I think one of the hardest, if not the hardest, thing for us to do is to dare to live the life we are yearning to live. I’m talking about your life, not the life that others expect you to live, which usually follows a safe path that prevents you from taking too many risks and keeps you from rocking the boat.
In fact, I think that many of us risk our life by not living it.
If you are a woman, and you want to make some changes in your life, consider the Epic Women program, which combines life/leadership coaching, wellness, and a guided 4-day Epic backpacking expedition in Wyoming’s Wind River Range.
The coaching helps a woman take stock of her life, while “priming” her for the July Epic adventure, which is, no doubt, the highlight of the Epic Women program. Being in the wild astonishes us. The wilderness experience wakes us up from a sort of hibernation.
So, would you like to feel more inspired? Would you like to “crank it up,” and do something unexpected? Would you like to discover more about yourself? Would you like to change the conversation in your life? Are you going through a change or transition? Would you like to gain more confidence, or improve your leadership? Would you like to get in the best shape and health of your life? Would you like to make some changes to your life?
I know I’m asking a lot of questions. But I think they are all important ones to consider, and if you answered Yes to any of them, then I’m looking for you.
By the way, if you’re reading this because you’re a leader in your work, and you’re more interested in leadership development, than life coaching, I would offer this: How we live is how we lead.
There is always more to discover about yourself, and what may be possible in your life, but it takes daring…
Mariah, Jenni, Jackie, Vicki, Diana, Wendy and Roxanne dared to find out more about themselves by signing up for Epic Life’s first-ever Epic Women Expedition. These epic women could have signed up for a retreat or a vacation. But they didn’t. They signed up for something that promised to push them.(If you are a woman, this post is an effort to dare you.)
The Epic Women program is a year-long program that combines life and leadership coaching with a 5-day backpacking expedition in my backyard, Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Mariah, Jenni, Jackie, Vicki, Diana, Wendy and Roxanne came from Colorado, Alaska, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, California and Wyoming to embark on the expedition.
Epic Life’s adventures provide an opportunity to embark on a “Hero’s Journey.” A Hero’s Journey is no vacation. Women who sign up for the Epic Women Expedition are answering a call to adventure. Joseph Campbell said nothing brings people together like terror and aspiration. In my final individual calls with each of the women the month before our expedition, most of the women remarked that they were “nervous but excited.” I had them right where I wanted them…
An important aspect of the EW expedition is a mountain climb. Climbing a mountain is a great metaphor for living our best/most epic life. To find our path, to become more, we must dare to go off-trail and uphill. Let’s face it, living our epic life is often hard work. At times it requires a heroic effort. During the EW expedition, we would practice climbing a mountain, and the mountain would be Mitchell Peak. Mitchell is a big and tall mountain, and climbing it would provide views of one of the most stunning sights in the world, the Cirque of the Towers.
Climbing Mitchell Peak is a grunt for most people. If you’re from sea level, it is even more so, and five of the seven women came from sea level. It would be even more difficult because I scheduled it for Day 2. I didn’t choose Day 2 to make it harder. I chose it to hedge against poor weather that might be a factor later in the expedition leaving us no time to accomplish a mountain climb. And, I wanted the group to achieve something great right out of the gates.
As we got settled into our first night’s camp, the sun set and provided glow all around us. We could all see the massive mountain we were going to climb the next day. It loomed.
Vicki, Jackie, Roxanne, me, Jenni, Mariah, Diana and Wendy, on our first night.
I asked the women to share with me how they viewed Mitchell Peak and what their feelings were as the mountain climb approached:
MARIAH: When Shelli told us that we’d be climbing a mountain on the second day of our trip, I was a little skeptical. I had just learned to tie my boots that day! We could see the peak from our campsite, so we knew exactly what we were getting into– and it looked pretty daunting…
ROXANNE: My thought was “OMG, no way.” It truly seemed impossible. And then as I considered that we were really going to do it, I thought, how are we all going to make it all the way up there??
VICKI: It’s funny, that first night the whole experience was still so surreal, that even when we looked at the mountain in the distance it didn’t seem real. I was thinking… “oh, we’re going to climb THAT?! My eyes must be deceiving me… there must be some secret way up there…”
DIANA: Mitchell Peak seemed like this beautiful yet formidable entity looming in the distance. The unknowns of what lay ahead on the route to Mitchell Peak created anticipation and excitement.
JACKIE: Gee, I guess that pile of rocks doesn’t look too high, heh, heh… What, you mean we’re going to climb that thing… How exactly will we do that??
WENDY: The night before, the mountain looked so big… I wondered how far it really was to the top.
JENNI: Looking at Mitchell Peak the day before the ascent allowed just enough time for the intimidation to set in!
Day 2 came early. With headlamps on, we huddled to have coffee and tea and a quick breakfast in the “kitchen area” of our camp. I did a quick check-in with the women regarding how well they slept. No one slept well. In my experience, most people don’t sleep well before a mountain climb, let alone on the first night in the wilderness. I also didn’t get a wink of sleep.
Soon, we had our boots and daypacks on, and were ready to start the Mitchell Peak adventure. Right out of camp, the elevation gain starts. We did a lung-buster-“Buns of Steel” workout as we hiked up the south end of Jackass Pass. Occasionally we stopped to check the map to get our bearings. By the time we reached North Lake, we had gained 700′. North Lake was still and reflected an unnamed peak we all chose to call Epic Peak. Here, we treated some water, had a quick snack, and looked up at the beckoning Mitchell Peak, which stood 2,000 more vertical feet above us.
Taking a quick break at North Lake. That’s “Epic Peak” in the background.
After considering a couple of different route options, the women chose to take what we would call the “Mitchell Direct” route. The next couple of hours of hiking would be hard going. We’d hike up a steep slope that consisted of what the epic women came to refer to as “loose, but stable” terrain.
Climbing a mountain.
An important part of climbing a mountain is pausing to glimpse how far you’ve come. This provides inspiration for the rest of the climb.
After various women took turns route-finding, we could finally see our line to the summit. By this point, our hiking strategy was to move slow but steady. There was less oxygen available, legs were growing weary, and there was a fair amount of boulder scrambling, which was a new experience for many in the group.
Almost to the top.
I should mention that our instructors, Allison and Kat, were a significant part of our Epic Women adventure, and are themselves epic women. As we approached the summit, Kat had a wonderful idea for us to all hold hands upon summiting. It was a powerful and unforgettable experience.
Yeehaw! We made it to the top.
Nothing transforms a group into a team better than an epic undertaking. Using expedition behavior and learning the necessary physical and mental skills while ascending the mountain, we all became more, individually and as a team.
After experiencing the summit as a team, but also individually in our own ways — and after some celebratory “summit chocolate” — we reminded ourselves that the summit was only the halfway point. We still had to get ourselves down the mountain.
What goes up must go down. Here we navigate down Mitchell’s slopes.
After 11 hours of hard hiking uphill, and downhill, we returned to camp. What a day! Yet, these women aren’t just any women. They’re epic women. Somehow they still had energy left in the tank to carry through on an earlier commitment to take a swim in Big Sandy Lake. I was totally sold on the idea, mostly because it was so unreasonable, but I lacked the courage. It would be a polar plunge, and I didn’t have the guts! But with the women coaching me, and Kat’s hand to hold, I submerged. It. was. epic. We had come full circle in a day’s time. We had looked at the lake from the summit, and now we looked at the summit from (in) the lake. What a beautiful and perfect ending to a truly epic day.
Here are the epic women’s thoughts upon reflecting on their mountain climb:
MARIAH: Climbing the mountain was an incredible feeling– although the mountain itself was a challenge, the best part was doing it together. Some people had sore feet. Some people were more affected by the altitude than others. But we worked as a group, and we got there as a team. Holding hands as we reached the summit was a powerfully emotional experience. Their was collective triumph, but also 10 individual victories on the mountain on that day. Seeing how people were affected– by the feat itself, the view from the top, etc.– was the best part.
ROXANNE: After successfully climbing the mountain, I thought of many things you said – checking the map, making a plan, taking turns taking the lead, taking a break and re-checking the map, noticing how far we had come & different times along the way, encouraging others when needed, asking for help when needed, all lead to reaching the summit successfully. All are great metaphors for our everyday lives as we encounter various issues & obstacles that may feel like climbing a mountain. I will certainly pull from this experience when encountering other challenges in my life.
VICKI: When we held hands on the summit, I could literally feel the electricity flowing between our hands and our hearts, the welling of emotion, the hint of acknowledgement that overcame each one of us as we peered back through the valley and the lakes below – gazing in quiet disbelief at what we had just accomplished.
DIANA: The big rocks/boulders appeared at first glance to be solidly placed, fixed upon the steep slopes. But when stepped upon some of them teetered or shifted which was a bit alarming. I did not expect them to do that. So what appeared to be concrete and definite had some unknowns built in. Then entered the second guessing and the doubting. Do I step here or should I step there? If I step there will I fall? The doubts and the uncertainties compounded. But then after watching others tackle the boulders and through the encouragement of others I realize my fears were unfounded. I had to be confident in my choices of where to step. I had to be flexible in my stride, stand upright and bridge the rocks with my feet. And if a boulder dipped or rocked no need to panic, just go with the flow. In many ways I think life is similar. There are things that just by looking at them we assume we know. We step right in. But then we quickly find out such is not the case. We might become timid or intimidated by this and find ourselves in an uncomfortable place, the unstable footing if you will. Then there is the self discovery aspect…we learn what we do not know. Then the choice, to turn away from the issue or to turn in to it and face it. And then the enlightenment that all things are possible with flexibility, determination and balance. Life is filled with lots of uncertainty and unstable ground. It just boils down to how you approach it and how you view it. Not everything is as it seems and not all things are fixed and solidly placed. And that’s cool. Lesson learned on Mitchell: be receptive to life’s unknowns and know that with confidence, skill, focus and balance many things that seem most intimidating can be achieved.
JACKIE: Upon coming down, I was thinking, Wow, that thing is up there! I can NOT believe I went up to the top of that huge pile of rock!…I feel pretty impressed with myself. I was scared coming on EWE that I wouldn’t be fit enough, skilled enough, hadn’t prepared enough, might be too old, too fat, too slow, the altitude, etc. Climbing Mitchell affirmed in me that I am strong, pretty fit for an almost 50-year-old dame, and that when I set my mind to something I can achieve it. I realized that I have strength, endurance and better capability than I gave myself credit for having…I know that if I prepare, I can do a lot and I can continue to experience and see wonderful places on this earth using human power.
WENDY: After the mountain climb, I thought, I climbed a big ass mountain! And I came down on one leg. It was a powerful emotion of personal achievement for me. (Wendy injured a knee during the ascent of the mountain)
JENNI: Intimidation combined with a little determination made for a lot of motivation to conquer the peak that had been staring at me for two days! Now that I have successfully summited Mitchell I have a new record “high” for altitude. It was an amazing feeling to accomplish the climb and it gave me an adrenaline rush that I hope to keep satisfying in the future. In comparison to life….all things are possible when you’re determined to succeed. Just keep a nice steady pace, continue putting one foot in front of the other, and when you reach the top you’ll know it was worth every ounce of hard work you put into achieving your goal!
For me, climbing Mitchell Peak with Mariah, Jenni, Jackie, Vicki, Diana, Wendy and Roxanne, women I had come to know personally in the months prior to the adventure, and whose lives inspire me, was an unforgettable experience that will always be dear to me. All of these women could have been doing something else that week — something easier or more “fun.” Their courage to sign up for the epic expedition, and that was displayed throughout the mountain climb, is a reflection of their gusto for life. One of my favorite quotes is a Mary Oliver one: “Are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” I can report that these Epic Women were not breathing just a little. They may have even at times been gasping. On the Epic Women Expedition, they were practicing experiencing being fully alive.
I’m signing up women for Epic Women 2017. If you’re interested, please email me.
I’m currently vetting for my 2015 Epic Women program. Epic Women is an annual program that bundles individual life & leadership coaching with a guided 6-day Epic backpacking adventure in Wyoming’s spectacular Wind River Range, a customized personal training program to get you in the best shape/health of your life, new and lasting friendships with other epic women, inspiration, clarity, discovery, and the list goes on.
Email me if you’d like more information and/or to schedule a call. There are 8 spots left, and it will fill fast!
People don’t hire a life coach so they can keep operating in their comfort zone. Rather, people hire a life coach to dare them to leave their comfort zone. Change cannot be made in the confines of our comfort zone, within the confines of our fears. So we have to dare to explore the edges, to dare to enter a space that is full of uncertainty.
To grow and develop — and follow our bliss — we have to explore the edges of our abilities. We must level up, and I’m so compelled by its value that I’ve built Epic Life around the concept.
Every year I “sign up” for at least one major adventure — what I’ve come to refer to as an Epic Adventure. It could be a hike that covers a greater distance than I’ve ever hiked in a 24-hour period, such as the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim day hike I did in 2010, or the 50-mile traverse day hike of Zion National Park I did in 2011. Or, it could be climbing the Grand Teton, or Mt. Whitney. Or, many times it’s not outdoors-related at all but it’s still an epic adventure. It could be a proposal or call I make to a high level executive or corporation, or a speaking gig to a high profile audience I dare to accept. For example, we’re about to embark on a 30-day family trip to Europe. Talk about an epic adventures. This is a dream-come-true that is a big financial investment and a lot of time to be a long way from home. We are mostly excited, but nervous too. That is how you know if you’re exploring your edges — it’s something you want to do, and yet it makes you a little, or a lot, uncomfortable.
That said, I do make lots of room for epic outdoor adventures because so much growth happens and in a setting that will inspire me for days and months and years.
In leveling up, at some point during the adventure, I am not enough. I will not have what it takes. This is scary and uncomfortable. This is when I will find myself asking “whose idea was this?” and remember that it was mine. It’s also a powerful point in the adventure because at this crux, I can make a choice: I can quit, or I can continue — learning the skills I need along the way. The adventure becomes a journey of personal discovery as I’m forced to explore the edges of my abilities — to see what I’m made of, and also to discover what’s possible.
If we are to live our best, most epic life, we must dare to live and operate at these edges often.
Living at the edges is not unique to outdoor adventure. Often we are at our edges at home and at work.
Exposure. Or, scrambling up the last section of Mt. Whitney’s Mountaineering Route.
Think of some of the most nerve-wracking moments you’ve experienced — especially ones that you consciously chose to be a part of. I remember when my friend, Debbie Cohen, chief of people for Mozilla, so generously offered to host a brunch at her San Francisco home for women corporate leaders in her circle so that I could practice my pitch/presentation for Epic Life. I would have been nuts to say no, right, especially given corporate women are my target market. So I said yes. But as the event drew closer, I started negotiating with myself, and looking for a way out. It was all too much. It was too big. What was I thinking? Despite this second-guessing, I hung in there with my commitment to the brunch presentation.
On the morning of the presentation, as women starting arriving at Debbie’s, with about five minutes to go before my presentation was to begin, I retreated to a guest room and became paralyzed in fear. I can experience those emotions of stress and fear by recalling the experience. I was hunched in a chair trying to get myself together, to get “in state.” But instead I was freaking out, nervous and sweating. Hiding, really. I second-guessed myself and my presentation, and Epic Life. “What if these women don’t find what I have to say compelling? What if they’ve heard it before? What if nobody but me cares about what I am here to say?” And so on. Finally, it was time to present, and so I left my hiding place and entered the living room to give my presentation.
The presentation went well and the women were lovely. They provided enthusiastic support for my message and my business, while providing valuable feedback. Even if the presentation were a bomb, the experience of leveling up (raising my game) would have been beneficial in that it caused me to develop new skills and to “cowgirl up.” The experience made me better. And I’m grateful to Debbie, one of the biggest champions of people I know, for giving me the opportunity to rise up.
Just daring to level up is the equivalent of standing on a summit of a mountain. While I love standing on the top of a summit, in my humble opinion, daring to start up the mountain in the first place can be more significant than standing on top of it.
An example of leveling up in my personal life would be the fact that our oldest son, who just turned 13, will be going on a jet, alone, to a junior leadership conference on the East Coast for a week. That will not be easy for my husband and I, and Wolf’s brothers. I will be a mess putting him on a plane. Yet, it will be an amazing experience for our son.
Ascending the couloir, while being short-roped into my summit team.
There are many more experiences like this that I could list. I challenge you to reflect on your own experience of living at your edges.
Regardless of how different our experiences may be, the emotions related to each are the same: fear, stress, anxiety. During these times at our edge(s), we yearn for safety.
Recently, I had the tremendous honor of climbing Mt. Whitney with Backpacker magazine editors and readers who raised a combined $250,000 for Big City Mountaineers, an organization that provides wilderness mentoring and experiences for disadvantaged urban youth. (Thank you to Sierra Mountaineering International for the phenomenal guiding)
It was an amazing opportunity to raise money and climb a mountain for such an important cause. And, sure, climbing Mt. Whitney would be an awesome adventure that would give me another interesting story to tell. But more importantly, the adventure would require me to be at my edges. Frequently. So of course, I said yes when my friend, Jon Dorn, informed me there was available space on Team 4, and invited me.
Ascending “The Ledges” on Day 1.
Yeehaw! (On the summit of Mt. Whitney.)
Since returning from the adventure, I have reflected on the many times I was operating at, or beyond my edges during the adventure.
–Backpacking with 11 strangers. (I knew two of my teammates; the other 11 would be people I would meet in person for the first time) As usual, per these epic adventures, I left Mt. Whitney with many meaningful new friendships.
–Being in unfamiliar country. It would be my first time to the area.
–I had to wear rigid, really warm mountaineering boots. This may not sound daunting to most, but to me, someone who typically hikes in trail-running shoes and who has blister-prone feet, it would be uncomfortable for me.
–The Ledges. On our hike in, shortly after leaving the Mt. Whitney hiking trail, we’d have to ascend “The Ledges,” which were composed of about 400′ of granite slab(s) we’d have to use hands and feet to get up and over.
–Loaded. I would be hiking with a 44-pound backpack on my back. (Normally I hike with 15 pounds on my back)
–”Wag bag.” Alert! (Sorry for the gross nature of this item) This perhaps was the most difficult (uncomfortable) aspect of the entire adventure. We were each given a wag bag at the start, and instructed that during the adventure, “#2” had to be done in the bag — our same bag — and hauled out with us at the end of the adventure. I totally understand and appreciate the need to do this. If it weren’t for the wag bag requirement, the High Sierras around Mt. Whitney would resemble a poop landfill. Still, it is not natural to poop in a bag, over the course of 4 days, and then haul it out. Talk about leaving your comfort zone… By the way, clients and future clients, as far as I know there won’t be any wag bags on Epic Life’s adventures.
–”Self conscious sleeping.” Sonja, one of my two tent-mates, gets credit for this phrase. I, too, would call myself a self conscious sleeper. In a tent with two other women, I worried about snoring or talking in my sleep. As a result, I didn’t sleep very well.
–Ice axe, crampons, helmet, short ropes. These are things I hadn’t used in combination before, and the fact that we’d be using them at all meant the stakes were higher than they are on most of my outdoor excursions. The terrain was steep, frozen in areas, and loose in others. Using all of these tools was a new experience for me.
–”Shitty shit.” This is the term we coined for the loose scree that was on a very narrow and steep couloir that we ascended and descended on summit day. One thing that hiking on the scree reminded me of is that even if you take your steps very deliberately, it’s still possible the entire earth below your feet will give way. It’s the same in life when we dare to go off-trail, or/and higher.
–Class 3 & 4 climbing. The last “obstacle” to Whitney’s summit was a 400′ foot rock climb/scramble. While this section was not that difficult for me, personally, the exposure was significant, and therefore left me feeling apprehensive.
All of the above were opportunities to practice being uncomfortable, to practice leaning in and daring to go beyond my comfort zone. The result of doing so is self discovery. I return more, and better, than I was before.
What is an edge you want to be dared to explore?
(I want to give a special thanks to Jerry and our sons for their continued love and support, and to all of my family and inner circle of friends, to Jon Dorn, and also to Debbie Cohen and Kate Roeske-Zummer for daring me — and to all of my family, friends, colleagues and clients, who make me better, and who generously donated to the Mt. Whitney climb! Also, thanks to Mike Lilygren and NOLS, who helped me “gear up” for the adventure. THANK YOU!)
I’m excited to be providing 9 amazing women with an epic 6-day backpacking expedition, July 19-26, in my stunning back yard, Wyoming’s Wind River Range. This is not a guided tour. It is a custom-built adventure that will help women lean in, improve their leadership, push their limits, and return as more than they were before.
I have 8 spots left, and the program will fill fast…
You will get to experience the epic Cirque of the Towers, and there will be some resting. Not a lot, but some. 😉
The EPIC WOMEN program includes the guided epic backpacking expedition (July 19-26), training tips and/or training program, individual life and leadership coaching, new and lasting friendships, inspiration, clarity, discovery, and the list goes on.
If you’re a woman looking for adventure, new friendships with like-minded women, and interested in discovering and pursuing your most epic life, please email me.
It’s hard to sign up for something that has the potential to change your life. I know because I’ve done it many times.
I also know it’s hard because right now I’m trying to compel others to sign up, and I’m not having an easy time of it. Which — I’m guessing — means I have prospects right where I want them: in the realization that what they’re considering has the potential to rock their world.
By the way, in my humble opinion and experience, it’s often harder to sign up than to do the thing you’re signing up for.
My mission at Epic Life (as your coach, or not as your coach) is to dare you to live as if you’re dying — to live each day as if it counts. Because each day does. None of knows how much time we have. I have a friend who died suddenly from an aneurysm at the age of 52 last October. It happens. (Lori was a mother, wife and grandmother, and a terrific friend to many. She lived life to the fullest better than anyone I know, and she continues to be an inspiration to all who knew her.)
You make each day count by living on purpose. An Epic Life is not a perfect life, but a life that’s lived on purpose.
Your life is your story. Contrary to what we often tell ourselves, we are at choice. We get to create our own stories. To create yours, you’ll have to go off-trail. My wish is to support others in going off-trail, so that they may discover what’s there.
Living an Epic Life is signing up for charting your own course, where the going will often be difficult, and the outcome uncertain.
What will you get in exchange? Discovery of your best life – an Epic Life.
If your current life is not your best, what are you waiting for? Serious and important question, this is.
Zion National Park, in southwestern Utah, is one of my favorite places in the world. If you haven’t been there, add it to your list. You will thank me.
Greetings from Zion.
I am on my way to Las Vegas to give a presentation that is tomorrow morning. I jump on any opportunity I have to experience Zion. Given Zion is just 2-3 hours from Vegas, I blocked out a short stop in Zion. I hiked all day, including to Angel’s Landing, farther up the West Rim Trail, to Telephone Canyon, through Echo Canyon, to Observation Point, and to Hidden Canyon.
I saw countless flowers, including Indian paintbrush that grows out of the cracks of Zion’s big red walls. Tiny lizards crossed my path throughout the day and hummingbirds “buzzed” regardless of my location.
Flowers grow out of the walls.
Observation Point awards its hikers with views like this one.
The most epic views in Zion will take your breath away — both metaphorically and literally. I highly recommend you hike to Angel’s Landing, as well as to Observation Point. These hikes are not for the faint of heart. (Reasonable — and fit — people will hike one of these per day.) There is 1,500′ of elevation gain to Angel’s Landing and 2,500′ of gain to Observation Point.
Views from Zion's West Rim Trail.
I shared the trails with more than 100 people. I shook hands and shared brief conversations with 28 people. 28 wonderful people. I normally don’t keep track of how many people I meet in a day.
But yesterday was different. By 10 am, I had talked to more than 10 people and all of them were from outside of the U. S. This made me curious. All told, 20 out of 28 of the visitors I conversed with yesterday were from outside the U.S. I met people from France, Switzerland, England, Germany, Japan.
One woman, from Australia, was in the area to run in the first-ever Zion 100. I did not know about this event. If I didn’t have to be in Vegas tomorrow morning, perhaps I would enter that event. Or not.
Last year, I did an almost-50-mile traverse day hike from West to East of Zion National Park and it remains one of the most epic and unforgettable experiences I’ve ever had. I can only imagine what 100 miles of Zion would look, and be, like…
I am happy to report that I have a special use permit so I can guide Epic Life clients on hikes in Zion National Park. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in participating in a guided Epic Adventure with me to Zion, please let me know.
I have been traveling quite a bit to develop Epic Life, so I am relishing being home in Wyoming with my family — my “home team.”
Yesterday, my husband, Jerry, our three sons, our dog, and I, hiked to Popo Agie Falls — one of our favorite local hikes. It was glorious.
Nothing completes me like family, love and nature. As long as I have these, I am rich.