Jim joins me this week to talk about his life-long interest in hiking, and his endless search for “awe”. We also discuss Jim’s fascinating view on time and how he uses it help maintain a healthy lifestyle. We talk about the physical and mental strain that affected his body as he hiked Everest, and the methods he used to combat both. Jim is especially good at goal setting, which we dig into a little bit as well. I hope you enjoy my interview with my new friend, Jim Davidson, and appreciate his unique views on what it means to live a good life!
“Pick something that speaks to you and strive for it.”
This week on the School For Good Living Podcast:
- Doing the best with what is handed to you
- Surviving the deadliest day on Everest
- Rebuilding Nepal
- Making sacrifices to experience life while you’re young
- The power of leading by example
Jim Davidson [00:00:00] I went there to fulfill a dream I’ve had since I was a young man to try and climb Mt. Everest. I’ve been a climber for over three decades and things were unfolding well. And I finally had a chance to start climbing the mountain. And after thirty three years of being a climber, I moved nine hours out of base camp and then something monumental happened. That was a huge earthquake.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:23] Hi, I’m Brilliant your host for this show. I know that I’m incredibly blessed. As the son of self-made billionaires, I’ve seen the high price some people pay for success and I’ve learned that money really can’t buy happiness. But I’ve also had the good fortune to learn directly from many of the world’s leading teachers. If you are ready to be, do have and give more. This podcast is for you. Hello my friends, brilliant here today. My guest is Jim Davidson. Jim is living proof that even more important than the goals you set for yourself, even when you achieve them, is what you become in the process. Jim summited Mount Everest, where he survived earthquakes, avalanches, and he’s even escaped alone from an 80 foot deep glacial crevasse. He’s a high altitude climber and expedition leader, which he’s done for more than thirty seven years. He was on Everest in 2015 when an earthquake happened. I didn’t think he’d go back, but he did in twenty seventeen and he summited. I read his book, The Next Everest Surviving the Mountains Deadliest Day and Finding the Resilience to climb again. I really enjoyed this book. I learned a lot from it and I learned a lot from this conversation. In this conversation, we talk about goal setting. We talk about time, how Jim thinks about it, how he uses it, how he organizes it to help maintain a healthy lifestyle, balance his responsibilities at work, keep his family together and strong. We talk about facing and overcoming adversity. The idea that fear is contagious, but so is confidence. Please enjoy this conversation with my new friend, Jim Davidson. Jim, welcome to the School for Good Living.
Jim Davidson [00:02:02] Thank you. It’s great to be with you brilliant.
Brilliant Miller [00:02:04] Jim, will you tell me, please, what is life about?
Jim Davidson [00:02:10] I think life is about trying to do the best with what you’re handed at the time and trying to help other people rise up as well, and I think we take turns lifting each other up.
Brilliant Miller [00:02:24] Jim, you have been places and returned that many people only dream of places, people fear, places people die. April 25th, 2015. You were in Mount Everest, you were in Nepal.
Jim Davidson [00:02:42] Correct.
Brilliant Miller [00:02:42] What happened?
Jim Davidson [00:02:45] I went there to fulfill a dream I’ve had since I was a young man to try and climb Mount Everest, a climber for over three decades, and things were unfolding well and finally had our chance to start climbing the mountain. And after thirty three years of being a climber, I moved nine hours out of base camp and then something monumental happened. That was a huge earthquake, biggest earthquake to hit Nepal in eighty one years. And that earthquake was seven point eight magnitude and it slammed into Mount Everest and the entire Himalayan region.
Brilliant Miller [00:03:16] Amazing that day. I understand 19 people on the mountain died about eight, eight or nine thousand. In Nepal, the devastation was massive. You describe this in your book, The Next Everest. Will you tell me what was it like to be there and in particular, I’m curious about something you you mentioned a couple of times you mentioned the role of luck, something that you reflected on as you were one of the lucky people who didn’t die. But tell me, what was that like for you to be to be on the mountain? And how have you understood the events since?
Jim Davidson [00:03:56] Well, we were at Camp one, which is at about nineteen thousand seven hundred feet, the first of four camps going up the mountain. The expedition had just gotten into the early phases. And when the earthquake hit, what happened was the two mountains next to us started shaking and they left a giant avalanche. One came down 4000 vertical feet below towards us on the other side, one came down six thousand vertical feet off towards us. But those avalanches didn’t quite reach us at Camp one, and we were safe at Camp one. No one killed, no one injured. Same thing happened at the camp, too. They got shook up but didn’t get impacted. But sadly, down at base camp, it was a different story with their avalanche, their avalanche hit base camp and lots of rocks and lots of ice. And it just bulldozed right through the middle section of base camp that took out about 100 tents that killed 70 people are injured, seven people. So it killed 18 that first day and 19 later, like you said. So luck did play a role in all that. Some people were camp to the spot. It just got missed. Another a spot where they got impacted. And it was very unsettling to realize how some luck and randomness did have an impact there. But even in a tough situation, we humans can start to take action. And that’s what I saw kind of a small expanding in those first moments of avalanche camp. But I was scared for myself and worried about my teammates. And when we realized we were OK, we checked with our neighbors. And as the disaster unfolded over hours and days, it’s kind of our circle of awareness expanded out to what we were worried about, people that were far away from us. So you kind of have to wonder what’s happening and then slowly lift your head and ask yourself, how can I help somebody else who’s in a worse situation?
Brilliant Miller [00:05:31] You write in the book that you were journaling immediately after the events and you have the presence of mind even to grab your GoPro while the avalanches were happening, which I find remarkable. But in your journal, you say you wouldn’t go back, you were already processing, you weren’t planning to go back, you were listing the reasons, but you did go back two years later and you did summit. Why did you go back?
Jim Davidson [00:05:59] Yeah, there were a couple of reasons for that, and when I left base camp, I said to my climbing partner, I said, I’ll probably never come back here because it was traumatic and it was terrifying. And what happened was when we were in Nepal, nobody on my team was injured or killed. So we were trying to help out the Nepali people by disassembling houses. We dug through avalanche three with our hands, literally a shovel to try and recover some medical supplies at a base camp, field, hospital. It was overrun. We were trying to do what we physically could. When I came back to the States, I was lucky to be home back with my family. And so I threw myself into doing fundraising for the fall to raise funds to rebuild the country because so many people were affected in so many ways. And so when I did the fundraising, I was talking to people at these audiences and they would say, well, what else can I do to Nepal to help the poor besides write a check? And I said, well, Nepal, their primary economy is tourism because they don’t have a lot of natural resources, but they have huge natural beauty. So once Nepal recovers, you should go back there, let them know they’re not forgotten. So they’re with you dollars and euros and help lift their economy, put them back to work so they can keep rebuilding. And they said that many times. I thought, well, I’m advising others to go to Nepal when it’s safe. Maybe maybe I should, too. Maybe I should be walking my talk. So I was a geologist for many years, and so I took a look at the stability of the place underneath the fall and it wasn’t good. I looked at it and I realized I was going to be more earthquakes and they’re going to be bigger. And they gave me more about going back to basically after a year, I decided it looked like things had settled down, the aftershocks, Nepal was rebuilding. They need those outside dollars and so forth. And I still wanted to take a shot at Mount Everest. And I want to help put my Sherpa friends back to work. So I look at the weight of that. And I decided I was going to go back to Nepal in twenty seventeen.
Brilliant Miller [00:07:40] That’s one of the messages that I love about this book, not only the resilience, which is probably easier to talk about than to live with, but it’s also about this view of life as being bigger than oneself and what in some ways a paradox following a passion so intensely. And as you mentioned, for thirty three years before you started climbing Everest, you had been pursuing this. Yet managing a career and a family is one thing I really admired about about your story, a healthy lifestyle. It’s very different from my father’s, who was a business person so focused on making deals and, you know, growing a business. But what I wonder is how did you manage the time? Right. And in particular, maybe there’s this one idea that you present in the book. I love how succinctly you talk about this, about almost the trade offs or the paradoxes of of youth, middle age and old age when it comes to time. And even as a frame to that, perhaps the last words your father said to you. So I understand that he passed while you were climbing Denali. If I’m. If I’m right.
Jim Davidson [00:08:50] Correct.
Brilliant Miller [00:08:51] And so you. You had reflected you learned that he had died after you came down and you were reflecting on your final conversation with your dad. What did he tell you? What did he say in that conversation?
Jim Davidson [00:09:04] Well, it’s just before I left for Denali back in 2002, like you said, and he was kind of my dad was a construction worker and, you know, kind of a tough guy from generations past. But he had a good heart. And he kind of said, well, he said, I didn’t know regular guys like us could go out and chase adventure around the world. And he said a little bit wistfully like he wished he had. And I said to him that I could do those things because of the important things he taught me, working by his side as a young man when I learned how to work on dangerous construction jobs with my dad and to be safe and to watch out for the rest of the team. And so it was kind of like a little bit of a, you know, a little bit of regret on his side that he didn’t do it. But also a slight compliment to me, I think, that I was out there doing it. And so when my dad passed away, I realized that I was fortunate that I got that upbringing and I was able to go to these places. And so there’s been so much fuel for me through the years to honor the things he taught me and things that other people have done to teach me and help me, that if I can do something big to try and lift myself up and help others along the way, that’s playing at my highest level, being the best person that I can be, but kept pursuing the adventuring while still trying to do, like I said, to balance it with a career and family.
Brilliant Miller [00:10:15] Your father sounds like he was a really amazing man, and I love the way that you interpret that. Right. Because just reading it on the page, it’s easy for me to think. Someone could interpret that as a criticism, right? Like, I didn’t know regular people like us could go chase adventure, but that’s part of what I love, is that regular people like us can. And to hear you interpret the way your dad was saying that to you was in the sense of encouragement. Right. Or something like that. And then as you reflect on, you know, the decision to climb Everest, and we know it’s not just a time away, but it’s the training and the preparation. A lot of people who want to undertake an Ironman, their partner or family, feels this kind of similar effects. Perhaps, but this is where I now want to ask you about these these kind of three stations in life in which we find ourselves in the and the costs and benefits of each and how you use that to understand and make the decision to go.
Jim Davidson [00:11:11] Yeah, thanks a lot, we’re talking about here when you’re young, through your 20s, maybe in your 30s, you have time and you have energy, but you don’t have the extra money to go out and do what you want to do. And then you get into middle age and you get some money and you still get the energy because you’re still pretty set at 40, 45. But you don’t have the time because you’re in big career and busy with a family for a lot of us. Then you get to be older in your retirement years. You’ve got a time out, you’ve got the money, but you don’t have the energy anymore. And I thought about this a lot when I was in my 40s and trying to get into expedition climbing. I thought this is unsolvable paradox. I always have two of the three things I need. And then I realized, well, what that means is you’re going to have to push a little bit harder and organize your life to see if you can get it from two out of three to maybe two and a half out of three. And if I can get it to two and a half out of three, that’s got to be the green light. That’s the most it’s ever going to be, because I’m never going to get all three out of three. And I don’t want to get to be 90 years old and look back. So in my middle years when I had energy and some money, I realized I had to create some time. So I started slicing extraneous things out of my life. I drop a lot of hobbies. I look for little ways to save time. I learned to go on less sleep and I would train and off hours when my kids were asleep or that one day I’d be training at five in the morning before they got up. The next night I’d go to the gym at nine thirty at night after they’d gone to bed. So it’s a juggling act and it’s not easy. But I was trying to create the resources I needed to try and chase that dream while still meeting my responsibilities.
Brilliant Miller [00:12:38] I love that view and the that balance of the the logic, but also what must have been the emotion underneath it, the passion, you know, the desire, that kind of thing. But really looking at life in a way that gives you an empowering meaning to this and not just living for some day, as so many people do. Like I said at the very beginning, that many people dream of what you’re doing, but very, very few people ever do it. And what an inspiration. I want to. Oh, go ahead.
Jim Davidson [00:13:09] Go ahead. I. Well, I was inspired in part by my dad, looked at me sixty nine years old, which is a reasonable old age. But one of my uncles passed away early on. My foreman did one of my good climbing friends and they would work real hard and didn’t get a chance to live, to be old enough to try and see that retirement dream. And that was kind of cool for me the whole way was, you know, you’ve got to grab some of those things you want in life as you go, because, I don’t know, I maybe get hit by a bus when I’m 50 or something bad will befall me when I’m 60. So you might not get this. You better grab some of the good things that you want along the way, but also recognition you’re going to have to make some sacrifices elsewhere so that there’s no magic oil. But it is a tricky balance. But if you’ve got that dream, something that can turn you into a better version of you, you wouldn’t necessarily throughout television or drop movies or whatever you need to drop to get the time and energy to chase that dream.
Brilliant Miller [00:13:59] So the thing oh, and we were talking about you had made this decision to stop shaving, recognizing that it would save you five minutes a day if you a few years later, you realized if you stopped washing your car, you would save 30 minutes a week.
Jim Davidson [00:14:12] Correct.
Brilliant Miller [00:14:13] And probably benefit the environment a bit as well.
Jim Davidson [00:14:16] Correct.
Brilliant Miller [00:14:16] And over those decades of not shaving daily and not washing your car every week that you figure you earned yourself enough time to do a 60 day expedition, is that is that right? Or would you have to clarify anything to what I’ve said?
Jim Davidson [00:14:30] No, you’ve got it. Exactly. I’m a scientist. I’m a numbers guy. And when I crunched it out, I thought I have literally saved enough time from these minor chores to offset and literally go on a 60 day expedition. That that was kind of a nice come together for me because I still want to go on expedition no matter what. But I literally realized that taking my priorities and getting to things that didn’t seem important allowed just a little bit more time each day to do what I wanted. And that’s that was what I did.
Brilliant Miller [00:14:56] That’s amazing. Well, and there’s also this thing, too, about the cost, because like everything, there’s there’s two sides to every coin, to two sides to every sword, the sword, the knives cut both ways. And you went you summited. I understand you lost twenty two pounds, which most people would celebrate, but for you that actually represented an increase in your body fat percentage from 12 percent to 18 percent. How does that happen?
Jim Davidson [00:15:28] I was shocked too I was fifty four years old when I went to Everest the second time I got in the best shape of my life. I got so thin that my climbing partners and my wife were like, you’re getting a little obsessed with this weight loss team. And I’m like, no, I’ve got to get down and I’m going to get lean and mean. That muscle ever had went to the amount of lost twenty two pounds, like you said. So when I came home and saw my trainer, I was even skinnier. And we both said, oh, this is going to be fun, but test on you to see where you’re at. And I’ve been like 12 or 13 percent before I left, except when I came back and the first meeting was 18. And we thought, well, that must be wrong. And we did check the second spot of my body, a third, and they were 18 and 18 as well. What happened is I lost two pounds of fat and 20 pounds of muscle. Wow. So as a result, I became on a percentage basis better after climbing Mount Everest than before I went there.
Brilliant Miller [00:16:16] That is amazing. Unthinkable. And and not only was it an increase. Right. But but the way you write about it in the book, that that represented literally years of training and conditioning, that basically that effort and the toll that climbing Everest took, that was a cost that extracted from you in a very real way. Years, years of training and building.
Jim Davidson [00:16:37] Absolutely. It takes years to put on that kind of muscle, especially when you’re in your mid 50s, like like I was then. I mean, it’s it takes a huge toll on your body and your psyche. Sometimes you’ll hear the news. Oh, plenty of it is easy. You’re just hiking up the hill following everybody else. But it’s quite difficult. I mean, I’ve been climbing for 30 some odd years and it took away years of my muscle and I felt pretty beat up what I came off.
Brilliant Miller [00:17:00] Yeah, that’s incredible. Was it worth it?
Jim Davidson [00:17:04] Yes, and it was worth it, not because I stood on the summit, but because I engage with the challenge and followed it to the end, because me standing on the summit, that certainly didn’t change the world. And I don’t think you can change me very much at all with just a few fleeting minutes out of 35 years of mountaineering. And then I had to do the dangerous descent. So I was only up there for like 15 minutes max. So I thought, why go through it? Well, I think it was taking that big challenge and trying to create myself into someone that can rise up to the challenge. That was the real benefit, not just standing on the summit. And so I think that’s the real lesson that I’ve learned from mountaineering that I put into the book the next Everest by picking that challenge and trying to rise up to it. That’s the benefit for you, whether the challenge is mountaineering or meditation or music or marathons, pick something that speaks to you and strive for it.
Brilliant Miller [00:18:00] Yeah, I love that. And on the very last page of the book, I love the way you you frame it there too. When you say for me it was essential to pick high goals and then craft myself into becoming big enough to reach them. Such a wonderful perspective into your bank of people thinking maybe this is easy. Right? I mean, you shared some things that were really they were expanding mind-expanding for me about someone you had heard speak who had been at altitude, took his gloves off to take a photograph just to take a photograph and got frostbite and lost eight fingertips.
Jim Davidson [00:18:36] Yes, and he was a professional climber and a professional photographer, so losing those eight finger tips was a brutal impact to his life and his and the way he made his living. And it was just literally a momentary lapse for a very wise climber. So that really put it behind me that there is no room for error, but there are twenty six or twenty nine thousand feet.
Brilliant Miller [00:18:56] Yeah. And and you also talk about things like people’s cornias freeze on some on the night before somebody temporarily freeze or of course people die. And you talk about two hundred eighty people have died climbing that mountain, at least that many that we know of. Right and right on your way up and down. You passed some of those bodies.
Jim Davidson [00:19:19] Most certainly did. I know from reading many other stories in both books and magazines, I knew some of those dead bodies were up there. If we can’t, other climbers before me could not always move them out of the way. They try and put them in a secluded spot out of respect. But it’s just too risky to bring those bodies down because so many of those who passed away are still up there. And when you’re climbing the upper part of the mountain, usually you encounter them.
Brilliant Miller [00:19:46] That’s amazing. Well, I’ve got a lot of respect for you, not only for for doing it, but for for what I see as the motives that have moved you. I love what you say in the book about I claim to seek awe. And and the way you share this and you encourage others to develop their resilience, follow their passions, what? Let me ask you this before we transition to the to the other part of this interview. So this book, the next Everest, what do you hope readers take away?
Jim Davidson [00:20:17] What I hope they take away most is to realize a little bit what we’ve been talking about, which is to pick up the gold. You’ll know if your goal is really grand because it should scare you and make you think, I don’t know if I can do that. If you pick a simple goal, you’re not going to learn that much from it. You’re not going to change. So if you pick a big goal and it make you nervous, that’s probably the right goal for you. And now the question is, how are you going to get there? And also, as we discussed, it’s not just finishing that marathon, playing that perfect piece of music, standing on the summit. Those are all just nice little rewards at the end. It’s the process of refining yourself into a better version of you. That’s how we become more resilient for ourselves. And I think even more important, to make ourselves into a more resilient version so we can help lift up others when they’re having a down day down year during a pandemic. Yeah, that’s what I think the most important thing is, is to lift yourself up and then lift up others.
Brilliant Miller [00:21:12] Well, thank you. Well, with your permission, I want to go ahead and transition us to the lightning lightning round.
Jim Davidson [00:21:17] All right. That’s great. All right.
Brilliant Miller [00:21:20] OK, question number one, please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a.
Jim Davidson [00:21:31] Mixed bouquet of flowers.
Brilliant Miller [00:21:34] OK, question number two here, I’m borrowing technologist Peter Teal’s famous question. What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Jim Davidson [00:21:46] That you have to keep pushing yourself. In order to refine yourself, I think people kind of pull back a little bit. They don’t want to push themselves. I think the secret to succeeding long term is to put yourself
Brilliant Miller [00:22:01] OK, question number three, if you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a T-shirt with a slogan on it or a phrase or saying or a quote or quip, what would the shirt say?
Jim Davidson [00:22:12] Keep moving forward.
Brilliant Miller [00:22:15] All right, question number four, what book other than one of your own, have you gifted or recommended most often?
Jim Davidson [00:22:23] That would be touching the void by Joe Simpson. It was a mountaineering book and had great lessons for me.
Brilliant Miller [00:22:30] What’s one lesson that stands out to you from that book?
Jim Davidson [00:22:34] That even when it seems utterly impossible that logic would dictate there’s no way it can be done. There are ways to solve these overwhelming problems.
Brilliant Miller [00:22:43] Beautiful. OK, question number five, so you travel a ton, you’ve been around this planet. What what travel hack, meaning what piece of advice, something you do or something you take with you when you travel, you follow to make your travel less painful or more enjoyable?
Jim Davidson [00:23:01] Bring a toothbrush and a change of socks and shirt. So no matter what happens in the travel mishap, you can have a little pause and refresh moments that lift you up ready for the next set of challenges when you’re stuck in an airport or stuck with your bag somewhere in the Himalayas.
Brilliant Miller [00:23:16] Yeah, I’ll bet your traveling companions appreciate that, too.
Jim Davidson [00:23:20] I bet you’re right. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:23:22] OK, question number six. What’s one thing you’ve started or stopped doing?
Jim Davidson [00:23:26] Stop getting mad at the news on TV.
Brilliant Miller [00:23:30] And how did you manage to stop that?
Jim Davidson [00:23:32] I stopped watching the news. I’m not complaining. I watch far less than I try and watch national news for a few minutes a day. Be aware of what’s going on. And once the news repeats itself, they shut it off and then move on with my life.
Brilliant Miller [00:23:46] All right. Question number seven. What’s one thing you wish every American knew?
Jim Davidson [00:23:53] The value of just stepping outside and getting some exercise in the sunshine.
Brilliant Miller [00:23:59] Yes, OK, question number eight, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about making relationships work?
Jim Davidson [00:24:08] That it’s like saving money if you want to have some money later, you need to save a little bit ago. If you want to have relationships and then support later on, you’ve got to invest that time in other people to help other people with whatever they’re doing. And maybe they’ll be there to help you later on when you need some help.
Brilliant Miller [00:24:27] All right, and question number nine, aside from compound interest, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about money?
Jim Davidson [00:24:39] Money comes and goes, you can meet your bills, but even when something unexpected happens, then you have to put up some money to solve a problem. You won’t remember that amount of money even a few years from now. So use your money to solve problems, make your life and the lives around you better, and the money will just be gone and life will be a little bit better.
Brilliant Miller [00:25:00] Yeah, thank you for that. And I just want to go a little deeper on this one, because as you mentioned in this interview, when you returned, you spent quite a long time doing fundraising for Nepal. Right. So specifically related to money, what have you learned when it comes to fundraising?
Jim Davidson [00:25:19] That if you start to put in effort, other people will join in. One person has an idea. Somebody joins in and now we’re starting to build momentum. And so that you to just be a little enthusiastic and sometimes you have to take the first step. And other times, if you see someone else taking the first step, put your shoulder to the wheel behind them. And that’s how we can get a big buildup of energy and a build up of money for good purposes.
Brilliant Miller [00:25:45] I love that reminds me of another line in the book where you talk about fear is contagious, but so is confidence. It’s kind of that that idea.
Jim Davidson [00:25:54] Absolutely.
Brilliant Miller [00:25:57] That’s Beautiful. OK, so I do have a few few more questions about writing and the creative process before we before we sign off. But before we get there, if people want to learn more from you, they want to connect with you, what would you have them do?
Jim Davidson [00:26:12] They can find me online on my website is thinkingofadventure.com and all the social media and whatnot and just put the book out. It’s coming out April 20th and people are going to read that to learn some of the lessons that I’ve learned through all these years of adventure.
Brilliant Miller [00:26:27] Awesome. And because this video will probably outlive all of us, we’re talking about twenty, twenty one. So almost certainly by the time you’ve seen this video, the book will be out and available. And I highly recommend you pick it up, learn a lot about yourself and learn a lot about the world, and especially if you have a passion for climbing or adventure or just expanding your your sense of possibility. I think you really love this book. Also, I want to be sure, Jim, to let you know that as a way of expressing gratitude to you, I’ve done two things. One is I have gone online and I’ve made a microloan to an entrepreneur in Cambodia. So there’s a lady named Lev. She’s thirty seven years old. She’s a rice farmer. She earns about two US dollars a day. So this loan for which I won’t turn any interest, it go to fund the operations in her country of of these loanmakers, but she’ll use this money to purchase a tractor. So in some way I like to think our conversations doing good and even when we’re not necessarily aware of it or
Jim Davidson [00:27:27] or we’ll never. I literally have goosebumps right now. Thank you for that gesture. But more importantly, thank you for helping her out because that will help her see her family and her community and help lift herself up. That’s fantastic. Thank you.
Brilliant Miller [00:27:40] Yeah. Thank you. And I’ve also I was inspired by your fundraising and your connection to Nepal. I’ve actually had the chance to visit Nepal myself a year and a half ago. And I love, love. The country definitely will go back. So I went to an organization called HimalayanLife.com didn’t know before, but I checked out their site. They look pretty legit and like they’re doing some good work in the country. They say they’re providing comprehensive care to street children and abandoned children. And they’re also touching on a range of lives through school and community based programs. So I made a one hundred dollar donation to them on your behalf as well.
Jim Davidson [00:28:16] Thank you very much. That is a huge help. That goes a long ways in Nepal. And the young children who don’t have somebody to care for them, its a big problem there. So thank you for helping with that.
Brilliant Miller [00:28:26] You’ve inspired me, OK, last part of the interview then is about, as I said, writing and creativity. So where do we start? Where do we start? How how about how about this? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about writing in the course of writing this book? Four hundred pages?
Jim Davidson [00:28:49] Yeah, I had done a lot of writing for the scientists. And so I first started writing in a creative nonfiction way, hearing my stories. I first started writing, sharing scientific facts. I would talk about how many meters to the next village and how many pounds of equipment and how many feet of rope. And it was probably quite boring, actually. It was a bunch of numbers because I came from a science background and then I realized it’s not about those facts, it’s about the human experience. Take people on a trip to show them what it’s like to be in a place like Nepal or not ever try to start hearing that human experience. And I realize that’s where the power of the storytelling is. And that’s really what people want to connect with, exactly how high the mountain is and how many miles back. Don’t forget that pretty quickly. So that writing partner was you’ve got to share that human experience that will pull people in and they’ll go with you on the journey.
Brilliant Miller [00:29:39] What was the moment you knew you were going to write this book?
Jim Davidson [00:29:46] I think it’s when I came back from the Nepal the second time, the first country there in the quake, I felt as a geologist I should share the experience of what happened on the ground with the earthquake. And then when I went back to Nepal and managed to see the country had picked itself up and how things I had learned through my decades of climbing after the earthquake had reinforced and allowed me to do a better job of going back to the second time. I realized that’s the real story of the quake. It’s amazing. The climbing is kind of fun to read about, but it’s really that story about psyching yourself up, thinking others and trying to move forward despite the difficulties like earthquakes and pandemics. I realize that was the real power of the story. And it took me about a few months till I came back from Everest in twenty seventeen and I realized that was the story I needed to share. Wow.
Brilliant Miller [00:30:33] As a practical matter, how did you get the book written, like how did you organize your life? How did you manage your time, what technology to use, what was your process, your structure, this kind of thing? Because this is not easy, right? I mean, clearly, you’ve made a life of doing things that aren’t easy. But how did you do this?
Jim Davidson [00:30:52] Yeah, everybody finds their own way. But you’re hinting at the big factors, which is you have to structure your life to put aside that time. I see these things online, write your book in a weekend, write your book in a week. And I’m like, I wish that would work for me, but I don’t think it does to restructure my life, to basically move writing from but priority number 10 up the priority number two and sometimes, you know, priority number one to restructure my life a little bit, I climbed a little less. I certainly did far less television and movies and things like that. So that’s how I carved out the time. The process, again, is different for everyone, but I try to write first from my memory and from my heart. I shared what the story is. I carry it inside myself as I remember it and as I felt it. And then I went back and I’m still a philistine because I sometimes say that I learned how to write as a scientist. And so I’m a recovering scientist. When it comes to my storytelling and my writing. I still tend to drift toward that, but I want to get it right. So I went back a little fact checking on myself. I looked at my journals, my emails, my GPS tracking, all that kind of stuff to get my facts and figures right. And that’s how you the that down. And then it’s an endless process of revising for month after month, draft after draft.
Brilliant Miller [00:32:04] Yeah. That that can be very discouraging. And I think where a lot of people kind of give up. But what, for you, was the most challenging part of getting the book written and published, and how did you overcome it?
Jim Davidson [00:32:17] By getting the book written? Was just a matter the hard part was probably not giving up in the middle, kind of like you hinted at there. I was two thirds of the way through and I was tired and I’d been writing the book for a year and a half. And the other stories aside. So I’m not giving up the middle, kind of like climbing Everest or running a marathon or playing difficult music. If you give up concerts the way through, you’ve locked in that give up. If you push forward, you make it’s slow. You still keep pushing forward. You can still make the finish line. So that was really the hardest part about writing. The hardest part about getting it out there was keeping that, you know, some logistics and trying to decide if you want an agent to help you or not. Do you want a traditional publisher to help you or not? There’s some tough decisions to be made there with your time and your skills and money as well. So it’s a different calculation for everyone. But you just have to trust that you’re going to wade through these decisions one at the time. And there are literally probably scores of scores, maybe hundreds and hundreds of small decisions to make. But if you just don’t give up in the middle, you will wind up with a product that other people want to read and that you’ll be proud of.
Brilliant Miller [00:33:21] Yeah, that’s great. What do you think is the best investment you ever made as a writer or in anything that’s helped you to be more effective as a writer?
Jim Davidson [00:33:34] Yeah, I think it’s taking a variety of classes from other more experienced people. I took classes and still taking classes now for literally 15 years or more to work on my writing skills. I go to conferences. I will take classes, certainly within my area. I’ve taken a lot of memoires classes, a place setting, but also taking classes that seemed way off track for me, how to do interviews, how to write poetry. I’m a terrible poet, but by taking a class, I picked up little tidbits that they use and I pull them back into my writing. So learning a variety of skills from other people far outside your norm and then bringing them back to your space, where you work, where you write. I think that’s how you lift yourself up and add a little spice and interesting writing as well.
Brilliant Miller [00:34:18] Yeah, absolutely. You even include a bit of poetry in this one. A few lines.
Jim Davidson [00:34:24] Yes. Yes. I can say I’m a terrible power, but poetry did pop up when we were undeniably a friend of mine, was reading some poems to us about the wilderness. And and they they not only resonated with me that on the mountain later on when I had difficulties in my life, my dad had passed away. Those lines really spoke to me. So they made it into the book, I guess, proving what we talked about a little bit from somewhere else and can raise the quality of your writing.
Brilliant Miller [00:34:46] Yeah, absolutely. Who as a teacher from any period in your life has been influential for you as a writer? And what have you learned from them?
Jim Davidson [00:34:57] Probably the most important one of this book is my recent writing teacher, B.K. Lawrence. She taught me how to look at the structure of a book and the structure of life a little bit differently. The scientists I tend to think logically and literally and everything. And she said that time is, you know, sort of an organizing principle, but it doesn’t have to be the driving force, the things that are driven by emotion. So I encourage our readers to look into weekend. Lawrence is a great writing teacher. It’s got a great novel out there and more coming because it’s basically sort of reset my mind about how do we tell a story in a fashion that followable the closing the most important component of big capital letters. Last name, Lauren. Hello. Yes, you can’t.
Brilliant Miller [00:35:38] Lauren. Right on. Well, great. Well, what advice or encouragement do you offer others who either they have a dream of writing and publishing their own book or maybe they’re stuck in the messy middle somewhere. What what advice or encouragement do you give them to help them maybe get started, but perhaps even more importantly, to finish?
Jim Davidson [00:35:59] Yeah. Never give up. Keep moving forward and be brave and to be brave part is about being brave, about how you put yourself into the world to show your vulnerabilities and your flaws and your mistakes and to be brave about the story you’re telling. Awesome.
Brilliant Miller [00:36:18] Well, Jim, I feel like we’ve covered so much and I know there’s so much more that we could we could talk about before we wrap up, let me just ask you, what haven’t we talked about that you want to talk about or you think might benefit someone listening, whether it’s related to writing and creativity, work or life in general or climbing or anything?
Jim Davidson [00:36:39] Yeah, I think one thing I think would hopefully resonate with your listeners and readers and followers is the concept of post-traumatic growth. I learned this from the hard way. I lost a good climbing friend in the mountains. I struggled for a long time and I took a look at that, realized I could not change that traumatic thing. My friend was gone and I had to find a way to live with that. But over the years, over the decades, I learned the strength out of that and use it as fuel in my life. I thought to myself, my friend is gone. What would he advise me? Should I try Everest for the first time? So go back a second time and that traumatic things say happened to all of us. The last pandemic here, things that regularly happen to all of us, that our personal lives and our work life, our communities, so dramatic things that that we can’t turn back the clock. But the trick is to look at that and say, what can I take from that wisdom, strength and knowledge to go forward and actually grow? So instead of just being traumatized, we can grow from the trauma, post-traumatic growth. I think there’s a lot of power there. Doesn’t make a trauma easier to live with always. But you can use those things and those bad things that happen to people to move your life hopefully forward and upward. And that’s one of the messages I shared in the book, is that we have to make ourselves more resilient for the next challenge, the next opportunity, the next everyth.
Brilliant Miller [00:37:52] Yeah, I love that and and I appreciate that and I’m so glad you brought that up and I was curious about this because sometimes simply knowing that something is possible. It makes it findable, makes it accessible, right, like I have a teacher who talks about what you don’t know, like what you’re unaware of does not exist for you, in essence. And so knowing that post-traumatic growth is a possibility for people, I hope can help them begin to experience that. But I also suspect, and this comes from years of coaching, that there’s a lot of things, again, that are easy to talk about or they sound nice in theory. But where this where I’m going with this is I’m asking, you know, how do we achieve it? Right. And I think there’s a lot of things in life that are easy. Again, they’re easy to talk about, something like forgiveness. Right. But when it comes, what what have you learned from your own experience that you would offer others to help them start to shift? What they might be experiencing is post-traumatic stress disorder to a post-traumatic growth?
Jim Davidson [00:39:00] Yeah, I think you yeah. You hit a keyboard there, which is that it’s possible. It is not easy. It is not fast and it is not complete post-traumatic growth. And that’s a magic flip. The switch or attitude that you get and the trauma doesn’t bother you anymore. The trauma still happens and the people may still be part of your life, but the growth is possible. And the same is true for the pandemic. The world has changed or gotten worse a lot of ways, but it’s possible to not only go back and give back some of those things we had before, but add on some better things, some new ways of looking at that. So I think it’s whether you’re thinking a big goal or recovering from a big enough experience that things can get better. But we’re going to have to put it to work, got to take some time. And it will be a big bouquet of flowers, like we talked about earlier, some good things and some leftover bad things. We just have to keep pushing towards the good things and know that the bad things will still flare up a little bit now and that.
Brilliant Miller [00:39:53] Thank you. Well, Jim, thank you again for making time to have this conversation with me today. I’m really grateful and thank you for this book, because I mentioned I really enjoyed this book, and I think if anyone’s listening, especially if they’ve listened this far, I think they’ll enjoy it as well. So I highly recommend that you pick up your own copy, but I’m so grateful to learn vicariously. I’m certain I will never climb Everest, but I think I’ve gotten as close as I ever could by reading your experience. So thank you for that.
Jim Davidson [00:40:23] My pleasure. Thanks for sharing some time with me and giving me a chance to talk about coming many because I think you’re doing great work and we’re just glad to be a small part of it today. Well, thank you.
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