Ok, I know it flies in the face of article VII of the “bloggers manifesto” to publish on a Thursday. Too late in the week, people are already tuning out for the weekend and posting old selfies on instagram with the #tbt hashtag. No one wants to read anything longer than a few characters. But I’m not a blogger, so I don’t know any better. I should also know better than titling my post after watching Borat, but hopefully that will be the extent of my tastelessness in this particular iteration.
What many people don’t know is that when Stefanie and I first decided to start LivingVertical and take on Project365 we weren’t received with open arms. We didn’t have people slapping us on the back saying “great job”. We had people saying that we were jerks for taking money from sick kids to go on a climbing vacation. We had diabetes organizations dismiss our efforts because we weren’t taking the traditional “fund raise for a cure” path. The message was the point–and the message was pretty abstract. People didn’t “get it”–and often reacted with ignorant and rude comments. Comments that cut to the bone, when we sold everything for the luxury of living out of a broken down piece of crap car, doing the work of the talent, PR, film crew and production all at once.
People implied that we were trying to make a buck or get famous. Profiteering. Greed. Irresponsible. Misleading. Vacation. Those were all words that got thrown in our faces too many times. They all hurt, but vacation–that one really got my shorts in a twist. If I had a nickel for every irate blog post I wrote during that year (and subsequently thought better of and deleted) I wouldn’t have to beg you to click over to our YouTube channel and subscribe so we can keep doing what we do…
I ultimately had to accept the fact that instead of getting pissed off about the way people viewed Project365, I had to do a better job of clarifying our aims and intentions. I had to be more honest about the challenges we faced so people could SEE that it was anything but a vacation. I had to let go of the idea that everyone would “get it”. Facing the criticism from those on the outside and the apathy from those on the inside proved to be more valuable than I could have ever anticipated. They forced me to look for the weak points in my own work and messaging. They still do that.
These moments of criticism also did something else. They brought out the kindness and protectiveness in our supporters. I always felt a surge of pride seeing how our friends would defend our work–and in those moments I would gain a window into just how much those friends “got it”–and that always made it worth going on.
So thats what I did. I just “went on”, and left the critics and the detractors in the back of my mind. However recently, while posting on a climbing forum about the completion of the short Project365 documentary, a fellow who had been quite critical of the Project back when I had first announced it there had this to say:
Steve, I have been very vocal in my opinion that almost all “climb for a cause” endeavors do little to further the cause they purport to benefit. Instead, most of these endeavors are just a thinly veiled way for individuals to get others to fund their recreational pursuits. I may very well have posted something to this effect in one of your earlier posts about your “1 year, no days off” challenge. After watching your video, I feel that I may have drastically misjudged you.
I was inspired by your video and impressed by the fact that you financed this on your own. That makes a bold statement regarding your commitment to this cause. You not only demonstrate how someone with a potentially debilitating condition can push past their limits, but also how one person with a vision and drive can make a positive impact on the world. You have done something very good here, not only for yourself but for others that are battling diabetes. Cheers, and much respect to you!
I wish you much success with the distribution of your film. If I ever see you at the crag, the beers and dinner are on me!
I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to read this. I wished I could have reached through the computer and hugged this guy. I don’t even know his name actually. But it made me realize that seeing the negative reactions made me try harder and do better. It made me hold myself to a higher standard and shaped the whole endeavor.
I know this all seems kind of random and maybe it is. I get tired of just giving updates about the movie and events. This validation today really meant a lot to me and crystallized what LivingVertical is all about.
I will close with a photo I forgot to post on Instagram today…and the most poignant statement of WHY LivingVertical exists:
“Living in fear of (a disease) IS a disease in itself. Fortunately, there is a cure for fear.” (excerpt from “Afloat” by Jeremy Collins, Alpinist Magazine #45)