Ropes Course – Walking the Vine

Thursday 7 June 2007 @ 9:31 pm
Ropes Course - Walking A Thin Line

Today I was able to spend the day with a group of teenagers doing service projects and also participating in what are called Rope Courses. Ropes Courses are designed to test your mental focus and personal fortitude as well as generate team building experiences. One of the obstacles in particularly got both my nerves and brain going. This was called the Vine Walk.

The course involved a thin metal cable stretched between two poles about 20 years apart. The cable was bout 30 feet about the ground and placed up above the cable about 6 feet were several dangling ropes separated along the cable about 10 feet apart. These ropes could be held on to as you walked the quivering metal cable. Now these dangling ropes did not provide much stability, but just enough when pulled taunt that you would not spiral off of the cable.

Of course as you climb up the poles and attempt the traverse, you are on belay and fully harnessed for safety, but it really does cause your nerves to jitter as you attempt to carefully step across this “vine”.

What I discovered as I was doing this, was if I focused on the far end point of the cable, looking across, but not directly down, and deliberately blocking out the height factor, I was able to slither across that cable. When I would turn sideways with my feet and attempt to monitor the cable and its flex directly beneath me the cable would shake almost as vigorously as my nerves were.

As on this rope, so is it when creating a business. You can’ think much about how high you are, you have to trust the harnesses and belay, and focus on the end point placing foot over foot as you go. If you look down and spend too much energy on your exact position on the “cable” you tend to get wobbly and are more likely to fail.

Being an entrepreneur, my nerves were conditioned to the adrenaline rush of the vine walk on the ropes course and it did not paralyze me, as a matter of fact I found it invigorating.

I noted that a few of the young women that were gymnasts crossed the vine with grace. I didn’t! My crossing was plain ugly, but end of the day it does not matter, we both crossed it just the same. Both count and so it is in entrepreneurship. Most do not have the courage to even try. Getting across is the key, not how graceful the walk is.

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Laurel Christiansen Scholarship

Tuesday 22 May 2007 @ 11:58 am
Laurel Christiansen

As a child I grew up in a small town in Southern Utah. I had amazing parents. My father completely lost his sight when he was four years old. Despite being completely blind, he went on to become a successful Attorney. My mother was equally amazing. She was 15 younger than my father. One of their greatest fears was my mother would be widowed for much of her later life. Ironically fate played an awful trick and my mother and she died of breast cancer at the age of 58 leaving my father the one alone.

My mother was one of the strongest people I know. She had the courage and determination to become what I call a trend breaker. Despite all odds and with immense sacrifice she went on to be the first one in her family to graduate from college. She blazed a trail not only for all of her brothers and sisters to follow, but also all of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Growing up in my parents home, B’s were not acceptable. It was never spoken, it was simply understood.

My brothers and I collaborated and determined one of the best ways to honor my mother was to create a scholarship in her name. Our mother was always behind the scenes ensuring others received acknowledgment and award. It was with great joy we brought our mother into the spotlight by awarding scholarships to deserving young women in her name.

Today I drove down to Beaver High School and experienced a rush of emotion as I awarded scholarships to 3 young women whom have the great potential that my mother realized and we believe will be trend breakers in their respective families. These three young ladies are:

Recipients of Laurel Christiansen Scholarship

1st place – Courtney Ann Rogers
2nd place – Shannon Joseph
3rd place – Whitney Whitbeck

At the request of several of my associates, I post the scholarship information and a bit of my mothers background relating to her intense drive to obtain her education.

Laurel Christiansen was a born in a small town in Sevier County Utah. She was the first in her family to attend college and she did so at great personal sacrifice and with dogged determination. She was a trend setter who broke through many barriers allowing her brothers, sisters and her children to follow. After college she came to Beaver High School to teach Art. She married John Christiansen, the blind County Attorney and had four sons. While her children were young she took a break from teaching and focused on instilling a love of education in her children. She then returned to teach 1st grade at Belknap Elementary. She is fondly remembered by many in Beaver as a “Master 1st grade teacher”.

She raised four boys and twelve foster children. She loved with all of her might and strength her daughter in laws, grandchildren, and masses of elementary school children. Our mother’s impact has always been from the background. She has taken no public spotlight. Her life’s song has been sung in beautiful support by those around her. Through this scholarship we wish to publicly honor the incredible and lasting impact that this amazing woman has made.

Excerpts From My Story’s Song

Applicants, in preparation for this scholarship, please read the following Excerpts from Laurel Christiansen’s Biography titled My Story’s Song. This will give you a better feel for what this scholarship is about and what we are looking for in a successful candidate.

The first year of college at BYU was very challenging and difficult for me. I had earned enough money to pay tuition and start out the year; however, my resources quickly diminished with the many expenses of school. So, during my second quarter at BYU my father helped me pay tuition. Still, paying the cost of living expenses was left up to me. I soon became a familiar face at the BYU employment office. I checked there weekly to find any little “odds-and-ends” jobs to earn money. Dora Young, who shared the bedroom with me, and with whom I had become very close, suggested that I take my money and purchase a sack of whole wheat and some powdered milk. She stated that it would keep me alive and eating. It did! Wheat and powdered milk helped me survive. This first year of college was by far the most difficult and challenging for me. I just about didn’t make it financially, and my grades suffered terribly as well. However, I felt very determined to receive an education and to eventually graduate. The learning process gave me joy and satisfaction, and mattered very much to me.

During my second year my love and appreciation for education deepened, as did my desire to become an art teacher.

By my third year, I was taking many classes in my major. I decided to go into Art Education (Secondary). I took a very heavy schedule, 18-20 credit hours per quarter. Despite the extra load my grades were much better and I felt at peace and happy. After completing two additional quarters I decided to attend the summer block as well. At this time I needed to get a student loan so that I could finish out my last year of schooling. I remember that when I applied, the fellow interviewing me asked me many questions. He told me he would give me the loan, for which I was very grateful. He stated that he did not encounter a girl like me very often. He felt that I was unusual because I was so determined to finish my education. He said I seemed more like a foreign student, and that I had values like an “old-fashioned girl.”

In making the decision to teach, I determined that I wanted to stay and work somewhere in the state of Utah. That was where my family was. I also wanted to teach in a small rural town because I was a farm girl at heart. I was interviewed (grilled, may be more accurate) by both Ogden and Salt Lake City, but my heart was won over during the interview with David Pierce from the Beaver County School District. The position of art teacher at Beaver High School was exactly what I wanted. I accepted Mr. Pearce’s offer immediately.

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Out Of The Way

Friday 11 May 2007 @ 4:34 am

Last weekend my amazing daughter Nawang Sera became the first person ever in her family to graduate from college. Nawang is a Sherpa from Nepal who grew up in the small village of Khumjung which is a high village in the Himalayas just above 13,000 feet. Nawang came to live with us at the age of 15 with English being her 4th language. The past six years I have watched with great joy and tenderness as I have observed Nawang face life’s challenges head on. She always is positive, builds others, and has a determination that amazes me. Everywhere she goes she is a bit of sunshine.

Last Saturday as we sat in the commencement exercises at Snow College. The event had all the usual trappings of a real yawner. From my experience most commencement speakers blather on about notably boring nothing. I slipped into a mentally neutral position waiting for the long ceremony to conclude. I was not prepared to actually be awoken from my thoughtless slumber. The commencement speaker was an individual named Pamela Atkinson. Pamela was a feisty British woman who declared herself as a “Community Advocate”. As I listened to her introduction I sat up and took notice. She was referred to as the “Mother Theresa of Utah”. She had basically spent the majority of her life attempting to help the underprivileged focusing on the homeless. As she addressed the audience she told of her upbringing in England where she was raised in a poor family where her father left their family when she was young. She stated that she had been abused as child and had determined the only way out was education. She challenged not only the graduates, but also the audience to make a Difference in life. She went on to cite multiple examples of how small unseeingly important acts made all the difference.

As Ms. Atkinson proclaimed her personal mantra those of you saying it can not be done, get out of the way of those of us who are doing it I could not help but reflect on Nawang and her amazing story.

Nawang’s education goal is to become a Registered Nurse and gain acceptance into one of the local nursing schools that is rather difficult to gain admission. Although I have always been a believer in Nawang, at times I am often too quick to point out that the path she is perusing is difficult.

I found myself reflecting, how often am I the one “standing in the way of those who are doing it”? I resolved that from this point forward that I would not only encourage, but also believe in and fully subscribe to the dreams of not only Nawang, but also my sons, and other loved ones.

I have always loved the statement that imagination rules the world. Let’s not only get out of the way of the individuals doing great things, but let’s go stand by them and help them dream the dream and live the reality.

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He Who Refuses to Die

Saturday 7 October 2006 @ 8:12 pm

This past Friday I had the opportunity to have a discussion with one of our new team members. This young man has a tremendous amount of zeal and reminds me of myself in the early years of my career. He has an insatiable entrepreneurial spirit, and with out doubt will have great successes in his life as he becomes more seasoned. Friday my partner and I sat down and had a discussion with him regarding the week and the amazing efforts of the other members of the team. As we concluded I made a statement to him that is appropriate to share in this management metaphor context. The comment was:

The race very seldom goes to the fastest
The prize to the smartest
The award to the most beautiful
Or the brass ring to the most clever
Most often, the individual who simply refuses to die and is willing to keep going, keep pressing, and keep trying when everyone else stops is the one who eventually will get the win.

Determination, persistence, and an unconquerable soul in my opinion are the most important elements of establishing a successful new business.

I would much rather have B talent and A effort on my teams than A talent and B effort.

I do not recall a week in the past 10 years where I have seen a team work so hard, so committed, so focused, and so intensely driven to accomplish a series of goals. Much of the team has been working through the night this week to complete a successful product launch.

I take great pride and joy in associating with individuals who are striving to do something of significance against all odds.

One of my favorite quotes is:

Do it
Do it now
Do it with a purpose
and make no small plans
for they have not the magic to stir the soul of man

President Spencer W. Kimball

The win or loss is not as important to me as how the battle is fought, however, I find myself craving this win as much as I recall craving anything in a long time. Due primarily because of the tenacity and spirit of this rag tag little team of warriors who refuse to die despite all odds.

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Rich Christiansen