In his trip report we blogged yesterday, Chris Davenport wrote that over the winter he’d had “a pretty good run of luck in the mountains, a fact not in the least bit lost on me.”
Chris was referring to his successful completion of skiing all 54 Colorado fourteeners, as well as hitting other North American highpoints and concluding with what appears to be the most successful ski expedition ever accomplished on Denali.
But what’s luck have to do with it?
Sure, I can easily imagine Chris pinching himself when he arrived at Denali just as a two week storm cleared out, or when he hit Colorado fourteeners such as Pyramid peak during what might of been the best springtime backcountry snowpack in Colorado history.
Chance and fate could be part of all that. Yet since Virgil wrote back around 18 BC that “fortune favors the bold,” philosophers have known for ages that concepts such as “luck” and “fate” were only part of how so called “lucky” or “unlucky” events are shaped in our lives.
Indeed, I believe we make most of own luck in the mountains. Among other things, we make it by getting into rhythm with weather and conditions, by achieving a heightened state of awareness through education and athletic training, and by honing a keen sense of judgment that tells us when to push, and when to not even leave the door of our home. We also make luck by being flexible with our goals, and smoothly adjusting to what the day throws at us. In a sense, we control chance instead of letting it control us.
While researching this subject I came across an interesting book. In the “The Luck Factor: Changing Your Luck, Changing Your Life (Miramax, 2003),” author Richard Wiseman makes the case for “Four Essential Principles” that create good fortune in people’s lives. He says that indeed there is such a thing as “chance,” but that we have more control over events than most of us think we do. (Interesting info about book and associated studies.)
One of Wiseman’s four principles is indeed flexibility — which is so important in mountaineering. Turning bad luck into good, if you will. Another principle is that lucky people “expect good fortune.” In other words, a positive attitude.
In terms of mountaineering, I’ve known some very successful individuals and had the “luck” (smile) of spending time with them. Indeed, a positive or optimistic attitude was always a big part of their kit, though they always tempered that with a relaxed flexibility — a shrug of the shoulders and a hearty laugh when things didn’t turn out as planned. Having a positive attitude is certainly the case with Davenport, as well as his finely tuned athletic ability and mental acuity.
More, Virgil was right. Fortune in the mountains does favor the bold. If for no other reason this is true because being timid and gripped with fear messes with your judgment, cripples your athletic ability, and might compromise any help you’re getting in the metaphysical realm (it’s hard to pray when your teeth are chattering in terror.)
In a nutshell: Be flexible, adjust to the conditions, and when things are right go after it with relaxed poise and skill, that way you’ll make your own luck!
What do you guys think? Comments on…