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Note: This post was supposed to publish in early April. For no good reason, it didn’t.  However, the message is timeless or at least has a shelf life of 2 months.

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“Life Changing Experience”

It’s a phrase overused and often delivered with little meaning.  I know I’m guilty of saying “that speaker I saw, life changing” or “that cool entrepreneur conference I went to, definitely life changing, bro.” Well maybe not the “bro” part but the point is, we overuse the phrase.

On April 1, 2017 I was lucky to attend the First Descents Ball in Beaver Creek, CO.

First Descents mission states: First Descents provides life-changing outdoor ventures for young adults (age 18-39) impacted by cancer.  When I first became aware of FD (as called by their raving community of participants, donors, and supporters) I was shocked to learn that young adults are the most underserved demographic fighting cancer.

When you stop and think about it, it makes sense though. If you’re a younger person you typically have your birth family, their support, and resources to help you through this tough time.  If you’re an older adult you also have built your own family, figured out some big things in life, are more likely to have a home, stable job, etc.

But when you’re 18-39 is when you’re just figuring things out. It’s when you’re trying to start a career, move out of the home you grew up in, start paying off those student loans, and building a life for yourself.

This is what makes the First Descents mission so meaningful.  They are helping young adults through a particularly rough illness during what is a particularly challenging time in life.

Sitting in the ballroom at the FD Ball everyone was dressed as you might for any typical fundraiser. With one exception – it was a hat party.  I proudly wore my loud orange and yellow Draplin Designs hat along with a suit and some Simple shoes. Sometimes you just have to express yourself.

While the food was tasty and the cocktails were flowing, what really stood out to me were the stories.  FD participant after participant took the stage to share their own personal story and how attending a FD program led to a life-changing experience.  Stories of self worth, stories of self empowerment, stories of finally belonging, stories of finding their tribe, stories of beating this damn disease and stories of losing the fight. Every story was truly “life” changing.

As a lover of stories, one thing I noticed was the power of each and every story and the impact it had on the audience. The stories were all about FD but none were the same. Each story was personal and moving. Each story vulnerable and authentic.  Whether it was a story told by a FD participant, staff member, or long time supporters – every story moved me personally. Touched my heart.  Inspired me to take more action.  Changed my life.  As I looked around the room I could see that everyone else felt the same way.  Everyone felt empathy. Everyone felt alive. And sometimes everyone felt sad.

And isn’t that the magic of a truly life changing experience or story? It not only changes the life of the person that experiences it or tells it, it changes the life of those who hear it as well.

Personally, I feel as if their tag line or positioning “Out Living It” could be my own personal tag line. It’s what I strive for. It’s what keeps me going.

We should all be “Out Living It”.  Telling our story.  Changing Lives.

I know that for me, the First Descents Ball and Program is a life changing experience.  I always find it remarkable that whenever you try to give you usually end up receiving so much more.  Thank you to First Descents for including me and my wife. For doing what you do. And for finding a way to blend the magical healing power of adventure with a fight that affects us all.

*Disclosure: My wife and I support First Descents and their programs with dollars and our time but they are not clients.  WILDSTORY does not have a working relationship with First Descents although we’d love to!  One of my major goals of 2017 was to spend more time with First Descents and I’m psyched to be volunteering at one of their programs in August.  I will make sure to write a follow up post to that experience.

If you’re interested in getting involved or learning more with First Descents click HERE.

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About Marc Gutman

I'm Marc Gutman the founder and do-whatever-needs-to-be-done guy at WILDSTORY. I'm a storyteller, entrepreneur, husband, father, adventure seeker, coffee lover, notebook snob, and closet sketchnoter. I believe that telling your story is the ultimate competitive advantage in business -- probably the only one left these days. As a result I am obsessive about branding, story structure, design and tend to appreciate anyone who is too. I love living in the great state of Colorado and try to play outdoors as much as possible. When I'm not in the office you can usually find me doing one of the following: snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, camping, cycling, kiteboarding, or fishing with a cold craft beer in hand.

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