BGBS Episode 014: Sometimes Your Path Chooses You
Over the course of a decade, Luis Benitez has quietly emerged amongst a growing field of climbers as one of the more experienced, respected and busiest professional guides and leadership development consultants in the world. Throughout his career, Luis has summited the top of the famed “Seven Summits” a cumulative 32 times, including being a six-time summiteer of Mt. Everest.
Between managing expeditions on some of the most remote peaks in the world, while consulting with a deep and varied group of clientele, Benitez works to tie the lessons available from the outdoors and carry them back to the everyday challenges of life and business during his keynote presentations and seminars.
In this episode we talked about:
- What Luis’ current title Director of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office for the State of Colorado means and the kind of difficulties he faces.
- Some of the early ambitions Luis had growing up.
- What life was like for Luis growing up in Ecuador and the history of his family and where he got his outdoor and mountaineering experience from.
- How Luis became instantly inspired to be a mountaineer from reading about Jim Whittaker, who “had what I have (Asthma).”
- What steps Luis took to become a mountain guide as he inspired to be.
- What it’s like to be a mountain guide and what type of hierarchies are involved.
- Luis expedition to Cho Oyu in Tibet and the horrifying experience that occurred going through the pass from Nepal to Dharamsala India.
- The involvement Luis got into with the incident he had seen going on his expedition.
- Luis experience meeting the Dalai Lama, what conversations they had, and how his message to a certain group of refuges changed the perception of Luis’ life and how he had applied it to his community.
- What lead Luis getting into politics and being elected to serve as Town Council in Eagle, Colorado.
- The call with John Hickenlooper and him hiring Luis to be the first director of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.
- Luis’ take on the leadership of the country today, especially on how it influences the outdoor economy.
[13:58] “I remember dragging that magazine into my parents’ bedroom, pointing at Jim Whittaker saying, “This guy has what I have. This is exactly what I want to do. I want to be a mountain guide, I want to climb mount Everest.”
[26:12] “That expedition [Cho Oyu] really changed the trajectory of my life personally and professionally.”
[27:27] “These soldiers can’t follow us up the hill, so let’s leave for our summit push. Let’s get a move on. By the time we come down, the world is going to know…and I just never had such heavy feet moving up the hill.”
[38:56] “The director for ICT (International Communicator for Tibet) laughing, saying, “ok Luis pop quiz, when the Dali lama special envoy calls you and says that his holiness wants to meet you, what do you say?”
[40:55] “He [Dalai lama] said, “You know, sometimes you don’t get to choose your path, sometimes your path chooses you. And now it’s going to be up to you to decide how you want to show up.”
[51:52] “He’s [John Hickenlooper] one of the few people that if he said, “Jump off that ledge [or] walk through that window.”, I wouldn’t even think twice to follow him.”
[55:11] [Politics] “Now what I think what we’re going to see is a shift and understanding how cohesive social justice can and should be in relation to our natural resources and relation to our economy and industry and what we do and how we do it.”
[59:19] “Did you have fun? Was it hard? Was it Worth it?”
Links Mentioned On Our Show:
Outdoor Recreation Industry Office
About Luis moving on to his new role at VF Corp:
Have you ever thought much about breastfeeding? If you’re a woman and have given or plan to give birth, then you probably care deeply about it. Ironically, men used to be the ones making decisions about all sorts of products that women use, including breastfeeding and nursing pads. Millions of mothers who nurse their babies experience some unpleasant realities, including breast milk leaking and soaking their attire. It’s not only embarrassing, but inconvenient. Years ago, breast pads were invented to address this kind of situation, but they were far from being effective. Among new mothers, a lack of breastfeeding products generated anger and frustration, as well as feelings of being overlooked and ignored. So, Kerry Gilmartin took matters into her own hands and conceived Bamboobies.
- Kerry grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and was encouraged to be different
- She’d always been a busy-body and curious; involved in everything – nothing she didn’t want to do to follow her passions
- Mentors sparked interest in entrepreneurial businesses that made an eco impact
- Kerry discovered how business could create positive change; all companies, whether non-profit or not, should try to make a difference
- Instead of playing golf the last semester of college, Kerry started a business
- Listen to your instincts and align with your passions in business; failure is terrible, but a great learning experience and part of the process
- Commercial products world wasn’t taking care of new, vulnerable moms
- Breastfeeding used to be a hush-hush topic; nothing new that’s now trendy
- Kerry was unstoppable with Bamboobies; knew she had a great idea, could make a better product, and market needed it
- Drive to do something due to knowing the difference between right and wrong
- Titty Committee: Persistence, help, and support from other moms created a sustainable and scalable business with social and environmental benefits
- Kerry birthed and nurtured an idea, and then sent it off into the world; but it was a purpose and passion in her life that was really difficult to give up
The Nature Conservancy
Why Google Won’t Throw Away Its Data Center Gear
Quotes from Kerry Gilmartin:
“When you’re the entrepreneur…the buck stops with you.”
“I just followed my passions all the time.”
“It was a fascinating introduction to me for how business could actually create positive change.”
“Failure was a terrible lesson. I see it in hindsight now as having been a great learning experience and all a part of the learning process.”
Ross Powers was a kid from a small town in Vermont who dared to dream big and defy the odds. As a result, at 19 years old, he won the first U.S. medal in snowboarding. Ross may appear humble and soft spoken, but when he has a snowboard under his feet, he’s a stone-cold competitor and sets the standard for what it means to be a pro.
- In 1998, before Ross dropped into the halfpipe, he envisioned a perfect run; he tried not to overthink it before he took three, deep breaths and decided to go for it
- How making history affected his life – wherever he went, people wanted to chat
- Ross will never forget when he received his first snowboard as a Christmas gift from his mother in 1987-88
- Painting the picture of popularity of snowboarding – Ross basically grew up with the sport; few snowboarders at first to bond and ride with, which created a culture
- Ross joined a training program to improve his skills and participate in events
- Love what you do; Ross made a commitment, worked hard, pushed himself, made the team, made some money, travelled, and experienced success
- Practice and preparation it takes to perform at the Olympic level
- Going pro involves freebies, big money, endorsement deals, and making a living
- Olympics: Despite being there to “work,” take time to enjoy the whole experience
- Push yourself, if you want to be the best you can and keep improving
- Aftermath of winning a gold medal included celebrating with family/friends and perks like going to the Daytona 500 and being on the David Letterman Show
- Ross learned what to expect and how to handle being in the spotlight; be positive and work hard because everyone is watching
- Ross now works as a coach at Stratton Mountain School and started the Ross Powers Foundation to help others
Ross Powers Foundation
Loveland Ski Area
Vans Triple Crown
Winter X Games
U.S. Ski and Snowboard
Quotes from Ross Powers:
“I actually didn’t realize how big the Olympics were until I got home…couldn’t even go to the grocery store.”
“I just kind of grew up with the sport. An adventurous ride with always something new popping up and something to challenge me.”
“I always think to try to push it harder, if you want to be the best you can and always keep improving.”
In the late 1990s, Aaron Houghton was one of those kids who had an interest in computers and a new phenomenon known as the World Wide Web. When he was 17 years old, he turned his solution for emailing bed-and-breakfast guests into a $180-million-dollar email marketing powerhouse. Eventually, Aaron sold his company, iContact. Despite such success and being at the top of his career, Aaron’s world came crashing down. He discovered the importance of self care and not losing sight of what’s really important. After all, if we don’t take care of ourselves and loved ones, then we won’t be around to share our successes. So, Aaron started to question what made him truly happy. What makes you happy? Make your own list!
- Aaron’s entrepreneurial spirit comes from desire to explore and be adventurous
- Learn to communicate the value of what you do
- Lack of confidence caused Aaron to consider himself less competent than others
- Aaron created a solution that people were willing to pay for to solve a problem
- Don’t scale bad problems, but scale brand names
- What is the economic engine that can grow your business?
- Keep feeding the beast and maintain cash efficiency
- Running a business isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, it’s a lot of hard work
- Improve skills to avoid feeling intimidated, insignificant, and overwhelmed
- Solution to being stressed out was to work harder and do everything at once
- Metastatic thyroid cancer diagnosis forced Aaron to take time off/work less
- Focus on the right priority and gain perspective – nothing else matters
- Aaron made tons of money, but decided to keep working and became stressed out, again; stress comes with rewards and is addictive
- Aaron blamed his business for his stress; turns out that traits and characteristics he adopted didn’t go away – takes time to break bad habits
- What it costs to be successful: Time, physical health, mental health, and money
- What makes Aaron happy? Simple things that he hadn’t done for years – “I’m happy to be the new me!”
Aaron Houghton’s Website
Aaron Houghton on Twitter
Telecommunications Act of 1996
Good to Great
Quotes from Aaron Houghton:
“My dad must have planted a seed in my head at some point that this might be a better way to make money than mowing lawns.”
“I don’t think I had the confidence to think that I could…out solve everybody else.”
“I just felt like the wheels were falling off this thing. It wasn’t the business…it was me. I was just so in over my head.”
“Like a lot of entrepreneurs, when I felt the stress coming on, my solution was to work harder.”
Chris Warner is a quattro threat – mountain adventurer, leader, entrepreneur, and all-around great dude. He sketched out a business on toilet paper and ended up building the nation’s largest indoor climbing gym company – Earth Treks. It’s where people challenge themselves and love what they are doing – just like Chris. His mountaineering philosophy focuses on teamwork and looking out for partners. Coming home safe and alive is always more important than summiting. Chris’s live-and-breathe fascination with building teams has turned him into a student of leadership and leadership teacher for teams that face challenges where failure is not an option!
- Chris was an avid reader as a kid and got hooked on the romanticism of being outdoors – fishing, hiking, rock climbing, etc.
- Outdoor guides dragged him into the woods as a form of scared-straight punishment, but he loved it and went from being a troublemaker to a leader
- Discovered he could have a career in the outdoors and give people of all ages life-enriching experiences to discover their potential
- Chris studied outdoor education, but found it to be a waste of time; you do outdoor education, you don’t study it
- Determination/resilience caused him to combine college, climbing, and curiosity
- Chris has a history of seeking out and finding opportunities to help and guide others to make things better (altruism vs. heroism)
- Mountaineering: Quantity, quality, difficulty mattered over taking the easy route
- Chris uses his brain over brawn to solve problems and survive falls
- Being the best version of yourself is addictive because it’s empowering and humbling to help others
- Tunnel Vision on Everest/K2: Chris was horrified when other climbers abandoned their partners or stepped over dying/dead climbers to selfishly make the summit
- Taking personal and professional risks because of people pushing you
- Power of teams focuses more on family and relationships than business; business is there to serve employees, and charity begins at home
- People will forgive you, if you are nice
High Altitude Leadership: What the World’s Most Forbidding Peaks Teach Us About Success
Chris Warner’s 2002 K2 Expedition
Climbing the Savage Mountain
Henry Morton Stanley
Grand Teton National Park
Wharton School of Business
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Quotes from Chris Warner:
“The best way for people to find themselves was to first get lost.”
“I just want to spend my life out in the woods, doing cool adventures.”
“I am just so curious about the world.”
“You stop and help when you think you can make things better.”