Who you are is caught between where you've come from and where you're going. In the gap is the battle. The story of your life is unfolding right now. What is this current scene trying to teach you? As you come to face your protagonist in the coming weeks, months and years, what do you want your actions and choices to say about the kind of person you are and want to be?
I met Karl Nagy when we were both young men standing at the same cross in the road. Karl was a denturist and I was studying to become an electrical engineer. We met on an ice climb as kindered spirits who heard the same call. He took all of his savings and became the youngest and fastest person to become a mountain guide at that time. I took the other fork, withdrew from engineering school, and became an industrial designer.
You write the script of your life.
I lived vicariously through my best friend. I watched him on the path I didn't choose, until a basketball sized rock snuffed the life out him, as he was teaching other guides high up in the Valley of the Ten peaks. His sudden death at the turn of the millennium, when we were 37, secured my transition out of the design business into the world of coaching–what I've always thought of as mountain guiding for entrepreneurs.
I met my wife a decade after I met Karl. She would become my partner in all things that mattered. Before we were even engaged, I introduced her to the vertical world. She was deathly afraid of heights but followed her new love onto the hard ridges, steep cliffs and frozen places of our mountain home.
Everything that happens is a chance to reveal your character.
Our first adventure was the South ridge of Mt. Edith, just outside of Banff. Karl suggested it as a first experience for her as a rock climber and me as an alpine route finder. She took to the rock like a natural. I got us lost on the complicated and confusing ridge system in a place no one would ever look for us. I let our rope get stuck on top of an overhanging face and we had to sleep over night on a tiny cold ledge. I saw the dire reality of our desperate situation in her teary eyes. This woman had given me her trust. Her safety is my job. Something woke up in me that morning and I found our way home.
what do you want to be known for?
There is a scene in The Godfather where Michael fires the long-time family advisor Tom Hagen as war was brewing. Tom asks why he's out and Michael says, "Things could get rough with the move we're making." Tom found out that day he was only the peacetime consigliere. On the mountain that morning, I found out who I am. I never really knew before then that I'm someone other people can rely on when the shit goes down. I don't crumble. It was scary learning that the way I did, but I appreciate knowing it.
I think that the purpose of life is discover who we are and what we are made of and then learn how to express that in the world in a way that adds value to others.
A calling is something so deep we are willing to live and die for it. You have your calling and I have mine, but I think we answer the call in a process of trial and error. You have a peacetime version of yourself–the custodian of more peaceful times. You also have a wartime version that rises in times of crisis. That version was perhaps not called upon until now. And now is a good time for that person to be wide awake and active.