My Java Journal

Live Your Story: It Is What You Leave Behind

Looking down at my daughter belaying me for the first time (Calabogie, Ontario, 2020)


One of the (many) reasons I left the military was because I found progression much to linear. There were many more less-selfish reasons, however, with respect to personal considerations, the linear trajectory of promotion, and the necessary courses, qualifications, roles and tenures to progress, did not excite me in the least.

So too in life, I find linear and pedantic paths wearisome and tedious; not at all conducive to how I see the story of my life playing out. Most important to me is, as I’ve mused before, the need to have objectives, but to hold those objectives as beacons and not as a grail.

Adventuring, and letting my interests and learning, growth, opportunity and reflection guide me have provided a liberating and satisfying story – and life – thus far. Perhaps unorthodox, and to some maybe even scattered or unfocused, but collecting experiences, memories and stories is more important to me than the achievement of any one goal. I suppose for me the goal is the story itself.

I’ve also come to realize that I need a few things; often, and in all I do. Fear, challenge, learning, and adversity. These to me are critical. These give me the growth I seek. Recently, I have rediscovered rock climbing. This time around though it has been outside the structures and limitations of the linear and pedantic learning models I have been exposed in the past.

In the past, my access points have been very structured; be it Boy Scouts, the military, or certification courses. All great for introductory learning. However, you can only advance as far and fast as the program and its curriculum. Now, outside and free of what I have always been constrained too in formal programs, I am exploring, in this instance, traditional, “trad” climbing. Make no mistake, I enjoy great access to expertise and experience and so am not going it alone. I am only advancing as quickly as is safe and appropriate, and certifications will likely be sought, in time. That stated, for now, I am free to push boundaries and explore. Each climbing day is a day of learning, and of trying something new; even if very small.

Adventure, as we’ve established previously, is relative.  Relative to one’s fear and comfort. Relative to one’s experiences and thresholds, to one’s tolerance to adversity, to one’s desires. These are different for each of us. I am not trying to compare myself to anyone else, nor suggest anyone compare themselves to me, or others. I am very fond of, and reference often this quote (especially with respect to my kids):

“The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.” – Anonymous

It evokes Kaizen methodologies, which I have tried to implement in all I do. Kaizen is a Japanese concept around the idea of small, continuous improvement; I’ve seen it many times referenced as getting 1% better each day.

But I digress.

So where am I going with this?

Well, I thought I’d use climbing as an example to illustrate Matt Walker’s Five Elements of Adventure. I think this fits perfectly, whereas some examples I’ve considered are less encompassing of all five elements.

To refresh, these (as promulgated by Walker) are the Five Elements of Adventure:

  1. High endeavour (thinking big)
  2. Total commitment
  3. Uncertain outcome
  4. Tolerance for adversity
  5. Great companionship
High Endeavour (Thinking Big)

Climbing works both figuratively and metaphorically in this instance. The metaphor should be obvious. Figuratively, it, to me, is about exploring my fear boundaries (which exist viscerally on a rock face) and pushing through them. It acutely adds to my story; and about being a custodian of nature, which is an important part of the climbing community; Leave No Trace. It is an activity that is deliberate and methodical and one in which corners shouldn’t be cut. It forces immediacy and presence of mind and for which problem solving is critical to success.

Total Commitment

On a rock face, you are all in. To achieve the desired goal, the end-state, you must commit to solving the problem, to advancing, finding your confidence and trusting in your partner, your gear, and perhaps most importantly, yourself.

Uncertain Outcome

You may fail. Indeed, you will likely fail along the way – a fall, the need to take a different approach than anticipated, or perhaps recognizing that the ‘problem’ is beyond your skill – for now. If you cut those corners or lose your focus, the consequences are real, and can cost you your life.

Tolerance For Adversity

It will be hard. Sometimes just getting to the rock face, the ‘approach,’ can test one’s endurance, will, and commitment. Fingers will bleed, climbing shoes are not comfortable, falls hurt, weather changes, failure happens.

Great Companionship

This is the element that really got me thinking this week about how appropriate this activity is to meeting the Adventure definition (relative to me). You don’t climb alone. Encouragement is necessary. Patience and calm, tutelage and growth all have to exist in the climbing group. Common values, such as the aforementioned role as nature custodian, are needed. Common risk boundaries, and willingness to push past them are necessary. But, perhaps most exciting to me – and why this is so frequent a blog theme currently – is that one of my daughters is on that rock face with me now. She belayed her first lead climb recently. She belayed me for the first time recently. We are preparing for our first multi-pitch climb together soon – Great Companionship! Not to mention the amazing group we’ve formed, and our ‘leader’ whom are all making this such a wonderful Adventure.

I’ll leave you with the recommendation to get outside and to look at the elements of adventure and find a complete adventure for yourself. It is relative, we’ve established that, but maybe there is something new for you out there. Go and Live Your Story!

A final quote –

“Today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness.” – Kalidasa

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