Lowest of lows to highest of highs (litterally)
NFL alumni and successful entrepreneur Mark Pattison recalls the state his life was in when he decided to take on the Seven Summits challenge, a 10-year endeavour which includes the climb of Mt. Everest. At that time, business failures, divorce and the unfortunate death of his father were afflicting the former LA Raiders wide receiver, who then decided to stop dwelling in a negative mindset and re-take charge of his life by doing something athletically great.
Growing up in the Seattle area, Mark Pattison was inspired by the sight of Mount Rainier and local mountaineers, such as Lou and Peter Whittaker. Motivated to follow in their footsteps, the athletic feat that the former Washington Husky was looking for became the attempt to climb each continent’s highest mountain (Seven Summits), a first for any NFL player.
I really changed my whole mindset by really changing the question of “How did I get here ?”, to “What am I going to do about it ?”.
– Mark Pattison on overcoming personal adversity
Learning and growing, mountain to mountain
Mark Pattison, now an executive at Sports Illustrated, remembers the beginning of his long-term undertaking in Africa, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, during which he learned that the unpredictability of Mother Nature is an crucial factor in mountaineering. Consequently, Mark faced such weather impediments while attempting to summit Mt. Denali – the highest peak in North America – where the expedition crew experienced -80-degree temperatures and snowstorms. After being stuck in their tents on Denali for 7 days, the crew had to abandon the climb.
Mark inspires himself from the personal hardships he overcame to face the risks inherent to his expeditions. He recalls persevering on the climb of Mt. Elbrus in Russia, the most prominent peak in Europe, despite lighting strikes that had unfortunately caused a casualty in another crew, quick weather changes and the presence dangerous glaciers.
Also a philanthropist supporting the NFL Waterboys efforts in providing clean water to communities in need, Mark Pattison insists that preparation is fundamental in succeeding one’s mountainous expeditions: proper equipment, specific training, altitude acclimatization and relevant nutrition strategy are some of the elements any aspiring mountaineer should seriously focus on, while preparing for their climb. Per example, the climb of Mt. Vinson, the highest mountain in Antartica, requires thorough planning as no ressources are available on the icy continent. Furthermore, the former LA Rams player recalls his Mt. Aconcagua expedition during which half of the starting crew did not get to the top of the highest mountain in South America, DNFing because of mispreparation.
Choosing between summiting Everest… or Life.
With “only” Mt. Everest left on his list of the Seven, Mark Pattison discusses the emotional control and rational wisdom it takes to admit an expedition’s failure in real time, especially when you have to turn back near the summit. Despite all the time, money and effort invested in achieving an important climb, Pattison wisely suggests to put one’s competitive nature aside and consider the human cost of pushing too hard.
3 tips to help you conquer your own summits.
#1 | Sensei says: Step into the fear.
Inspirationally, Mark Pattison advises to face our fear of the unknown, to walk towards it, to conquer it and to remember that every journey begins with step one. For the former NFL player, taking on the Seven Summits challenge despite the unknown it represented, pushed him to travel alone in foreign countries, surpass his own physical limits and realize climbs he never thought he could accomplish.
#2 | Sensei says: Live with purpose.
Mark Pattison undertook his long-term endeavour of climbing each continent’s highest summit as a way to refocus his life after a series of personal and professional obstacles. He suggests that living with a purpose brings empowerment and an improved capacity at dealing with adversity.
Consequently, Mark is dedicating his Mt. Everest expedition to his daughter Emilia, who is courageously climbing her own Everest through her battle against epilepsy. You may join donations made by the NFL and the Las Vegas Raiders to the Higher Ground organization, which takes care of therapeutic recreational activities for people with a variety of conditions (including epilepsy), here.
#3 | Sensei says: Love the process
Taking on difficult or complex challenges require dedication, perseverance and hard effort. However, Mark Pattison recommends a shift in focus from the obsession of the end result to the enjoyment of the whole process to get there. Appreciating every single step on your way to the top (sometimes, literally), makes the experience that much worthwhile.