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Climbing the Next Mountain

As One Chapter Ends…

‘Karen and Jay share thoughts on the importance of always finding the ‘next mountain to climb.’

Have you ever had a goal – that you really cared about? Where you worked and worked – giving all your effort. And, finally, after all the striving, you ultimately achieved your goal? You succeeded. You celebrated. And, then had that strange feeling – asking yourself the question – what next? And maybe you didn’t really have the answer. Maybe you were exhausted from the effort. And, as time began to pass, you started to feel a void. You had the feeling that you needed to find the ‘next mountain to climb.’ But what mountain would it be?

If this sounds familiar, you also know that there will always be a ‘next mountain.’ And that taking the time to pause – and choose wisely – which mountain to climb – will make all the difference. That next mountain or mission may be in an entirely different field or aspect of life. So, be open to the possibility. Or it could well be in an area closely related to the first mountain – an easy and logical transition.

Well, that’s the case of an inspirational athlete – whose story I think you might enjoy. In fact, she’s one of the most decorated athletes in Olympic and Paralympic history - yet from the moment she was born, Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long has never not known adversity. Born Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova in Siberia, Russia, she would enter the world with a rare condition that left her without most of the bones in her feet called ‘fibular hemimelia.’ Fearing she wouldn’t be able to properly care for her, her mother was persuaded to give her over to an orphanage when she was barely a year old. A few months later, she would be adopted by a young American couple beginning a new life in Maryland. Things were beginning to look up for Jessica. However, her condition was not improving, and her new parents had to make the difficult decision to amputate her legs at eighteen months old in order to improve her mobility with prosthetic legs. In total, Jessica would endure over twenty-five surgeries throughout her youth.

Yet this did not discourage Jessica’s parents from encouraging her to stay active. She enjoyed gymnastics, ice skating, even rock climbing. Yet what she loved most was swimming in her grandparents’ pool because as she said, “it made her feel like a mermaid.” Not having the full use of her legs led to frustration, and often anger when she was a child. Yet she began channeling that anger into something more productive and took up competitive swimming. By the time she was only twelve years old, she debuted at the Athens Paralympic Games in 2004, where she would take home three gold medals. She began training with the likes of Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time. Year after year, Jessica continued to thrive and her career continued to grow at a staggering pace, winning five gold medals at the London games in 2012. Then came the Rio Games in 2016. While she still managed to amass a gold medal, three silver medals, and one bronze medal, the impact of competing at such a high level from such a young age had taken a huge toll on her mental well-being. She had developed an eating disorder, lost one of her most beloved coaches, and the early success she had seen was not coming so easily anymore. She felt that her value as an individual was in question as a result. Was there a ‘next mountain to climb?’

Thankfully, there was. And she chose wisely. She decided to take up coaching with a local girls’ swimming team, giving her the ability to stay connected to the sport she loves so much without the strict physical demands. And it was just what she needed. As she looked to heal and grow following the Rio games, taking up coaching helped her realize that she was so much more than an athlete and that there was so much more that awaited in her life beyond the Olympic swimming pool. In her own words, “There's something so special about having a little girl who has just lost her leg from cancer come up and tell me I'm her hero.” She now works with the Make-A-Wish foundation and children’s organizations that work specifically with children with disabilities. Not only that, but as she looks to a life after swimming, she’s currently training to become the first woman with amputated legs to complete an Ironman competition.

I love the story of Tatiana. I am also inspired by a speech given at the 2019 Tony Awards, where the famed Broadway actor Andre de Shields shared some poignant advice after winning the best actor award. “The top of one mountain is the bottom of the next”, he said. In life, we’re regularly confronted by challenges, one after another. Even when we’ve succeeded, it’s likely that means we’re onto the next “mountain.” Finding the motivation to “climb it” may seem daunting, but the truth is we likely have everything we need to do so, the key ingredient is believing that we can. Though it may take time and there may be frustration or setbacks along the way, as Jessica demonstrated, when one chapter ends, another begins. In her words, “The only disability in life is a negative attitude.”

Mount Rushmore - A Mountain of Inspiration Looking to the Future!

Recently, a friend of mine had the opportunity to visit Mount Rushmore during a work trip. It happened to be a pretty special moment for him, as he was visiting the national site on what would have been his father’s birthday. In fact, he first visited the mountain when his father took him cross country in the 90’s. The pictures his father had taken back then were remarkable and in revisiting these photos last week, I was inspired to dig a bit deeper into the symbolism of Mount Rushmore.

It was truly a monumental task to complete as it took fourteen years to carve and finish Mt. Rushmore while requiring over 400 workers. The sculptor commissioned for the project was Gutzon Borglum – and one of his favorite presidents was Abraham Lincoln. In fact, Borglum liked him so much that he named his son after the President. Borglum unfortunately passed away during construction and interestingly, the completion of this one-of-a-kind wonder was overseen by his son Lincoln.

As you may know, there are four presidents whose profiles are carved into the mountain – Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Have you ever wondered – why these presidents? Well – the answer is that the presidents chosen for the monument were picked for four specific reasons: founding, expansion, unification, and preservation. Meaning – Washington for ‘founding,’ Jefferson for ‘expansion,’ Lincoln for ‘unification,’ and Roosevelt of ‘preservation.’

Very interestingly, if you look closely at each of the four profiles, you will see that they were carefully designed and sculpted to reflect what each of the presidents represent in terms of these four values. For example, our third president, Thomas Jefferson, was chosen to be on Mount Rushmore to represent ‘Expansion.’ You will notice that Jefferson’s gaze is higher than the other faces on Mt. Rushmore because it’s supposed to represent his vision for a bigger America. As you may recall, the first major expansion known as the Louisiana Purchase took place during Jefferson’s term as President.

Another interesting fact is that it wasn't till 1930 that ‘Mt. Rushmore’ was the official recognized name for this site by the United State Board of Geographic Names. In earlier times, the Lakota called this granite formation Tunkasila Sakpe Paha, or Six Grandfathers Mountain.

Also, in terms of size, it’s hard to get a sense for the scale of the mountain, if you have not visited in person. As it turns out, the faces of Mount Rushmore are 60 feet tall, and the original plan of the monument was to have full body sculptures but due to budget constraints it was limited to what we see today. Mount Rushmore cost just under one million dollars to construct. In today’s dollars that would be over $20 million.

In a symbolic sense, Mount Rushmore is a monument to our past. To those great leaders who had vision and took bold action to advance the progress of our great country. But it also stands as a monument inspiring us to look to the future – and to ask ourselves – what is that great next mountain for us to climb as a nation – and to advance the future of America? As is always the case, there will be a next mountain for us to climb – and Mount Rushmore reminds us that we have an opportunity to shape our future.

Mount Kearsarge: Gateway to New Hampshire's 4,000-Footers

One of my favorite mountains to hike is nestled in the greater Lake Sunapee, Merrimac County area of western New Hampshire - Mount Kearsarge. A picturesque peak, Mount Kearsarge stands tall as a beacon of family-friendly adventure and outdoor exploration. There are two routes to the peak – one starting in Warner, the other in Wilmot. Both great – but relatively easy climbs – and picnic areas where I remember visiting both as a young boy with my brother and parents, as well as returning on a number of occasions many years later with my own young family.

With its well-maintained trails, stunning vistas, and accessible hiking options, this magnificent mountain offers an unforgettable experience for both individuals and families seeking to connect with nature. As one of the Granite State's most beloved outdoor destinations, Mount Kearsarge serves as an ideal introduction to the world of hiking, leading many to set their sights on a grander goal - conquering New Hampshire's 48 peaks over 4,000 feet, but more on that later.

Its two main trailheads, Winslow State Park and Rollins State Park, provide well-marked and well-maintained paths that are suitable for hikers of all ages and skill levels. Families can choose between a leisurely stroll along the Rollins Trail, perfect for young children and those seeking a more relaxed hike, or a slightly more challenging ascent via the Winslow Trail. Both routes reward hikers with breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding landscape, including views of nearby lakes, forests, and neighboring peaks.

Mount Kearsarge also presents an excellent opportunity for educational exploration. As you ascend the mountain, there is an opportunity to learn about the diverse flora and fauna of the region, including unique plant species and wildlife that call this area home. Parents can impart valuable lessons about environmental conservation, fostering a sense of appreciation and responsibility for the natural world in their children.

For many adventurous souls, hiking Mount Kearsarge becomes more than just a one-time family outing; it serves as the catalyst to embrace a greater goal - climbing New Hampshire's 4,000-footers. New Hampshire is home to 48 peaks exceeding 4,000 feet in elevation, a challenge that attracts hikers from all over the country. These peaks offer a wide variety of experiences, from gentle ascents to rugged challenges, allowing hikers to explore the state's wide variety of landscapes and terrains. You'll find hikers on these trails who are doing their first 4,000' hike to that individual who is completing their 48th and can't wait to 'pin it' on their 3D map (you can find these unique maps on the AMC - Appalachian Mountain Club website). And one of the best aspects of hiking is that virtually all the people you meet are friendly and willing to help if you need a hand or directions.

As families conquer Mount Kearsarge and eventually expand their horizons to explore other 4,000-footers, they cultivate a deep passion for hiking and the outdoors. The pursuit of these peaks becomes a shared family adventure, fostering bonds and creating lasting memories. Parents and children alike develop a sense of accomplishment and resilience, learning valuable life skills as they overcome the challenges presented by the rugged terrain and unpredictable weather conditions of New Hampshire's mountains.

So, if you're looking for an adventure that lays the foundation for even greater accomplishments, head to Mount Kearsarge and start your ascent towards New Hampshire's majestic 4,000-footers. And you will be well on your way to the ‘next mountain to climb.’

Positive Profile of the Week: Tommy Caldwell

In the climbing world, climbers always look for the next climb as each ascent clears the way for other climbers. With this in mind, we are delighted to highlight as our Positive Profile of the Week – Tommy Caldwell.

Considered one of the best climbers in the world, Tommy Caldwell has faced many challenges that made him stronger, not only as a climber but also as a person. Growing up in Colorado, Caldwell got his love for climbing from his parents, especially his father, who was a mountain guide and climber. A world traveler in climbing, Tommy has a number of notable climbs under his belt, but also has had some incredible trials.

In 2000, militants kidnapped him in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan while on a trip with several climbing partners. He escaped after pushing the assailant off a cliff and fleeing to local government soldiers. About a year later, his finger was cut off by a table saw; even though his finger could be reattached, the doctors told him that he might not be able to climb again. He took the news as a challenge and, with a missing finger, continued to defy the impossible and keep climbing the hardest cliffs.

A trailblazer of free climbing, Caldwell is known for being the first to climb Yosemite’s 3,000-foot El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in 2015. The 19-day climb of the Dawn Wall took six years of planning and was documented in two films, ‘The Progression,’ and ‘The Dawn Wall.’ His memoir, ‘The Push,’ tells the story of his historic climb and other stories of his adventures of finding the next climb.

Not much keeps Tommy down as he’s always looking up - to that next ascent. We admire the courage, the grit and the spirit of Tommy Caldwell. An individual who will always be looking for the next challenge, the next mountain to climb – and inspiring us all to attack our lives with a deep passion and positive energy. Thank you, Tommy Caldwell!

Quotes of the Week: Finding the Next Mountain

"Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you." - David McCullough Jr. "The only way to reach your true potential is to challenge yourself and keep moving forward. When you conquer one mountain, find the next one waiting for you." – Anonymous "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln "Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change." - Jim Rohn "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." - Eleanor Roosevelt


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