I hope you’ll read this blog post. The sharing I do in it took some daring. You’ll have to read past the next few paragraphs to see what I mean by that. (I still can’t believe I’ve written a blog post that includes head banging and Elvis!)
For a few years now, I’ve been selecting three words to guide me during each new year. These are words I think a lot about, and carefully select because I mean for them to act as reminders for me to be certain ways during the year.
The three words idea is not my idea. My friend, Chris Brogan gets the credit. Every year I would read about his three words, and I was inspired, so I started doing it for myself a few years ago.
I chose ONE because I want to get better at single-tasking. I have a very active mind, and it’s difficult for me to focus on one thing at a time. I know how important deep focus is for doing meaningful work. The year’s not over, but I must report that out of all three of my words, there is one that I’m not doing so well at. Can you guess which one?
I chose PRACTICE because I believe that to get good at anything, or to create a new habit or to learn a new skill, practice is required. And I like rituals. I was already good at practicing when I chose this word, but I chose it because there are more things I want to practice. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m doing pretty well with Practice.
The last word, HELL YEAH, is – I know – two words, but hey, these are my words and my rules. I chose Hell Yeah because for some years now, I’ve been wanting to be more impulsive, spontaneous, daring, and fun. To be sure, I have a lot of fun in my life. I play at least as hard as I work, which is pretty hard. But I’m a planner, and so much of my fun is planned. I chose “Hell Yeah” as one of my words and intentions for this year because I wanted to “let loose” more. I wanted to find myself saying “Hell Yeah” when I would normally go into my head and overthink it before holding back and saying No, or Hell No. I want to have more Hell Yeah in me and my life.
I’m excited to report that I’ve said Hell Yeah a lot. And the result is I’ve had some exhilarating experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. And while Hell Yeah has been a conscious effort mostly this year, my desire to let loose was inspired earlier.
In 2013, I read, and have since been influenced by a 2009 article, written by Derek Sivers, called No “Yes.” Either “HELL YEAH!” or “No.” I have become great at saying No, and better at not saying Yes. I like that Hell Yeah means a Yes better be something to be emphatic about.
I also was inspired to have more Hell Yeah in my life when I led my first Epic Women Wind River expedition in August of 2013. After we climbed a tall mountain on Day 2, the Epic Women, who had traveled from Rhode Island, Chicago, California, Alaska, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Laramie, WY, for the adventure, took a plunge in the ice-cold alpine lake near our camp. I watched in awe, and thought the ladies were crazy. Then the ladies turned the tables and “coached” me into taking the plunge. It was freezing – and exhilarating.
After that icy plunge, I determined that I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and be reasonable during such occasions. I decided then that I wanted to be a person who lives more, and who “goes for it” more often. I think it was in those moments after I had dared to take the icy plunge that the initial “I-want-to-say-hell-yeah-more-often” seed was planted. But it took time to grow, and to sprout.
In 2015, I slid down a waterfall with my three sons that I hadn’t slid down since I was 18 years old, some 30 years earlier. As I did it, I screamed and was scared, but also excited, and for a moment felt like a teenager again.
In early 2016, we decided to take a 30-day Europe trip in the summer that we weren’t sure we could afford, but realizing it won’t be long before our boys are off to college, we said, Hell Yeah.
I have been playing some great basketball games with Jerry and the boys in the hotel pools when we travel – something I never used to do. I’ve been going on scarier rides and bigger rollercoasters at amusement parks. And the list goes on…
All of these Hell Yeah experiences make me feel young, and more alive. Who doesn’t want that? And I believe these experiences, because of their novelty, and because they make you feel so alive, help to create unforgettable – truly lasting – memories. In the end of our life, we won’t remember everything. It’s not possible. Having more unforgettable experiences has been part of my personal mission for years now, and saying Hell Yeah helps to keep me on mission.
It wasn’t until this year, though, that I really cranked it up. I hesitated on sharing this because I was concerned that people might judge me, possibly unfairly, but after careful consideration, and some feedback from people I trust, I have decided to share. After all, I didn’t break any laws, and I had the time of my life!
So here it goes…I went to a Rave. I should say we, and I should say two. Jerry, my husband of 25 years, is a real trooper, and I am lucky. He’s adventurous, and he’s game for just about anything I suggest.
Jerry and I have three sons: Wolf, a junior in high school, Hayden, a sophomore in high school, and Fin, a fifth grader. Last April, for our spring break, we took a road trip that included camping and exploring a bunch of state and national parks, sledding down giant sand dunes, exploring the hoodoos of Goblin Valley, and – and the end, a fancy hotel, fancy dinner, and tickets to a Utah Jazz basketball game.
About halfway through the trip, in Colorado Springs, we spent the day hiking 14 miles worth of trails in the Garden of the Gods. By evening, the boys were tired, and we were all sweaty and stinky and covered in dirt, so we got a hotel for the night. As we were taking turns getting cleaned up, the boys hinted they felt like they had earned some “Privs.” (Privs means privileges, which, for our boys, mean video games/”screen time.”) We had had a very active spring break so far, so theirs was not an unreasonable request. Plus, Jerry and I saw the opportunity: We could have a date! (Can I get a Hell Yeah?!)
For the last several months, I had been listening to a lot of Electronic Dance Music on Spotify, and Jerry liked it, too. (Polish Ambassador, The Chainsmokers, DJ Snake, David Guetta, etc.) Jerry and I love to dance, but other than the occasional wedding we attend, or a Lander Live event, we don’t get many chances to dance. So while Jerry was in the shower, I quickly Google-searched EDM in Colorado Springs. To my delight, there was a well-known DJ performing at a club called Rawkus, which was described as a “sizable, rollicking nightspot with a bar & neon lighting, plus a lineup of DJs & live music.”
When Jerry got out of the shower, I proposed my idea – that we go to Rawkus, an EDM club. After looking at me long enough to confirm I was serious, he said, “Sure. That sounds like fun.”
Jerry put on a polo shirt, and I put on my only shirt that wasn’t a t-shirt – a blouse – and I used my Uber app to request a ride. We told the boys we were going to an EDM club, and the older sons – the ones who know what EDM is – laughed, rolled their eyes, but then offered, “That’s cool.” We told them, “We may be out super late, dancing” – to which they responded, “Awesome. Take your time!”
The adventure started when the Uber driver showed up. A kind and outgoing “soccer mom” showed up in a maroon mini van. She quickly moved the two baby car seats – and no kidding a soccer ball, out of the back seat to make room for us. On her dashboard was a bobblehead Jesus, and there were wallet-sized photos of two young, adorable children, a girl and a boy, clipped to the visor above the front passenger seat.
“Where would you like to go?” she asked. “The Rawkus,” I said. She responded with, “Ohhh, Rawkus, huh? Feeling raucous tonight, are we?!” Jerry and I laughed, and together exclaimed, “Yes!” And I think – I’m pretty sure – she added, “Wow, Rawkus, I didn’t see that coming…” as she smiled at us in the center rear view mirror.
As our driver pulled out of our hotel parking lot, she asked us what kind of music we’d like to listen to. I could tell Jerry was impressed. I travel a fair amount, and have used Uber a lot, but this was Jerry’s first Uber experience, and he was surprised by the customer service. I whispered to him that the Uber drivers are rated by their passengers so drivers aim to provide a great experience. Her asking us for our musical preference was part of that.
We told her any kind of music would be just fine. “You pick,” I offered.
Our driver said, “I love Hip Hop, so if it’s okay, I’ll play some of that?”
“Sure” we said. Our boys listen to a fair amount of Hip Hop. We don’t dislike it.
Next thing we knew, a very explicit Hip Hop song came on. The title itself is explicit or I’d tell you what the song was. The music was so loud that we could feel the bass thumping underneath our seats and up against our backs and heads. I think the van’s windows were rattling. I was shouting as I tried talking to Jerry. We maneuvered through Friday night traffic as the Jesus on her dashboard bobbled, and Jerry and I looked at each other and grinned. By all indications, this was going to be a memorable date.
Our driver pulled up to the Rawkus building, and opened the van’s sliding door for us. With our ears ringing, we hopped out, and she yelled after to us, “Have fun – and dance like you don’t know anyone!” Excited, we yelled back, “Okay! Thanks!”
We found our way to the front entrance of Rawkus. The club wasn’t open yet, but the sign on the door indicated it would open in 15 minutes. So we started a line, and waited.
Soon, others started to show up. They didn’t get in line with us, but sat or stood near the entrance. I noticed none of them had polo shirts on, or blouses. They were many years younger than us. It’s not that we’re old, but Jerry’s 54 and I’m 49, and well, especially on a Friday night, it’s not hard to be younger.
At first I was feeling a little self conscious. It seemed like everyone who showed up looked at us. They seemed curious. Maybe it’s because we had on collared shirts. Or maybe it was because we were older.
As we were waiting, I spied a huge “Bingo” sign on a building in the same parking lot. I laughed, and whispered to Jerry that all of these other people were probably thinking we were at the wrong place; that we obviously meant to be in line at the Bingo Hall. It was funny. It is funny, even as I recall it now.
My self consciousness was short-lived because they were all so friendly. We all had in common our excitement for the night as we waited for the doors to open.
The doors did finally open, and we entered, paid the cover charge, and we were in the club.
We were the first to stand on the dance floor, and we snapped a photo.
Jerry and I at our first Rave. Collared shirts and all! (hahaha)
I was full of anticipation for what I hoped would be a night of energetic music and a lot of hard dancing. Jerry got a beer, and I had a glass of wine as we stood on the dance floor waiting for the first of many DJs to arrive and start the beats. There were people lining up at the front of the dance floor, near the DJ. The backs of their shirts said things like “Headbanger” and “Peace” and “Harmony” and a some words and phrases I won’t include here.
A man and a woman came over to us, and introduced themselves. Their gesture was kind, but also awkward. It felt sort of like when you’re at a banquet, and people come up to introduce themselves. After some polite small talk, the man asked, “Is this your first Rave?” [Gasp.] I felt a quick panic rush over me, as I thought to myself, A Rave? Are we at a Rave? I hadn’t considered that we were attending a Rave, and my mind flashed to what I thought of as a Rave –a big festival of people high on drugs, where there might be orgies. Like I said, [Gasp.]
But quickly I returned to the present, and this didn’t look anything like that. Thank God. What seemed like a little too much later, Jerry responded to the man, “No. We’ve never been to a Rave before.” The couple welcomed us, and told us to enjoy ourselves, and then they walked off to a different area of the dance floor.
Soon, the first DJ arrived, and it went dark, except for an amazing neon light show and some strobe lights. The music started.
Before we knew it, we were dancing our guts out—headbanging and all! The music was electrifying, and during a brief break during which we consumed large bottles of water, Jerry tried to explain to me how the bass was so strong and powerful that it made him feel more energized and alive. “I can feel it reverberating through my whole body. It’s awesome!” he exclaimed. I agreed. Even though we had hiked 14 miles just a few hours earlier, I suddenly had all kinds of energy, and for reasons I can’t explain, I felt youthful.
During the course of the night, people of various races, genders and ages, came up to Jerry and me, and high-fived us or offered hugs to us. A few of them remarked, “It’s so great to see you guys here.” Another person came up to me, hugged me, and remarked, “So you really like this music?” And I said “Yes, I love it!” All I can figure is we must have really stood out. We must have looked like we had gotten off at the wrong station. LOL. We were, comparatively speaking, old, and remember, we had on collared shirts. (We made a note to ourselves that we would need to get different attire for future Raves.)
We had an absolute blast! By the time we called it a night, my FitBit reported 64,000 steps – 30,000 of them (12 miles worth) from dancing, the others from the hiking we did earlier.
Jerry and I were dripping in sweat, and it was getting late, so I requested an Uber.
Our Uber driver was Elvis. Seriously. Our driver was the perfect impersonation of Elvis. He even (duh!) played Elvis’ music. When we got into the car, the volume was low, but we could hear Jailhouse Rock.
As soon as Jerry and I were buckled into the back seat, our driver asked us if we liked Elvis. “Of course,” we assured him. How could we respond differently? As if to make sure our driver had our respect, Jerry repeated how awesome Elvis’ music is, and in response, the driver changed songs to Love Me Tender, and starting singing loudly. Love me tender / Love me sweet / Never let me go / You have made my life complete / And I love you so…
That’s when I realized that there’s a difference between singing out loud to a song and performing. Our driver was performing. And his performance was stupendous! And, I don’t use that word lightly. In fact, that might be the first time I’ve ever used that word in my life. It was so stupendous that I seriously wondered if we were in a dream. Was Elvis Presley really our personal driver, and were we really being treated to a personal concert by The King? After Love Me Tender, came My Way, which I think is originally a Sinatra song, but one that Elvis sang and sang so well that it’s my favorite Elvis song.
As I listened, I thought immediately of my Aunt Carol, and her late husband, my Uncle Bob, whose favorite song was Elvis’ My Way. Then my mind wandered to the song, and our driver’s spectacular singing.
And now, the end is near; And so I face the final curtain. My friend, I’ll say it clear, I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full. I’ve traveled each and every highway; But more, much more than this, I did it my way.
Regrets, I’ve had a few; But then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do. And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course; Each careful step along the byway, But more, much more than this, I did it my way.
The driver approached our hotel, and I remarked, “Oh I love this song so much. And you’re a great singer.” To which he responded, “If you like, I can drive around a few extra blocks so you can hear it to the end.” I started to say, Yes, but then caught myself, and changed my response to, “Hell Yeah!”
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew; When I bit off more than I could chew. But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall; And did it my way…
The song ended, and so did our ride, and our unforgettable date. We gave our personal Elvis a very generous tip and made our way back to the hotel room and our sons. Jerry and I were still buzzing from the Epic night. What an exciting experience. We wondered to each other, out loud, if we’d ever go to another Rave. Um, Hell Yeah to that. (And, in fact, two months later, during a family trip to Las Vegas to attend a Bastille concert, Jerry and I read about a Bear Grillz performance scheduled at the Hard Rock Cafe. We love Bear Grylls, the British survivor who has a show about Epic adventure and survival, which I realize has absolutely nothing to do with going to a Rave with a DJ named Bear Grillz Oops. Another digression. 🙂
I dared to share this story and experience in hopes that it might inspire you to say Hell Yeah to things that could bring you more aliveness, and create more unforgettable moments.
So far, for me at least, saying Hell Yeah more often is proving to be a great strategy for living more.
I’m including 2 video clips below from the Raves to provide proof that we really did this, and also, to provide flavor, in case your curiosity has been piqued and you’re considering going to a Rave or EDM dance club. 🙂
This one is from our second rave, but shows – very early in the video clip and it’s fleeting so watch closely – Jerry, and I, dancing hard:
This second video is from our first Rave, at Rawkus, in Colorado Springs. The DJ, Martial Law, plays a remixed version of Paris, by The Chainsmokers:
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 just returned from giving a keynote presentation at a Wellness conference, so wellness is on my mind more than usual. In addition to being a life, leadership, health and wellness coach, I’m a health enthusiast. Some would even call me a health nut. I track food intake, steps, sleep, and heart rate variability, among other things.
I am excited to report that my family is on board with me for embarking on a 7-day challenge that starts tomorrow (June 4) and will last for a week. We’re giving up a lot in the interest of deepening our connections, being more active and mobile, being less distracted and more in tune with each other and our surroundings, and in reaping the benefits of feeding our bodies healthy foods.
We are giving up all television, movies, video games, social networking. We’re giving up cars and transportation, with 3 very limited exceptions (see below image of our family’s signed “contract” for details), and we’re giving up processed foods. We’ll shop only the perimeter of the grocery market to ensure we’re buying and consuming healthy, real foods. We’ll walk and bike everywhere. We’ll spend our free time together biking, hiking, fishing, walking, playing board games and visiting our community’s playgrounds.
Disclaimer: As a matter of fact, we are already an extremely active family, and we’re quite health-conscious. We hike and play outside a lot, and from Monday through Thursday there are no processed foods consumed at our house, and we watch no television or video games from Monday through Thursday. We made all of these changes about 12 months ago. But there is more we can do. We often drive places that are only blocks away. The wheels come off to an unhealthy extent when it comes to “treats” and foods the kids eat on weekends, and we’re all a little too distracted by our screens. So there is much room for improvement, and this challenge will not be easy.
Here is a video that includes bits from me, my husband, and each of our three sons, as we get ready to embark on this 7-day Epic Health Challenge:
Our family’s signed “contract:”
In addition to being a health enthusiast, I’m a voracious reader. Many of the books and articles I read are related to health and wellness. I am very much inspired by Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones work and research. In fact, I highly recommend his latest book, The Blue Zones Solution, Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People. The Blue Zones are the five places in the world where people live the longest, with the least disease and the most vitality. In researching these areas, and in interviewing centenarians, Buettner and his team of experts came up with 9 common denominators – otherwise known as “The Power 9” – that are common in areas where people live the longest, healthiest lives.
The Power 9 are: Move naturally (live in or set up an environment that nudges you to move naturally throughout the day) Purpose (people in the Blue Zones have something to live for beyond their work), Downshift (do things to remove/release stress), 80 percent rule (eat ’til you’re 80% full), Plant Slant (eat mostly plant foods), Wine @ 5 (people in the Blue Zones often drink wine in late afternoon), Right Tribe (the world’s longest-lived people choose social circles with healthy behaviors), Community (research shows that faith-based services are a common facet in Blue Zones communities), and Loved Ones First (successful centenarians put their families first.)
This 7-day Epic Health Challenge we’re embarking upon aims to bring some of the Blue Zones ways to the Johnson household. I will be blogging here about the experiment once it ends, and also for a blog at Barlean’s. I hope you’ll check back to see what we learned from the experiment!
As usual, thank you for your time, and for reading this. I really appreciate it.
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 have 2 spots remaining on the roster for the May 16-20 Zion National Park Women’s Adventure trip. I dare you to answer the call to adventure… This one is going to be fun and unforgettable. To whet your appetite, check this out. Email me ASAP if interested!
I am a life and leadership coach. A person hires me to help her/him do hard stuff, to make difficult change in the interest of living her/his most epic life. I love that this is why people hire me. It’s one of the main reasons I became a life coach — to “dare” people to do things that scare them and that are difficult, but that will cause them to become more.
Angels Landing, a hike that includes 1,500-foot dropoffs during the last half mile, is not for the faint of heart.
Change and growth only happen when we dare to leave our comfort zones.
At Epic Life, I offer clients who are interested, an opportunity to join me on a guided epic outdoor adventure. Check out this Zion women’s hiking adventure trip planned for May 16-19.
In addition, I’m partnering with the National Outdoor Leadership School to provide a 6-day epic backpacking expedition, called “Epic Women,” in my back yard, the Wind Rivers of Wyoming. In addition, I am permitted to guide clients on hikes in Grand Canyon and Zion national parks. (For more about this Epic Women expedition/program, NOLS published this article about the adventure.)
Zion is one of my favorite places in the world. If you’ve been there, I am sure you agree with me. It is a magical place. There are several hikes in Zion that serve as relevant metaphors for clients hiring me to do things outside of their comfort zone.
There are chains on Angels Landing, which are much appreciated.
One such hike is Angels Landing. It’s a short, hard hike — five miles roundtrip, with 1,500′ of elevation gain. What makes it epic are not its distance and ascent, but rather its heights and exposure. With its narrow ridge and 1,500-foot dropoffs on either side of you as you ascend its last half mile, the hike is not for the faint of heart.
Which is why it’s a perfect experience for my clients.
There are chains to hold on to as you ascend and descend Angels Landing. Even if you’re not afraid of heights chances are you’ll have a white knuckle grip on the chains, because the “What ifs” are all too clear (glaring).
What I’ve found is that the same emotions and behaviors that often occur during an epic hike or wilderness expedition are the same ones that occur in the front country — at home or at work. These are the emotions that, when triggered, try to keep us safe and out of harm’s way. They are the emotions that instruct us, “What if…,” or “Hold on tight,” or “No way,” or “I don’t want to,” or “It’s too scary,” or “I can’t,” or “I will make a fool out of myself,” and the list goes on, of very compelling, reasonable reasons we should guard the status quo and stay where we’re at — and to not dare to go beyond it.
Hugging the wall. Or, holding on for dear life.
Practicing doing uncomfortable things and going beyond our normal ways is valuable in our effort to discover, and live, our best life. Experiencing a guided epic hike with me/Epic Life is one way to practice doing this work, while also enjoying an unforgettable adventure and scenery that inspires for a lifetime. But you don’t have to hire me to do this work. I dare you to think of something you want to do, but are afraid to do, and then do it. Start with something small and keep practicing. This type of practice has the potential to lead to huge change.
[NOTE: To those who may respond to this post by saying, “But I don’t want to risk my life!” I would say this: I’m not looking to be reckless. In fact, I’m here to help you reclaim your life, and in some cases, to help you save your life.]
Finally, as if the scenery on my recent Zion trip wasn’t enough, my friends and I got this amazing sight of a California condor. This is a rare and magnificent bird that is gradually making a comeback. The bird’s wing span is almost 10 feet! Enjoy, and thanks for reading/watching.
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.
I want to make a clarification. Epic does not simply mean majestic and awesome. An epic life is not a perfect life. It’s not all awesome, all the time.
By epic, I mean something that is beyond scale — something so big you cannot exactly imagine it.
By epic, I mean difficult. So difficult that it will require skills you don’t already have. So difficult that at times it will require a heroic effort. So difficult that it cannot be done alone — you need a team, and or/significant support. So difficult that the outcome is not certain.
And, because of the scale and difficulty, it will be full of discovery and fulfillment.
An epic life is full of peak experiences. Living an epic life is about becoming actually what we are potentially. These peak experiences don’t happen without struggle. An epic life is a hard-earned celebration. It is epic not despite struggle, but because of it.
An epic life is a life that’s lived on purpose. By living on purpose I do not mean maximizing your time. I mean experiencing your time, rather than spending it. An epic life is a full life. (A full life and a busy life are not the same things.)
Why does it matter that we create and live our most epic life? Because we only have this one life. An epic life is your best life –– a life that we love so much we view it as the gift that it is.
To borrow the wonderful words of poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
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.