Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Mt. Everest

Over the years many people have asked me about my accident, there have even been a few who asked me about my recovery....

The question which pops up when that topic is on the table is usually something like, "Was it hard to recover after your accident?" or "Wow, you've recovered so well.... how did that go for you?"

Really, I think the recovery is the more exciting part of the story - because the accident was really kind of boring:  Coles Notes version - San Francisco, August 17, 1995.... two cable cars collide, really quite slowly - I am in the wrong place at the wrong time i.e. between bumper #1 and metal staircase #2 - flesh and bone vs. metal - flesh and bone loses the battle (no contest) and later that evening said flesh and bone is in a ziploc bag on the way to the hospital incinerator....  

Recovery has been my personal Mt. Everest.  I never reach the summit (which is OK...) it is a process of reaching for more - maybe in that way Everest isn't the perfect analogy but I like it...

If you were assigned the job of climbing Mt. Everest what would you do?

Most people would come up with an overall plan first, it would include things like this:

"I'd hire a guide."

"I'd get the right equipment."

"I'd educate myself about the challenge."

"I'd read other climbers' accounts."

"I'd get super fit."

"I'd hire a trainer."

And there are probably a thousand more.  The point is that faced with a BIG challenge like Everest, most people instictively know that they'd have to come up with a good plan and stick to it.

I was the same - I knew I was in a serious predicament and I knew I'd need some help.  I find it interesting that in most cases people have a better idea of what they'd do to climb Mt. Everest than they do for how to lose 10lbs.  When the chips are down we humans know how to survive - or at least we make a pretty solid effort at survival.

I can only chalk it up to the fact that in my situation recovery was of primary importance.  Nothing else mattered.  To continue the analogy - with Everest your life is on the line - planning and execution become CRITICAL because the consequences are immediate.  

In stark contrast - the lack of immediate consequences with weight and health is too bad really - I think a lot fewer people would become obese if the Grim Reaper took you to hell 3 days after you pop the button on your Levi's.

There might be another factor that comes into play...  With a challenge like Everest or recovering from a disastrous injury or accident, most assume (reasonably) that it is important to bring in experts and pay for their knowledge and abilities.  With a goal like "losing this spare tire", many will assume that they know how to accomplish the task on their own, when in reality they have no idea.  There may also be a hesitancy or embarrassment associated with seeking help for the task.  Combine all of these factors with a lack of immediate consequences and the "spare tire" stays right where it is - likely growing.

How can you apply the Everest climber's mindset if your goal isn't a matter of life or death, or even of primary importance?

Force yourself to use the same equipment that the climber uses.  Not his ice ax and crampons,  but his mental checklist and processes.  Tackle smaller goals with the same procedures you would adopt if your Everest expedition was departing next Monday.  Try to imagine that you might FREEZE TO DEATH, ALONE, ON THE SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN if you fail.  (In truth, you might actually die....  just not right away.)

There are a million ways to write it down but it is pretty hard to argue with the following:

1.  Define Goal.
2.  Develop a Plan.
3.  Assemble a Team.
4.  Get the Required Equipment.
5.  Execute the Plan.
6.  Hold Yourself Accountable.
7.  Assess the Results.

I didn't consciously think this way when my accident happened - but the situation was serious enough that I was forced to get A LOT of help - and with assistance, and great advice, I developed a great recovery plan.  From the ongoing experience I have learnt a lot about tackling subsequent goals in life.  

First and foremost:  I try to make my goals serious.  I try to adopt a life or death attitude - like an Everest climber.

Second and secondmost:  I get help.  People love to help others - make them feel good by allowing them to help you!

When it is all said and done, the same methods that can result in a speedy recovery or a 10lb weight loss can be used to tackle any goal in life - even climbing Mt. Everest.

P.S.  I even like to imagine myself in Everest climbing gear....  it helps create a hardcore mindset!

P.P.S.  Sacha - don't worry, I am not planning on climbing Mt. Everest.

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Vincent said...

Amazing post!

I really like how simple but truthful that is.

Chad in the Arizona Desert said...

Great post! A very straight-forward and to-the-point mindset. I have no doubt this it is the positive mindset and goal orientation that has allowed you to go as far as you have in that time.

Anonymous said...

You continue to inspire me daily, thank you!

James Greenwood said...

I know you are MJ - in the far flung reached of your mind the little hamster is working overtime!

Jan said...

Thank you, Meyrick, for sharing your story with honesty & candor. One never knows what one would do if faced with a life altering challenge. Basically, I guess it comes down to making the positve decision to surround oneself with positive, courageous, determined, insightful, sensitive supporters who commit to lovingly guide us down the often uncertain, winding road to the next 'level'. The most impressive aspect of such a 'success' story is your ability & ongoing commitment to face adversity, challenge it, & reach for your 'star' through goal setting. Please believe me when I say you are a true inspiration to us all, Meyrick!!

Darren said...

While Mt Everest may not be on the list of things to climb, head down to OR again and lets climb Mt Hood, already got my check list, just need to check off the part about actually doing it.

MJ said...

Thanks everyone... sometimes posts like this are a bit hard to hit the "publish" button on.... they feel pretty personal. I am glad you appreciated it and thanks for reading!