brain function at its best…building muscles and conditioning the heart and lungs are essentially side effects…the point of exercise is to build and condition the brain.” This has some interesting implications for leaders that want to tap into greater creativity and innovation in themselves and others.

Dr. Ratey’s research also showed how organizations can produce powerful results when their culture is built around wellness. A school district in Naperville, IL started educating students on a healthy lifestyle versus just getting them to play sports. At some schools they started using heart rate monitors to make sure students did some hard physical activity before their most difficult class. This was all designed to make sure the brain was ready for their most challenging tasks of the day. In 1999, Naperville district students scored first in the world in science on the Trends in Mathematical and Science Study (TIMSS) and 6th in Math.  By comparison, the rest of U.S. students ranked 18th and 19th respectively.

Unfortunately, many times our exercise is the first thing we drop when life gets busy or we just try to “fit in a few minutes” like I was doing. What could this be costing us with the performance of our organizations and our overall well-being? I know I feel like a new person every time I leave a great workout. It isn’t always easy to commit an hour to exercise, but the results are too strong for me to ignore. As Dr. Ratey points out, exercise is huge catalyst for greater performance and can also take us to the next level with our happiness, satisfaction and energy. Instead of trying to fit in exercise, what if our lives and organizations were built around when we exercise?


This was also posted on the blog for The Center for Intentional Leadership