Because I am a sponsored athlete and adventurer, people often ask me: “How do you get paid to have fun?” Well, the answer is simple: I just don’t agree with not having fun so if I’m going to get paid to do anything, it’s going to be something I like — a lot. Now, that’s just the fundamental philosophy behind why I do what I do, but the real “answer” per se is more complex and hard to fit into a box… I invest myself, my resources and a team of people that I work with into things I think others will like and that I like. So, believe it or not, it’s you (the reader) who inspires me to do this far more than my own adventures. It’s you who I hear and you who I want to hear from. That often means that I have to like things others may not like at all that are unrelated to the conventional definition of having fun, like finance, litigation and collections. So be it. Without making sacrifices or doing things that aren’t fun, I could never “get paid to have fun.” I will admit those less than fun details can be frustrating. I’ll admit that often I personally won’t stand to collect a single dollar for my efforts, that I just like accomplishing things and in doing so watching a team succeed and profit around me as a reward. I accept that what I do won’t make me rich, but I am able to settle for being proud to be a part of something, to contribute, to lead.
Case in point, just before Labor Day, I visited New York City on the beginning of what would be considered a vacation to me despite having a lot of business thrown in. As many people might assume a well-backed mountaineer’s visit to NYC would include, I wasn’t actually there on some cool lecture circuit to talk endlessly about myself or how my process for exploring mountains is going to save the corporate world faster than all the governments out there. I was just there as a working man in a suit (yes, like a black one that was ironed that forced me to ride in cabs because the matching shoes sucked and give me blisters). Just another dude in a suit in New York, I was there as a business person with hope that after I got through the security guards of a few ad agencies, I would be able to stand up for adventure-based broadcast television programming for our generation and not just be shown the door in 10 minutes. Not exactly a situation where you may think you’re going to find someone who not three months ago pulled off a first ski descent in the Himalayas and was rappelling off of three tiny pieces of gear to get home. Believe it or not, it was my second time in a month on a sales trip to NYC, but at least this time I had the early morning to run the big loop in Central Park before my meetings. Overall, it’s a beautiful park, I like the city… and it’s much easier to navigate than Kathmandu.
As you do when you meet with the world’s decision makers on what makes it to TV and what doesn’t, I had a digitized and unflattering photo snapped at the security desk, stuck to my suit jacket and I was sent upstairs in buildings that seem higher than El Cap. In both meetings I was shown the door in 30 minutes, and like any other person out on the streets of New York, I was back at it again with the usual, “We’ll be calling you” response rolling around my head with all the other stresses of result production on the cue in a strained, risk-averse economy where we are hoping to pioneer some inspiring programs. You see, I don’t get paid to have fun, as a CEO and Founder of the company I represent in these meetings, I only get paid if I work hard enough to get the story of inspiring adventures (including my own) out there for you and for me and to convince people that adventurers are doing things of value that others want to see. I admit, it is a tough sell when it is easier to just exploit people as the current model of many networks so effortlessly eases along doing, but although the ad world would prefer you and me to sit on a couch and escape reality by eating yogurt, using soap or applying deodorant, they realize that there is something happening out there. A whole generation of us is on the move and experiencing life for ourselves and making headway in the world — we just aren’t on TV yet. That’s where I come in. I want the world to be inspired; I want the world to communicate; I want all of us who are out there living for the experience to be heard; I want to put that suit away sometimes and so I do… you inspire me to and so does broadcast television. I do this because I believe that every now and then when one of those people really does call on us, the team of people I work with will knock it out of the park and you the viewer will benefit. I do it because I am as unafraid of what challenges I will find on my way to the top floor of the skyscraper as I am approaching the summit of a Himalayan mountain.
Following those meetings, the next day I found myself in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, at the base of Mt. Washington — the beginning of a two day vacation. See, I hitched a ride with some friends to NYC and then we found ourselves tagging this sweet and storied East Coast summit as they continued an ongoing business summit to New hamsphire. That is how I keep my sanity, knowing folks who are driven like me but more successful and able to fit in goals I admire. One of my friends is a high pointer (people who climb all 50 of the United States’ highest points) and Mt. Washington’s 6,288 summit was #49 for him. He is a high level broadcast executive who works hard and travels a lot and who has found a way to “get paid to have fun” too and keep others happy around him. This rounds out a life filled with a lot of pressure to produce big business results. People like that are bigger inspirations to me than the next guy who wants to climb Trango Tower and base jump off of it. It seems like there are a lot of us out there who want to see the world from a lot of places, but it is the few who may not have soloed the Eiger but have achieved a balance that I am now learning from, people who came to climbing after starting careers and have made it to their 40′s, 50′s and 60′s and are still full of goals despite having completed long-standing goals like the 54 fourteeners, 50 state high points and 7 summits. Without these friends driving me, how else would I be able to claim in the same year that I did my first-ever 50 mile ultra marathon, that I stood on the point on Earth closest to the sun (20,561′ Chimborazo), the site of the highest recorded wind speed in north America (6288′ Mt Washington), bagged a fist ski descent in the Himalayas (21,509 Chulu West), Heli skied in Haines, Alaska and then spent Labor Day on the summit of Rio Grande Pyramid in the San Jauns.
Wait, what was that last one? Rio Grande Pyramid. Oh, you haven’t heard of it? It is about as cool as a peak ascent can get and it is a far cry from NYC! The bottom line is, I don’t get paid to have fun, I work hard, I knock on every door and I am as curious about how things work as I am about how to get up mountains. Somehow, finance became a tool in that process, but certainly not a driver alone. So if you want to get paid to have fun, well, I can only suggest you do something you believe in and that you don’t give up. Only you can answer what that is and how long you will have to try at it to succeed. The only advice I have on that is that I hope you pick the right partners in your fun endeavor because it is pretty awesome to watch a team reach the top and know you were part of something bigger than an individual’s vision or a solitary moment on a summit, the process is the fun and the process to me is priceless.