Yeah, there's no shortage of ego in pages...and I am not without that particular sin...but, ultimately, you believe, or at least hope, that the stones you throw into the pond will create some ripples.
Ironically, I never thought that about OVER THE EDGE. OTE was a whim that became an obsession, my very own personal white whale. Here's the short version for those of you who just tuned in...over beers at a pizza place in Tampa after a day of windsurfing big wind, my friends and I wrote "The List," a.k.a., 13 things that can kill you, on a cocktail napkin.
The List ended up:
1) Windsurf really big air — what the hey...I figured I could do this...At closing time, the questions was asked, "So, Michael, what are you going to do with The List?"
2) The Mammoth Mountain Kamikazee mountain bike downhill — I'd read that based on the sheer number of injuries, the Kamikazee was the most dangerous sporting event in America.
3) Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, featuring the signature swim from Alcatraz to the mainland — I liked the country song, "There's a mile and a quarter of trecherous water that keeps men in Alcatraz..."
4) Jump a kayak off a waterfall — Seemed like a good idea about pitcher #3.
5) Rock climb — Hanging frm ropes...always a good thng!
6) Cave diving — Scuba diving in caves, around pitcher #6, because a friend of mine remembered seeing on television how many people died doing it.
7) Ice climbing — How hard can it be to climb an icicle? Ha!
8) Skydiving — And I lumped "those parachute thingies," wich I later learned were called paragliders or parapentes into that as well.
9) An 85-mile Rollerblade marathon — I thought I'd at least meet cute girls in pain.
10) Scuba diving "really deep" — Ignorance is bliss...I thought I could get to, say, 500 feet down.
11) "Badwater" Run Across Death Valley — Only 120 degrees...hey, I lived in Florida!
12) Iditasport Bike Race on the Iditarod Trail in February — I figured it would balance out Death Valley pretty well.
13) Climb Mt. McKinley — After all, it looked really pretty in the Ansel Adams photograph, whicih was as close as I had come to a Big Mountain.
"Oh I don't know," I said, perhaps tracking at less than 100%. "I think I'll do everything on the list and write a book about it."
And there you are...5 years later, all the money I had in the world and one 20-year relationship slagged, I finished The List.
The most amazing thing to me is that OTE has gone on without me. The hardback came out in the late 1990s, with te paperback in 2000...every month, without fail, I get e-mails from people for whom my book was a life-changing experience. Some of the stories are touching...a picture from the North Pole, a momento from the Olympics...some are heartrending, people struggling to overcome staggering odds in their personal lives, with OTE as a guidebook. I am, as I have said many times before, both honored and humbled. It is cliched to say it is a dream come true, but that doesn't make it any less of an honest emotion.
From the beginning, I wanted to quantify the concepts I used to complete the challenges I wrote about. This proved to be MUCH harder than I'd anticipated...it forced me to start "peeling away the layers" of my mental onion. It also kept me in the field doing yet MORE stupid stuff, because I am sort of stupid...it's deeds, not words. Hell, if I am going to give you advice that you may stake your life on, then I am obligated to stake my own life on those ideas. That guarantees that I am the first, and hopefully only, victim of my own mistakes.
I even tually come up with six key points, which I cleverly labeled Six rules for Accomplishing the Impossible:
1) Pick a Summit — We don't live the lives we want to live not because we aim too high, but because we aim too low. We want to run a marathon, so we tell the world we're training for a 5K...and then we don't do that. Summits have power; summits can cause us to engage those amazing evolutionary tools we all possess. Summits are creatures of dreams.Read Bruce Lee's classic text on The Tao of Jeet Kune Do...or Mark Twight's Extreme Alpinism...or Brian Enos' Practical Shooting-Beyond Fundamentals. We triumph not by following the well-worn path, but by abandoning "common sense" and opening ourselves to the maelstrom. Heaven help me, but I'm going to close with a quote from Alannis Morisette: "The moment I stepped off it it/Was the moment I touched down."
2) Abandon your Comfort Zone — Comforts zones are cozy little cells with padded walls; comfort zones are death in bite-sized easily digestable chunks. We are hard-wired by several million years of evolution to do our best work outside our comfort zones. The odd thing is that once you're out of your comfort zone, it's not so bad. In fact, you get used to it.
3) Understand the Risks — We are TERRIBLE at analyzing risks! And we think we're great at it, which is a classic recipe for disaster. From my earlier post, remember "perceived" versus "actual" and "subjective" versus "objective?" I have seen huge amounts of resource focused on "perceived/objective" risks...essentially preparing for an imagined, completely unlikely eventuality that, if it did happen, you couldn't do anything about it in the first place.
4) Narrow Your Focus — Okay, this is kind of a trick...yes, you have to understand the "big picture," but once you do, forget it and focus on what it is you need to do RIGHT THEN. I go back to the old analogy (used interestingly enough by John Shaw to teach SAS guys how to REALLY shoot) that at birth we are all issued 100 pennies-worth of concentration, and no matter how much we might believe otherwise, we cannot get one penny more! Rather than putting a nickel here and a quarter there, to survive, we have to learn how to be a serial concentrator, taking our pile of pennies and moving it all from task to task.
5) When In Doubt, Go FASTER! — This is one of the most controversial points, because we are trained by our culture that slower is better...."slow and steady"..."tortoise and hare"...etc. It's the wrong worldview. Yes, we plan, and yes, we pay attention to details, but once we start, move dammit! Insteresting new reseach that backs up my thesis that we can make correct decisions with blazing speed. When we say we need more time, often what we are saying is really, "We need more time to cook up a dreally good excuse!"
6) Embrace Chaos — At the edges of the Known Universe, cause and effect become merely "local phenomena." You survival depends on your ability to shift gears, move out of one paradigm into another, real quick. Our current culture places a high value on the question, "Why?" As in, "Gee, I wonder why that didn't work..." as in the closing words of your life. "Why" is only interesting if it can teach you something for the next time, and that implies you'll survive the present encounter, which you can only do by ignoring the "Why." When you're in a chaos system — and Nature, violent attacks, combat, pesky hurricanes, etc. are ALL classic chaos systems — nothing proves anything! "Proof" is a specific scientific term, and it doesn't have a damn thing to do with the Real World. Within a chaos system, events tend to be "singularities," that is, the one-time-only product of known, unkown and unknowable factors and conditions. Remember, cause and effect have gone south here.