I gave this keynote address on “The One Essential” at the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce Great Kids Awards this week. Watch & learn about Search and Rescue and the key to THRIVING in all areas of your life!!
Thank you, Val, Jenny, and Chamber of Commerce, for inviting me to speak to you tonight. I’m honored and excited to spend a few moments among so many great people.
Especially you Great Kids. I want to congratulate you for recieving such a fabulous award. I have no doubt that your principles and teachers know exactly what they’re doing and you totally deserve it.
Ya know, there are many types of greatness available to you in this world.
You could be a great athlete, for example; you could work out hard, pour every ounce of energy into your efforts, and perform extraordinary feats that amaze the world, and that would be great! But it wouldn’t be the greatest kind of great.
You could get rich, and drive beautiful cars and live in an enormous mansion with ten bedrooms, twenty bathrooms, and thirty swimming pools, and that would probably be really fun, as long as you don’t have to clean it, but it would not be the most fun kind of great.
You could be talented or popular or attractive or powerful and all those things might be very nice, but none of them would be the PINNACLE of greatness.
There’s only one Greatest Great, and everyone in this room has at least some of it, but most of you probably don’t really know it, you’re probably not highly aware of it, and that creates a problem.
So I’m going to tell you about this Greatest Greatness tonight, but first, let me set the stage with a little background about something I’ve been doing for the past 14 years.
As you have probably noticed, we live in a very beautiful county. We live surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and lakes that make us feel like we live in a postcard.
It’s a recreational paradise for sailing, climbing, ice climbing, caving, skiing, motorcycling, and even rappelling with your dog.
However, a lot of people go into the back country embarrassingly unprepared, which is just like life, as I’ll explain in a minute. They climb Mount Timpanogos in flip flops. They think they can hike for eight hours with one little 8 oz. bottle of water, and they think just because it’s warm when they leave the parking lot, that they won’t need a jacket when they get to 12,000’ feet above sea level and the sun vanishes over the western horizon.
When things fall apart in the back country and people get lost, hurt or cold, which happens about a hundred times every year, they call my team of volunteers – the Utah County Sheriff Search and Rescue team. In fact, I got home at 3 a.m. this morning from a search for an injured motorcycle rider.
We climb cliffs and mountains, brave rivers, search lakes and caves and miles of trails on foot or machine or by air, day or night, rain or shine, to put things back together as much as we possibly can.
Sometimes it’s dangerous. I took this photo of a team member kicking off a small slab avalanche as he heads to that shrub which luckily anchored the snow better.
Sometimes it’s fun. Here’s my Halloween costume last year; I went as a back country accident victim while Life Flight trained with their cable hoist. I hoped to bring the helicopter part of my costume and that they’d hang out with me at the mall later, but apparently they had some other party to attend.
Sometimes it’s challenging and rewarding. This is one night near Timp Cave NM where I’m about to rappel down to where three hikers got trapped between 200’ cliffs. 33’ ropes. I’m not sure what they were thinking they’d use those for.
Later that same week, a little girl on a class trip wasn’t watching where she was going and fell off the cave trail, falling about 40’ and sustaining some injuries.
On the east side of Timp one 4th of July, a mountaineer was glissading, which means sitting down and sliding down the snow, with his crampons on, which are the spiky things you attach to your boot, and when those spikes caught, the sudden pressure broke his tib/fib.
Just across Provo Canyon, this climber fell 50’ above Upper Falls and landed on his face. We spent all night lowering him over 6 waterfalls to get him to an ambulance.
Utah Lake is more dangerous than it sometimes appears. I’ve seen storm fronts kick up 4’ waves in 15 minutes, and on this day, 9 kids got dumped into the water when their boat flipped and sank. A friend and I shot across the lake as fast as we could go on personal watercraft, launching off every wave crest, and it seemed like we spent half the time in the air, going 60 mph for 8 miles across the lake.
Here’s a kid who got stuck in a cave. When his rib cage couldn’t fit through a tight spot, his friends helped by grabbing his arms and tugging. They successfully got his ribs through, but then his hips wouldn’t fit. Unfortunately, he couldn’t back out the way he came, either, and we had to chip away a little rock spike before we could lift, twist, and finesse him out to freedom.
This couple didn’t have regular camping gear so they went camping with a suitcase and blanket. They got wet, and he got pretty sick. Walked him down rather than carrying him in our wheeled litter to keep him warmer and make sure he kept generating heat.
Here’s a Christmas Day rescue of some hunters who got lost in thick fog and couldn’t find their way back to the boat ramp. Dressed in our dry suits, we didn’t even feel cold.
I even wrote a book about some of my favorite and most memorable rescue stories so people could find out what we volunteers do for their neighbors in every corner of the county throughout the year. [ bit.ly/rescuestories ]
Helping people out can be extremely rewarding and sometimes rather exciting, and you Great Kids can probably identify with this very well. So if this sounds like your kind of thing, then I’m sure you’d make great Search and Rescue team members, and I hope to hear from you when you turn 21.
But that’s a long ways away, and I need your help before then. I need your help NOW!
Because people all around you RIGHT NOW and hurt and lost and cold, and my team and I can’t save them all! But with your help, we can at least make a good start.
Ya know, there’s one thing better than an exciting rescue where we get to find someone hurt or lost or in trouble and return them to safety, and that is to PREVENT the emergency in the first place.
One of the best ways to prevent emergencies in the back country is to carry with you the 10 Essentials. That includes items like extra water, food and clothing, a flashlight with extra batteries, firestarter, a compass and map and so forth.
I’m not going to talk about the 10 essentials tonight, because I don’t want you to just survive in the wilderness, I want you to THRIVE in all aspects of your life. I want you to be happy, feel great, positively influence everyone around you, have everything you need and succeed, and even when you don’t, I want you to still be okay, for life to still be good. And for all that, you don’t need 10 essentials, you only need one.
Now let me tell you what the one single thing is that will ensure that you thrive better than anything else you can possibly possess. It’s free, it’s fun, it feels really good, you can take it with you everywhere you go and you’ll be the envy of all you meet.
This One Essential is to LOVE YOURSELF, and I need you to do that and do it well!
Just like carrying the 10 essentials when you go hiking, loving yourself is a fairly simple process, but it’s also easy to forget sometimes. This creates a problem because there are sophisticated forces out there in the world doing their best to harm you. These dangerous threats can leave you hurt, stuck, cold, and lost.
Let me share some examples of these threats, and I’ll put them in context of the four aspects of Human Nature: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
The most obvious attack is against your body, so let’s start there. Loving your physical nature means caring for yourself properly with adequate food, sleep, and exercise.
If you do, your body will reward you with health and vigor, and you’ll be able to enjoy some of life’s greatest pleasures, like watching the sunrise from 11,750’ above sea level on Timp’s summit.
If you don’t care for your body, then you’re kind of like the little girl who didn’t watch where she was going and fell off the cave trail, or the guy who glissaded with his crampons on and snapped his leg in half, or the other guy who fell 50’ off a cliff and landed on his face. You’ll hurt, and the damage you do may affect you for the rest of your life.
Remember to love your body, too, no matter what shape it may be in. Loving it will motivate you to take better care of it. It doesn’t matter that it’s not perfect – it’s YOURS and you have every right – and even an obligation – to love it for what it is.
Unfortunately, you will face some resistance here. The multi-billion-dollar marketing industry works day and night to make sure you feel like your body is not good enough, just so you’ll buy their products and make them rich.
They fill television and the internet with expensive cars and beautiful, photoshopped models having more way fun than you are, hoping to make you discontent with all the things you don’t have yet.
Don’t fall for these highly sophisticated lies. Practically nobody looks like that in real life, and even if you do, don’t believe the lie that being attractive and desired for your beauty – or ANYTHING EXTERNAL like possessions or titles, anything less than your very soul – will ever make you secure and happy, because it won’t!
Even if you just happen to be drop-dead gorgeous and people literally die of heart attacks every day just from walking past and catching a brief glimpse of your angelic face and tight abs, you still need to love yourself, just like everybody else.
Nothing else in the world can fill that gap, just like you can’t ski with an upside-down boat and no amount of bright yellow paint and low profile tires on your Ferarri Spyder can replace the need for a tank full of gas if you want to be good for anything more than just being stared at; which is SOOOOO BORING and pointless and pathetic compared driving onto the racetrack of life and stomping your foot down hard on the gas pedal. The engine roars, the tires squeal, the wind whips wildly through your hair, and you can’t wipe the silly grin from your face if you tried.
THAT’S living. THAT’s thriving, and loving your body and yourself is the only way to get there.
The next way to love and protect yourself is to love your MIND – your mental nature – which, again, means enjoying and taking proper care of it, which means exercising it and feeding it only healthy content.
You’ll experience resistance here, too, because those same marketers who constantly tell you you’re too ugly to be loved without their brand of jeans or car are also very busy persuading you that the only way to be happy is to relax, kick back, and let them entertain you.
They would like nothing better than for you to endlessly consume their convenient products that don’t require much effort on your part, and if you buy into their propoganda, you’ll end up just as stuck as this caver whose friends pulled him into a spot they couldn’t pull him out of,
or the guys who thought it was a good idea to downclimb a 200’ cliff with 33’ ropes.
Your progress in life will slow to a crawl and you’ll wonder why nothing feels satisfying anymore.
The TRUTH is that your brain was built for something very different than passive consumption. It is the world’s ULTIMATE PROBLEM SOLVING MACHINE, and it loves nothing better than to learn and figure things out.
Did you know that’s what makes jokes funny? The punch line makes you laugh because your brain suddenly processes double meanings, paradox, and surprise, and all that processing work makes your brain feel so good that you laugh out loud.
Let me show you a few examples so you can observe your brain at work:
> I hate Russian dolls…so full of themselves
> If life gives you melons, you’re probably dyslexic.
So the point is, learn to love learning, it’s good for your brain!
Perhaps even more important is to keep the trash out of your thoughts. Never dwell on negative thoughts about yourself, for example.
Instead, be your own best friend; a best friend would never tell you you’re stupid or ugly or that your mom’s minivan sucks, so love yourself and ACCEPT yourself as you are and always see the BEST in you, because that’s what love does.
Ignore the little doubts and fears and worries about any tiny imperfections which we all have. Anybody who teases you for every single error is just insecure and hoping to divert attention away from their own failings and shortcomings, so don’t take their criticism seriously.
Now for how to properly love your HEART – your emotional nature.
The resistance you’ll discover here comes from people who don’t understand love. They mistake it for vanity, pride, and arrogance. I call them the “Ego Police,” and they’re the ones who say things like, “You sure seem to have a pretty high opinion of yourself!” as if that was a bad thing! EVERYBODY should have a high opinion of themselves! We’d all be a lot happier and better off that way.
The Ego Police don’t understand the difference between love and pride simply because they don’t love themselves, so they have no point of reference, and their hearts have grown cold, like these inexperienced hikers who went camping with a suitcase and a wet blanket.
When they get too cold, they can’t think clearly, so don’t take their opinions too seriously.
When you love your emotional nature, you grow strong and confident enough that you don’t need to hide behind the mask of sarcasm where you hide your true feelings so no one can hurt them. You quickly realize that being real is WAY MORE FUN than being fake.
But the peer pressure to be surfacy and fake can be strong. It’s kind of like getting stuck in a river, which can be very difficult to escape, partly because as the water flows over rocks along the bottom, it creates resistance and pressure, which forces the water out to the sides where it rises and pushes everything back into the center of the river.
So I need you to reach out and give each other a hand to escape sarcasm and fear.
Be real, be open and vulnerable, don’t make fun of anybody and try to really get to know each other instead, even if they sometimes make fun of you for being happy and believing in yourself.
Loving yourself is like having a warm, waterproof dry suit. Suddenly it no longer matters how cold it gets outside. It doesn’t matter if no one likes your facebook status or you get picked last for a dodgeball team, don’t get asked to a dance, or fail a chemistry test, because you have plenty of warmth to weather such little storms.
Finally, the fourth aspect of loving yourself: loving your spiritual nature.
There are so many approaches to this that I won’t tell you which way works best for you. Just realize that you have a sense of identity that runs deeper than whatever shows on the surface, and seek to get acquainted with it.
Religion, meditation, and peaceful hikes through nature (as long as you bring the 10 essentials with you, of course!) can all be effective ways to advance along this path.
As you do, you’ll appreciate the peace and guidance that add meaning and purpose and other qualities to your life that you can’t even begin to imagine yet.
Enemies of your spirit try to tell you that fun and pleasure or prestige are the only worthwhile pursuits in life and the only way to be great. They’ll tell you that faith is foolishness, but without their inner compass, they’ll eventually find themselves lost.
In contrast, you’ll develop a brilliant light that shines from your eyes and turns the world around you indescribably beautiful.
This will make you happier, more attractive, more successful, and everything else that the naysayers are trying to get, but you’re going about it in a far more effective way.
Spirituality also means sensing the connection between all people. From a non-loving point of view, life is a competitive game of winners and losers, but you know better.
You don’t need to be better than anyone else, because you understand that if life really is a game or competition, then everybody in the world is all on the same team, we all benefit from one anothers’ success, and we all sink or swim together, so let’s give each other a hand up instead of putting anyone down.
Did you know? That is the TRUE TEST of greatness – when your success lifts others and makes them better off as well.
Now let’s recap everything we’ve covered about the One Essential,
1st, Loving yourself is required to thrive,
2nd, Loving yourself means caring for your needs, celebrating and enjoying your life, and resisting pressures to doubt your fabulousness.
3rd, People who don’t love themselves get stuck, hurt, cold, and lost, and they need your shining example to reverse this cultural trend.
It may take years to learn to love yourself perfectly, but making the decision RIGHT NOW to stick with it is the crucial first step. If you ever doubt yourself, at least remember that everyone in this room has complete confidence in you, and there are some pretty smart people sitting all around you.
In closing, let me share with you the SECRET to acquiring the One Essential – and the test to know if you truly love yourself:
You know you really love yourself when you don’t need any reason or justification to prove that you are worthy of love.
It’s not because you’re smart, even though you are, and that’s wonderful.
It’s not because you’re attractive, even though you are, and that’s nice.
It’s not because you’re talented or rich or nice or even because you’re “great kids”, which you ARE, but that’s all extra credit, it’s over and above the requirements. You already had an A.
You love yourself simply because you are you and LOVING YOURSELF IS YOUR JOB. Nobody can do it for you! Nobody but you.
I bet you have no idea how great you truly are and just how much difference you make in your world.
I admire your greatness.
I respect you for the difference your example makes.
I love you for the better world that you create all around you everywhere you go.
On behalf of everyone in this room tonight, and everyone in your homes and schools and everyone you will influence in the future, THANK YOU for being the great kids that you are, and may you love yourself forever.