Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Thinnest of Lines

From Conundrum and Castle Peaks

I have in my possession 70-some photos proving that four friends and I summitted Castle Peak from Conundrum Hot Springs. To look at those photos, you'd think we traversed a crumbly mountain, made our way across and up a steep gully into and out of a high mountain amphitheater as we climbed a jagged ridge to a saddle between two peaks before climbing both.

credit Thomas Fuller

We did all this. But what the pictures don't show is that it took us 12 hours to go up and down less than 3.5 miles. Three of our group didn't make it back before nightfall. I made it before dark, but not before vomiting from a combination of the migraine I'd endured and the Hydrocodone I'd popped several hours before. I felt so sick that upon arrival at camp, I skipped dinner and naked time in the hot springs, preferring instead to writhe in my tent like the invalid from The Secret Garden.

Was the trip a success? I guess so, but you tell me. Put one way, it's another notch on our five belts. But no one who saw me that day would say I conquered the mountain--especially the guy who who slipped in my vomit. It's ironic because sometimes I think the whole reason I climb mountains is because it's so easy to judge whether one succeeds or fails.

Which brings me to business ethics class and drug use. My professor says that traders in many of the international firms snort more coke than Amy Winehouse. But they can produce for 20 hours straight. I don't know anything about that but I can tell you that Adderoll is all over the poker world and it's getting more and more difficult to argue with the drug's results. Even Sherlock Holmes had his 7% solution. Meanwhile, people in Major League Baseball are praying to the two-seam Gods that Albert Pujols, America's Pastime's last great hope doesn't get caught on anything.

I'm glad to report that rampant drug use and a shattered family life are both absent from my own life but it nevertheless seems to me that success and failure are separated by the thinnest of lines, especially for those of us without a publicist. I'm putting myself through grad school but I often feel that I'm staving off insanity one martini at a time.

Is success even real or is it merely an Aristotelian ideal somewhere in the ether that we're all snorting? Even if it is real, by what baseline are we measuring success, and at what cost? We lament the fact that Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid is in bad health and has a terrible family life but it's more comfortable to applaud his NFC Championship 4-peat and then cut to a commercial break.

The message I'm hearing from B-School is that if it's within the rules and it's profitable, it's successful. This from the school that just cut two classes from my degree without reducing "annual tuition." Great Success!


Walker said...

success can also be measured by clearly defined goals. Using your example the goal was to climb a mountain, not to waltz up it. While it sucked and took forever and you got sick, you still clearly achieved the goal. Goals aren't supposed to be easy and you beat this one, now the next one might be to summit AND not get sick ;-). As far as your philosophizing about success in abstract form, everyone defines success for themselves. Otherwise no matter what you do you will always fail by someone's definition. And while it seems like insanity is one less martini away you are successful in holding it off. On that note the difference between insanity and genius is just a matter of success. So to conclude this circular argument...

Jess said...

Success is not not failing, but gaining something broader from the experience, whether in the form of reaching the summit, or a lesson learned along the way before you have to turn around. Your life should not be run like a business--your only competitor should be yourself. Aim for personal growth, not just profit, and you'll find a lot more successes and a lot less stress.

GnightMoon said...

Coattailing on what Walker and Jess said...something about the journey being more important than the goal...e.g. it is my goal to climb all the 14ers - but the bulk of the joy of accomplishing that goal comes from the journey...and as soon as it is accomplished another goal will be set (the 100 highest in CO).

This time the journey was a little rough. If you'd known it was going to go like that you probably wouldn't have gone - but at the same time I'm sure you don't regret going. We climbed that damn mountain!

Io said...

They can because they think they can. Virgil

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a brutal trip, altitude sickness was my worst experience, I can't imagine a migraine on a mountain. Success is a mindset. Whether you think you are successful or think you're not successful, your right.