Thursday, July 24, 2014

Do Hard Things



by Seattle Jon:

Summit of Mount Adams. Mount Rainier in the distance.

I recently summited Mount Adams with my two oldest children, Ella (14) and Will (12). The 12,281 foot strato-volcano is the second highest mountain in the state of Washington, and while the climb isn't that technical, crampons and ice axes are needed and people do die in pursuit of the summit.

The six-mile climb from trailhead to summit took two days and was extremely difficult, one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I've done in my life. Part of me wonders what I was thinking doing this with them, but the other part thinks I don't do enough hard things with my kids.


My sense is too many kids these days live less-challenged lives. Society, it seems, has extremely low expectations of kids, especially teenagers, which can cause them to then have low expectations of themselves. Providing opportunities for kids to get out of their comfort zone and encouraging them to exceed expectations as often as possible should foster personal growth on a level we're not used to seeing.

We've already seen changes in Ella and Will - some subtle and some extraordinary - since the climb.

Will was a machine on the climb, leading our party of six for most of the way. I could not pass him no matter how hard I tried. He was the first to start out after breaks and the first to summit. Since the climb, he's been more patient and fun with his brothers, and interestingly, a smarter eater. I'm thinking this might be because we were careful about what food we packed and how we had to ration near the end of the climb. He also seems more mature and a little wiser than before. Instead of poorly managing his time last year as an 11 year-old scout camper, returning with only one complete and two partial merit badges, he returned this year the week following the climb with five merit badges and no partials after planning to complete just three. Coincidence?

View from camp. Mount St. Helens in the distance.

Ella has been a different young woman since the climb. There was a moment on the mountain that could have been a turning point for her personally. We'd reached the false summit, about 800 feet below the true summit. We were exhausted and our food and water were running low. Rather than resting, Will and I pushed ahead, leaving Ella and her cousin to follow with another member of the party. When that person had to sit out the final ascent due to injury, Ella and her cousin had a choice to make. They could sit out too, or get up and climb a very difficult last 800 feet to the summit by themselves. I can't tell you how cool it was to look back down the mountain and see them trudging up the snow and ice. I think Ella knows she made a difficult choice and accomplished something amazing, and it changed her. Since returning, she has been more confident, happy and content; less moody, judgmental and reclusive; and quicker to forgive and express love. Surely this too can't be a coincidence.

What is it about doing hard things that changes who we are?

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Seattle Jon is a family man, little league coach, urban farmer and businessman living in Seattle. He currently gets up early with the markets to trade bonds for a living. In his spare time he enjoys movies, thrifting and is an avid reader. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the Japan Fukuoka mission field. He has one wife, four kids and three chickens.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: GB Overton (used with permission).

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