Archive for Leadership


// October 10th, 2011 // No Comments » // Events, Leadership

A presenters worst fear: to painstakingly prepare with visuals, notes, attire – the works, only to take the stage and find that no one can see a bit of what has been prepared. Not only could my audience not see my AV, but half of them decidedly had their backs turned to me as they sat at their round conference room tables. Had I offended them? No. Were they being rude? No. Was the room improperly setup? No. Then what… nearly all 600 attendees were blind. I had been invited to share some inspiration with the National Association of Blind Merchants at their annual conference in Nashville which serves to educate, update, and challenge entrepreneurs who happen to be blind. I did what I could telling of my stories of going to the edges of the earth with people who are blind and I do think I was able to inspire many of the attendees since they gave me a rousing standing ovation when it was all said and done. Honestly however, I was the one who gained the most inspiration that day. I saw one woman carrying an infant on her chest as she navigated the venue with a white cane, I saw innovators who were redefining blind technologies, but mostly I saw a spirit of brotherhood and an attitude not of brokenness, but of boldness that still believed, in spite of lifes circumstances that this day was dawning new with hope and possibility. It is that spirit which left me feeling invigorated and uplifted and made my job easy in spite of the fact that no one there saw me or my dialed AV. I wasnt there to lift them up, they had already done that, I was there to merely reflect back that same sense of hope and encouragement I had just unexpectedly received.

Stepping Out of the Boat

// September 14th, 2011 // No Comments » // Getting biblical, Leadership, Reflections

check out:

Every once in a while I call the church secretary to schedule some time with my pastor.  When I do this I don’t let her or the pastor know what the activity of that particular day will be, but leave just enough information to make them both a bit anxious like “bring a helmet, borrow an avalanche beacon, grab a life vest.”  Having taken him on backcountry ski outings, rock climbing adventures (true faith building experiences) we have had the opportunity to see first hand what it means to trust the rock that is “higher than I.”  Talking through tears about fears and faith yesterday’s adventure was no different.  With an injured back the outing needed to be tame but sitting in a coffee shop doesn’t really make for a memorable time and is too often disrupted by all the people we both know in this community.  We met at the coffee shop and then pulled up to a nearby lake.  I told my pastor to read some passages from the Bible on casting nets, calming storms, and even walking on water.  With hot java in hand I then revealed the plan, the boat, and the fishing rod.  The time was rewarding for both of us even though we didn’t catch anything.  We talked about life, the call on our lives, and what it meant to walk by faith.  I love how Peter illustrated this when he saw Jesus walking on rough water.  He didn’t wait to be invited as we often think, he said hey I want to do that – can I come out there too?  Jesus replied with a come on out here then.  Peter had enough experience to know that through Jesus it would be possible.  I would have been inclined to stay in the boat and when Jesus got to it I would have asked “how did you do that?”

The lesson from the day to me was that we need to be intentional and deliberate with each other, but also in our faith.  We often wait around in the boat for something big to happen instead of actin on faith and stepping out when something big is already happening right there in front of us.

(This blog was ready to be posted yesterday.  All was complete, and I finished by saying how the WordPress app on my iPad made it very easy.  Then at the touch of one more button I lost everything.  Today it is coming from my computer.)

Expedition Impossible

// September 2nd, 2011 // No Comments » // Events, Leadership

What do teamwork, tenacity, physicality, and toughness have in common?  These are words I would use to describe a team of my friends competing on ABC’s summer series Expedition Impossible.  If you didn’t watch (I understand reality TV gets harder and harder to tune in to) I recommend you watch perhaps the last couple of episodes of this series (free on ) as my friends encounter challenges that would force many to quit.  As if it wasn’t enough to have one team mate who was blind, these guys had to compensate for an injury to another team mate – War veteran Aaron Isaacson, when he damaged his ankle and was put in a cast.  The three members of No Limits hobbled on through desert, river, and bustling Moroccan cities to come in as runners up in this multi-week challenge.  I know the editors of these programs can make or break public opinion of teams with their edits, but even so I know these guys well enough to know that they kept their focus on the main objective of the task at hand, and continually striving towards the finish line.  The infighting was kept to a minimum, they helped each other past each person’s difficulties, and they kept pressing forward.  They didn’t let the other teams and other issues get to them, they just stayed focused on what they needed to do.  This formula works.  It works in life and it works on reality TV.  When you couple this kind of team effort with skill and training, it becomes hard not to break down self imposed barriers and limits as well as those put on us by others.  For this reason the guys Erik, Aaron and Jeff certainly earned their name team No Limits.  Congratulations and thanks for the inspiration!

Erik Blindly Ziplines over a raging river.

Aaron, Erik, and Jeff face a challenge in the Moroccan Desert.

The Tenth Mountain

// August 23rd, 2011 // No Comments » // Leadership, Skiing

Army trek from Vail to Aspen

What do the founders of Nike, Aspen, the Sierra Club, Vail, and the National Outdoor Leadership School all have in common?  They all served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II.
Fire on the Mountain is the documentary I just watched on this group of elite mountain troops and it has made a lasting impression on me.  It would be wrong to say that the film itself has made the impression, rather it was the subject of the film.  What impressed me was the spirit of these men and the legacy that they have left behind.  These men embodied courage, bravery, camaraderie, ambition, a pioneering spirit and values that made them successful in the campaign against Nazi aggression and also in their lives after the war.

In watching this film it made my heart glad that there were men like this that would stand strong for America and what is right.  In nearly the same moment, as my thoughts wandered, I became a bit disheartened thinking that in our world today there may no longer be men like this.  Then I turned my focus further inward to ask myself – am I like this?  Well I do know that character is not something we are born with, but something that is forged over time, I for one am thankful that I still have time and pray that mine might be shaped into something like that of these men I admire so much.



Fire on the Mountain is available on Netflix

Happy Father’s Day

// June 17th, 2011 // No Comments » // Advice, Leadership, Reflections

My Little Melons

As a fairly new dad with twin daughters I am constantly living in a fog and state of flux, and I find it hard to look forward, set goals and priorities.  One of my top priorities is to be a good dad to my girls.  I was going to write a note about father’s day and how important dad’s are, when I received this great e-mail from my friend Bob Shueman (Coach Shue) with The Gathering  Thanks Bob for these great words and this reflection.

- As we approach Father’s Day…I encourage you to reflect on:  Your role as a father in the lives of your children and/or the role of your dad in your life.

Happy Father’s Day     Coach Schue

5 Things Fathers Do Best*

Fathers teach us empathy
Fathers give us confidence
Fathers increase our vocabulary
Fathers protect us from crime & violence
Fathers promote better treatment of women

This Father’s Day, instead of handing dad another tie, thank him for making a difference in your life-in ways you may not have known about…until now.

A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society. Billy Graham

By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.

Charles Wadsworth

* Focus on the Family


The REAL Job of Dads        by Tim Stafford 

A dad’s primary, underlying job isn’t control. It’s to validate every one of his children.
To validate means to let your child know over and over and over, through words and actions, that the following are true:
“Hey, you exist and you matter to me.”
“You’re good enough.”
“You’re an okay kid.”
Psychotherapists sometimes talk about the looking-glass-self principle. It’s the idea that children get their earliest, most lasting impressions of who they are from what’s reflected back to them by their parents.

The best time to begin validating is the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. Parenting a teenager begins when he or she is born. 

When he or she is born. Really.


But it’s never too late to start. Do it often enough to cut a record in your teen’s jukebox that says, “I’m okay. I’m good enough.” If you can do that, trying to compensate with control won’t be such a temptation.

Read the article here:


Want to be a better dad?….Be a Good Husband First Jim Daly

It is no secret that parenting can be difficult. The secret to being a good dad is being a GREAT husband. Your children are constantly watching your relationship with your wife. As your children observe your marriage relationship, they’ll learn about respect and about what is important to mom and dad.

+ Have a regular quiet time as a couple
+ Regularly share deeply about life’s experiences.
+ Weekly Date the kids how much you value your spouse.


Have a Happy Father’s day!  “A good man obtains favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 12:2

The Knot

// March 4th, 2011 // No Comments » // Climbing, Leadership, Reflections


Knots are helpful, handy and useful.  Properly tied knots are essential for climbers and as I tie in with a partner I often joke saying “if ya can’t tie a knot, tie a lot!”  A reply may come back as “a knot not knotted neatly need not be knotted.”  I have been climbing for most most of my life and know how to properly tie dozens of knots using different methods and can do so quickly.  Slip knot, clove hitch, half hitch, girth hitch, truckers hitch, munter hitch, butterfly, bowline, bowline on a coil, butterfly coil, figure eight on a bite, trace eight, single fisherman, double fisherman, and the European death knot just to name a few, but it was only a couple of months ago that I properly learned to tie my shoe (and relearning, undoing 30+ years of motor memory, is difficult).

It is very humbling to admit that for most of my life the simplest of knots, the knot I tie most every day – the bow at the end of my laces – has been tied incorrectly.  “Big deal” ya might say.  Well seeing as how my shoe laces have often come undone rather easily, and how on a few occasions have caused a stumble, I have been quick to blame the lace material as the culprit and am fortunate the consequences have not been more severe.  Besides that, the big deal is that I have only now realized that for most of my life I have been doing something so simple the wrong way.

It wasn’t until I recently started training for a marathon that I saw an article online which showed me the difference between the proper knot, and the knot I had been using.  My laces now sit atop my ankle going perpendicular to my foot as opposed to running along my laces from toe to ankle.  Now my laces look neater, come undone less frequently, and give me a sense of pride that at mid-life I can still learn to tie my shoes.

It got me to thinking about other areas of my life that might also need some retraining.  Are there things I do the way I do them simply because it is the way I have always done them?  From driving my car to making coffee, to teaching my kids I think I will try to keep a humble attitude and open mind.  After all if a life-long climber can’t even tie his shoes (I could just switch to Velcro and flip flops) how proud can I be?


// February 21st, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Climbing, Leadership

In climbing, especially on big alpine routes, there is often a point where climbers become committed to the route.  In the vernacular and minds of climbers this means – no turning back.  Once a certain point is reached on many routes they will not allow for retreat, so the only way off is to make it to the top and finish the climb descending by another way (Much like dropping to your knee for a proposal – you’d better be sure).  To begin a climb like this one must be certain of many variables like the weather, the grade of difficulty, and most importantly one’s own abilities, fitness and mental fortitude.

At the point of commitment the objective becomes clear and all other distractions fade away.  When things go according to plan there is nothing like succeeding in the midst of a great challenge knowing that all of one’s hard earned skill and fitness have paid off especially for the good of the team.

On the other hand there is nothing worse than arriving at that point and realizing that you are over-committed, that a serious fall may result or that a rescue may be imminent.  Recently I found myself in this position, my face going flush, my stomach with a big hole in it, a state of panic setting in with a feeling of hopelessness.  No, I wasn’t up in the stratosphere on some climb, rather I found myself trying to juggle too many commitments instead of being laser focused on the ones that I had set as priorities.  The worst part of this was that by my word I had set them all as priorities instead of communicating clearly the level of commitment I would truly be capable of making.  I am limited in terms of the number of hats I can wear, and the number of pots I can keep on the stove (perhaps more limited than most), but finding myself in this position has at least alerted me to the fact that one more move up the climb would have caused a fall.  As it were I could safely retreat to a route more manageable and keeping my priorities and committments in line.

I like to challenge myself and in wrestling with committment the hardest yet best thing I can do is take an honest assessment of my abilities and communicate them to the team of which I am a part.  If I fail to do this the team will only be held back by my own selfish desire leading others on to believe I am capable of something I am not, thereby diminshing  not only my success, but their success as well.  So today I am assessing, reorganizing, and seeking the best route for my climb.

Leadership Lessons II from West Point

// February 15th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Events, Leadership, Reflections

This week I am traveling out east to the United States Military Academy – West Point.  This will be my fourth visit to the academy and I will be sharing on the virtues of trust and teamwork.  In spite of having been there before, I am a bit intimidated by the fact that this institution has been rated as the number one university in the U.S. by U.S. News, add to that tag the fact that these people are choosing this particular direction for their lives in a time of war.  By making this choice today they will undoubtedly be called upon to serve tomorrow.  Some will be shot at, some will be heroes, some might be fortunate to miss out on action all together.  The more I think about it, the more I am honored to go and share what I can from my experiences that might serve them as they go and serve our country. (The video to the right is from a climb my team did with some wounded vets.)

What I hope that they will take away from our time is the importance of personal honor and integrity which lead to trustworthiness as an individual.  The individuals who can live this way will be the greatest assets to any team which they serve as leaders.  Serving as leaders will foster the trust needed for better collaboration and cooperation as a team.  They will have a good return for their work because two are better than one, to paraphrase a verse from Ecclesiastes.  I think that the Army is one of the best examples of this and a force to be reckoned with because they exemplify the cooperative effort for a common goal on the foundation of service and sacrifice that adds up to something bigger than self.

I am on my way to go and encourage these young cadets, but somehow I think it will again be me who ends up being encouraged and challenged to go and serve.  Go Army!

The Herd Mentality

// February 3rd, 2011 // 3 Comments » // Advice, Leadership, Reflections

I have always enjoyed watching nature programs.  I grew up on mutual of Omaha with Marlin Perkins travelling the world with a camera and an assistant, showing us the behavior of beasts I’d never seen or imagined.  I recently caught a clip like this on YouTube taken by someone on safari who witnessed a pride of lions attacking a Cape Buffalo calf.  The outcome of this, I thought at first, was so predictable – the baby becomes breakfast, story over.  What ended up happening gave me chills.  The herd of Cape Buffalo banded together and came back for one of their own.  They had strength in numbers, but would still run the risk of losing a life to save that of another.  Together they pushed forward unrelentingly ultimately retrieving this calf.

Typically we speak of the “herd mentality” as being a bad thing.  It is a group of people mindlessly following each other into perilous situations with no regard for the outcome.  Though it is true that sometimes we need to stand up and separate ourselves from the herd, this video made me realize that more importantly we often need that herd we are trying so desperately to stray from.

I live in a community and sometimes this community bugs me, but I know that as people that this is what we were designed for.  So as much as I want to go and live like a lone wolf (or lone Cape Buffalo), I have to look at this video and realize that I am a part of the herd and sometimes together we can actually help each other out of a hopeless situation.  Next time perhaps instead of being that calf, I can be the one taking on the lions for him.

The First Signed and Sold Book

// November 4th, 2010 // No Comments » // Climbing, Events, Leadership

Before my event at City Rock this past Monday, a passerby named Mike Kost wandered into the gym while on break.  He liked the book, picked up a copy and then had to leave to get back to work.  He became the first person to buy my book and the first person for whom I could make an inscription.  Here is his picture and a few more from the day.  Yes – I used audio visuals for the blind students – many of them have partial vision.  They also serve to keep me from rambling.

Mike Kost Gets the First Signed and Sold Copy

The New Books and the O2 I needed to write.

Blind Students getting to climb