Categorized | Career

Career Adventures

Posted on 30 July 2009

Many of us know weekend warrior types who like to lose themselves on the slopes, in the skies or atop a crashing wave whenever they have a free day. But what motivates people who want to put themselves at risk most days, as a way of earning their keep?

Psychologists say there are sensation-seeking people who need a variety of stimuli, from speeding to taking risks to craving intense flavors. They probably spent lots of time getting stitched up as kids. Now in their adult lives they’re still intent on pushing the envelope, competing with themselves and others in order to feel alive.

When the Challengers Are Add-Ons

Sometimes people add challenges onto their lives, but don’t define themselves primarily as adventurers. One such person is Victoria Murden, a Smith College alumna with graduate degrees in divinity and the law. During the day, she works as an attorney in the area of community development and public service.

Murden’s achievements, in addition to being the first woman and the first American to row across the Atlantic, include summiting Mount Silverthrone in Alaska, Mount Kenya in Africa and Antarctica’s Lewis Nanatuk, as well as skiing cross-country across Antarctica (Once again, she was the first American to do so.). Still, it’s an avocation to her, something that enhances her ability to do other paid work. As she said to fellow rower Gerard d’Aboville before her trans-Atlantic solo stint, “If I succeed in rowing solo across the Atlantic, imagine how much more I’ll be able to accomplish when I return to my desk.”

When It’s How You Earn a Living

For people like Dave Watson, who works for the Ski Patrol at Mount Snow in the winter and is a rock-and-ice-climbing guide for E.M.S. in the summer, risks aren’t something he does to gear up for another profession — the risk’s the thing.

Watson, who recently returned from an especially dangerous climb in Alaska, where he battled multiple avalanches and 3,000-foot granite walls, has always been active. He swam competitively by age 10, biked competitively in junior high, and wrestled and played lacrosse in high school. When he went off to college in Connecticut, it was clear after his first year the sedentary life wasn’t for him, and he took off for Colorado to pursue adventure. Not too long after, he discovered the Outdoor Leadership Program at Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts. There, during what he terms “one of the best years of my life,” he learned about the transformational nature of adventure and risk. “It really changed my life, largely because of the extreme mental focus that’s hard to find anyplace else,” he says.

Now Watson, 26, the average age for climbing guides, balances his time between his own adventures and teaching others. He says the Alaska trip was so intense and physically and mentally exhausting, that he’s now ready for some more laid-back time, concentrating on leading others to find themselves through adventure. “One of the real thrills of teaching people to climb is knowing you’re teaching them something that might change their lives forever,” says Watson.

The climbing community is small, which allows Watson and others to have ongoing relationships with each other and to follow each other’s progress. It’s a real thrill for him when he encounters a climber who was a beginner with him, but who has kept on and is clearly committed to the sport. “Adventure is different for each person,” observes Watson. “You travel out of your comfort zone, learning about yourself. As a guide, I give people a vehicle for their own adventures and discoveries.”

The Next Adventure

So what’s next for Watson? There are active climbers and guides in their 60s, so he’s not facing mandatory retirement anytime soon. He’d like to learn to fly a small plane and wants to be ready for whatever new challenges come along. As for his next big dream, he wants to create a family — a wife and a bunch of little adventurers.

Watson thinks it’s terrific to get paid for doing what feels is like playing and loves the feeling of being open to new experiences. “I play it all by ear,” he says with satisfaction.

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. -John@Job Salary says:

    That’s a wider level of teachings from Watson. Hope to learn more about how it affects the career lives of many people.

  2. Jorden says:

    it nice to read your thought in that article. you really give such good tips about the career.

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