HORSESHOES (the intro and opening of the new book by Gary Guller and I)

 

Survival alone doesn’t define us. It’s what we learn from the experience that does.

We stumble. We fall. We risk. We fail.

We rise again.

We innovate. We persevere. We inspire. We conquer.

Such is the human condition. We choose between two paths in each interconnected moment. One path leads upward, forever upward. The other leads to ambivalence. Eventually to mediocrity. Then to irrelevance.

Most of us will never summit Mt. Everest. We’ll not endure the blurry fog of oxygen deprivation in a place holding the ultimate consequence as reward for a misstep.

We’ll not dig our crampons into the base of Hillary Step, with full knowledge that death awaits below us. We’ll not have the realization that those before us who successfully navigated The Step and summited had the benefit of using two hands to secure themselves with. That an already technically difficult climb becomes highly improbable when facing it with only one arm.

We’ll not make an unimaginable sacrifice of ourselves. We’ll not watch others in our journey pass away before us or next to us as a direct consequence of the quest.

But we all climb our own Everest.

The toughest problems we’ve faced and overcome define our capacity of strength. They represent the “edge” – a place we know we can take ourselves without fear of falling hopelessly over.

If our roles never required us to go beyond the “known edge,” this book may be just an interesting and entertaining adventure read.

It’s intended to be much more.

The story of Gary Guller is inspiring and empowering. It’s flawed and imperfect. It’s full of feats and of follies, of passions and of addictions. In its narrative we learn to lift up others, and to rise up within ourselves. We understand the simple beauty of core vision and the danger of straying too far from it. We face the measure of ultimate sacrifice, and we understand the human effect of overcoming it.

And more.

Together, we’ll set sail with Sir Ernest Shackleton. We’ll sit in the boardrooms of two companies and learn why one is gone and the other thrives. We’ll reflect on the simple yet beautifully diverse message of the Sherpa, and take their wisdom with us as we face the day tomorrow. We’ll discover lost Renaissance art and apply our knowledge to how we see others around us.

 

Two years ago, quite by chance, I sat next to a man in a Washington DC bar who would help to change the course of my life. His name was Andy Cockrum, and he was the documentarian who filmed Team Everest: A Himalayan Journey – the film that chronicled the ’03 expedition that Gary led.

Months later I was introduced to Gary. By our second conversation, I felt like Bilbo Baggins on the day he first joined forces with Gandalf.

We live in a world where the sensationally bad story opens the nightly news, and the story of hope is relegated to lesser prominence. Where the Kardashians and Lindsay Lohan are household names.

As Bilbo, I would champion the cause of raising awareness about something nobler. I would bring this incredible story of ability to a world I felt needed to hear it.

It resonated with me first at a personal level. Sixteen years ago I lost two brothers, Steven and Eddie. They were playing horseshoes in the backyard together on the day of Steven’s wedding when the same bolt of lightning struck them both. Tragically, a day of celebration turned to one of unimaginable loss when the lightning claimed their lives.

Like Gary, our family rose up beyond the loss.

When I returned home from the hospital after a traumatic amputation of my left index finger, I planned to wear a black glove over my left hand to disguise what I saw as a hideous disfigurement. Today I don’t wear that glove.

Gary once concealed his missing left arm by tucking the sleeve of his shirt into a jacket, one he wore in extreme heat as well as cold. Today he wears Hawaiian print shirts.

I personally related to Gary on so many levels. So do countless others. All who meet him, who attend his presentations, who hear about his exploits. They all relate.

That perhaps is the greatest pull of his story.

We’re CEOs. We’re moms and dads. We’re influencers and change agents. We’re future leaders. We’re all people whose lives are important, and who intersect with and influence the paths of others.

Individually, we face the common foes of change and adversity. It’s a battle we face alone, but a path we share with all others. We each climb our own Everest in the challenges we rise up against and overcome.

As Gary and I explored the possibilities of our “Gandalf’s quest” together, we soon realized that the stories transcended personal into professional. Gary being an internationally known inspirational speaker and corporate trainer, my being an executive in music publishing with international training and consulting experience.

It was a natural progression from home to work and we followed it.

 

Disability is the limitation we place on ourselves.

Leaders inspire others to reach greater heights, to push past self-imposed limitations. They make heroes of those around them by inspiring others to accomplish more than they individually believed possible.

We’re all leaders in our own way, whether titled so or informally appointed, and to be a leader is to make others greater along the way. To have the belief that any willing person can go beyond the accomplishments of today, and to never abandon that belief.

Leadership is about moving forward and forever upward,  regardless of the magnitude of setback experienced along the way.

 

Gary Guller holds two Mt. Everest World Records. In 2003 he led the largest team of cross-disabled hikers to ever reach base camp, and himself went on to Summit Everest – becoming the first one-armed man to ever do so. Our book is a story of Everest. Of Maoist rebels. Of near death, certain death and unimaginable loss. Of hope and dreams. Of the Sherpa culture. Of Sir Ernest Shackleton. And so much more. It will be available May 23, 2013.

Email me at phil@secondstarters.com if you’d like to receive a sample chapter of Make Others Greater!

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