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Life lessons on perseverance from the highest mountaintops to the most average boardrooms
Kentucky School Advocate
By Brad Hughes
Adventurer Jim Davidson has to help audiences connect to his life and near-death experiences, so he can then deliver related messages about meeting and surpassing challenges. So he sets the stage by hauling out props: cleated boots, ice axes, ice screws and sturdy ropes. Then the imagery of his life takes over.
“To get to the top of Mount Everest, you backpack for weeks just to get to the base camp, and to let your lungs adjust to the air. You get up around midnight and cross these (chain and rope) bridges to begin the climb. When your commute to work is to cross an ice bridge in the dark, you don’t need caffeine, let me tell you,” Davidson said to a laugh from the attendees at the closing brunch of the 81st KSBA Annual Conference.
Much of his talk was based on his New York Times-bestseller, The Ledge, an account of his June 1992 climb of 14,000-foot Mount Rainier in Washington state. On the descent, an ice bridge collapsed, plunging him and partner Mike Price 80 feet down into a crevasse. Price did not survive injuries from the fall. After three hours of climbing, Davidson was still 20 feet from the lip of the crevasse.
“I’ve got to tell you there was no magical climbing technique, nothing super brave. It was just good, old-fashioned, grinding perseverance. Up and down. Just like when you are trying to get some program done for your kids. But if you are making progress, even slow progress, perseverance can take you far,” he said.
“I felt fear and doubt. What do you do when you are tired and worn out? You have to make the good things like determination big and the bad things like fear and doubt small. They don’t go away completely, but if you try to focus on the good, you can solve problems. Eventually, I found the way to the top. I found the resilience to go on for Mike, for his family and for my family. That’s where your strength comes from,” Davidson said.
“(But) I was a beaten man. I was terrified. I’d lost my friend. I was wracked with guilt. I was lost for a while,” he said, adding it took him more than a decade before he resumed climbing when he was asked to lead young climbers to places like Alaska and Bolivia, and Mount Everest in Nepal. He is now in training for another attempt to climb Everest in late March.
“I know that most people don’t wind up in a glacial crevasse but we all have to come out of financial crevasses or family crevasses. That led me to realize I had a message about resilience,” Davidson said.
“When you are challenged, adapt. When you face uncertainty, you’ve got to persevere. When the budget says this or the federal government says that, you’ve got to persevere. You can put yourself in a resilient mindset that ‘This is how we handle problems.’ Fear is contagious, but so is confidence,” he said. “You may not have all of the answers but if you start to project confidence, you will spark resilience in yourself and among others.”
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