Wednesday, May 11, 2005


I got a really amazing email today from someone whose life was turned around by my book, OVER THE EDGE. Here's a little piece of it:
Since I first read it OTE about 6 years ago I've started my own "Lists". On a bit of a personal note, when I read it the first time I was near housebound with agoraphobia (severe panic attacks) so my Lists were vastly different than most. They encompassed things like, "drive to the store" and "walk across a bridge". Since then I've overcome virtually all my fears and have turned my life around. I went from living alone in a abasement apartment housebound by fear to a relative success in my industry for my age, started dating again, got married, and recently had a daughter. I just started publishing some online articles about health and fitness, primarily motivational type stuff. I owe all of this, at least in part, to you and your book...
There is something profoundly humbling about thinking you might have had a positive effect on someone's life. OTE, which I wrote almost 10 years ago now, was a book I had to write...I'm a writer, after all, and when I work things out in my life it's natural that I see it in print.

The Cliff Notes version is that I was a drastically overweight couch potato, more or less adrift, when I went windsurfing on a big day. In the insuing and inevitable beer-and-pizza debrief with my buddies, someone came up with the bright idea to make a list of "shit that can kill you," athletic endeavors that could, if you screwed up, wipe you out. Somewhere after last call, when the taxis came for us all, we'd written 13 items on a beer-soaked cocktail napkin. A friend asked me what i was going to do with The List...oh hell, I said, I think I'll do them all and write a book about it.

So I did. It took 7 years, all the money I had in the world (and then some) and the destruction of one 20-year relationship to finish The List. In the end, I was a different person, but not in the way I imagined I'd be. Read the book. Buy it here. Strange, but sometimes I still have nightmares about Mt. McKinley; I'm always grabbing for an ice ax that isn't there. My lungs are partly trashed, and my orthopedist asked me what I expected to happen. What the hell, I wouldn't trade a minute of it, even for a working knee. No martial arts book I ever read said the Way would be easy, logical or without consequences.

The book was a spectacular critical success and an equally spectacular financial failure. I loved it more than anything else I've written before or since, but I put it behind me. But since its release, OTE has gone on with a life of its own. Last month it was a mid-20s woman from New Zealand, an elite athlete severely injured in a car wreck, who had used OTE to learn to walk again. Before that it was a middle school teacher who used OTE to inspire a girl's soccer team. A Scandinavian Olympic coach had his ski team read OTE multiple times, and each time, he says, they found new lessons. He dedicated his team's gold medals to me. I got a postcard from the North Pole from a guy who hiked there after reading the book. A successful MD with a chain of clinics credited OTE with allowing him to find the strength to sell the clinics and pursue his love of sailing. A woman stopped me on the street in Boulder to tell me how OTE inspired her to turn her life around, to walk away from the drugs and be something.

At first, I didn't know quite what to make of this. Part of me was hugely flattered, of course. Another part of me wanted to warn these people not to put their faith in such a flawed vessel. Then I started thinging about what I'd actually done. Weirdly enough, in order to survive OTE, I developed a process for doing really scary, really hard stuff. I tried for a while to teach the process, but it was wildly counterintuitive and ran directly counter to "common sense." In a world of "thin thighs in 30 days" motivational speakers, I was a bit out of place. Even weirdlier — if there is such a word — I used the same process to develop the wildly successful Media Education Program for NSSF and my television shows, starting with SHOOTING GALLERY.

I once spent a birthday with Willie Nelson at his ranch in Texas. In the course of beer, guitar picking and other optional pursuits, Willie told me about his "process" for writing songs. "Michael," Brother Willie said, "I don't write songs. Never. There are all these songs flying around in the ether, and every so often my radio tunes in on 'em, and if I'm fast, I can capture one." I realized that I was lucky enough to have my radio tune in, and I captured a little bit of the stuff in the ether. You can't get any luckier than that!


Anonymous said...

Have the book (signed copy - thank you Michael). Read the book. Love the book. Give it to friends as a present. OTE is actually brilliant and more about the mental, zen like aspects of the self when persuing goals at the highest levels. This is your next TOC show, Michael. Think they'd run it?

RandomExcesses said...

I loved it as might well be the best thing you ever wrote, although I still enjoy "White Boy" as well. I think I sold yet another copy of OTE for ya today, in fact, to a nice Chinese real estate saleslady in Vancouver with a husband who insists on mountain biking down death-defying trails...go figure. As many as I've sold or given away, I probably deserve a portion of the what...five cents per copy you received?

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