Two mountains, Two mountaineers, One Extraordinary Moment

Two mountains, Two mountaineers, One Extraordinary Moment. Dan Szczesny and Ed Webster.

LL Dan Szczesny_DSC0051wC_©KeithSpiroPhoto

Here in Maine, we all know Ed Webster who got his start climbing trees in Lexington Massachusetts. His lifelong love of rarified views from the top includes 7 Himalayan expeditions 3 of them on Mt. Everest. It was his 1988 ascent of Everest for which he is best known in the climbing community and beyond. Long before the world began to examine the ethics of large heavily equipped climbing expeditions Sherpa guides and bottled oxygen, Ed and three others did the unusual. They formed a small climbing group and sought out a new route to the top without use of radios or local guides. Their expedition is recounted in Ed’s book, Snow in the Kingdom, My storm years on Everest. These days Ed shares his love of climbing with the next generation of climbers through his programs and lectures at schools and libraries from his home base of Topsham and Harpswell Maine. I met him years ago at his lecture and book signing at the Topsham Library. He’s one of America’s best known mountaineers.

That very same Topsham library recently hosted Dan Szczesny in the first Maine stop of The White Mountain book tour for one of America’s best known mountains, Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Dan’s book, The White Mountain: Rediscovering Mount Washington’s Hidden Culture began as a concept focused on the mountain but it expanded rapidly as he allowed the quest to be shaped by the many people personally touched by the mountain. The journalist/reporter side of Dan kicked in and the finished product presents an extraordinary cast of characters and their association with the mountain.

That they would meet each other face to face was inevitable. The two men share common paths as touring authors and lecturers with a strong desire to share the love of “their” respective mountain. And those two mountains couldn’t be more different. Everest, inaccessible to all but a few.  Mount Washington, accessible by foot, car, cog railway and snow coach in the dead of winter. World famous, the cog railway has been a tourist attraction since its 1800’s endorsement by then President Ulysses S Grant. Mount Everest has its own share of legendary stories.

While Ed Webster was celebrating the 30th anniversary of his Everest climb, Dan Szczesny was on his way to celebrating the 3rd printing of his book. And so, when I saw Ed heading over to Dan’s table after the talk, I knew we were about to experience one extraordinary moment in Southern Midcoast Maine.

Ed Webster & Dan Szczesny at LL Bean photo by Keith Spiro

two mountaineers

Dan Szczesny & Ed Webster signing each other's book. photo by Keith Spiro

one extraordinary moment – as each inscribes their book for the other.

This article was originally published in the May 2019 edition of The Cryer.


My Three Words: 2018 Going to BAT

My Three Words for 2018 – Business, Art & Technology

Continuing a long standing tradition started by Waterville Maine native Chris Brogan, I have been starting out each year with three words to guide my success in the year ahead rather than a series of New Year resolutions that are too easily broken. There is genius behind Chris’ process in having three words always there to focus attention and minimize distraction.

photo by Keith Spiro poet for hire NYCFor 2018 my words to navigate by are Business, Art and Technology and in a unique twist, I will be mindful that all three are intricately interwoven in any successful endeavor in our tumultuous cultural and political climate.  They fit well with my personal goals of learning, sharing and enjoying the use of my creative skills and my art daily for family, friends and business.  Previously, my three words could stand alone and reflect totally different considerations but with the news streamed across our devices, 2018 is the year where the best way for an individual to be seen, be heard or be found will be to employ and deploy the best of skills, design and technology in everything we do.  I truly believe that we each can accomplish nearly anything we set our mind to more easily than ever.  While strategy and community building is the methodology, it will be the business mindset along with technology and a creative arts touch that will permit great achievements.

Whether you are acting as an individual on a mission, or on behalf of a marketing agency, a small business or a big brand, you need to recognize the significant change in human information gathering and activation.  We have less power to sell but more power to influence with best results occurring when someone self-activates for your cause because they have accumulated enough information and desire to take action on your behalf. Word of mouth sharing by friends and other trusted influencers is what drives the bus these days. Marketers spend a lot of time and a lot of your money to measure and track influence but the reality is much simpler than the experts want you to believe.

How you make others feel combined with being part of a community will determine your true ability to get things done.  You don’t need 10,000 “followers” you only need a small core group who have been touched by and affected by you to take action to a dramatically powerful result.  “Me too”  is a real emotional trigger for more than just today’s firestorm. In calmer times, the inclusive nature of a group will be just as powerful for a wide range of changes that can be brought to the forefront.

By moving beyond the disjointed nature of communications today and focusing on nurturing a community of like-minded souls, you can turn most any cause into a movement and be seen, heard and found. For me, 2018 represents my concerted effort to insure that my business acumen and my human story blend well every day.

Business – including the business of life, is getting things done in an organized and team driven manner. You don’t have to do it alone. There are others who share your thinking and will help if only you reach out and ask.

Art –  We humans are influenced by our emotions. We take action because we are happy, angry, sad, excited or a whole lot of other nuanced emotional feelings. The arts are a sometimes overlooked but fantastic way to draw attention and engage support. Long before the internet, humans depended on creative and artistic skills to communicate to a broader audience. People of letters and visual artists galvanized us into action through visual and oral storytelling. Stories move us.  Art is an integral part of what makes a society whole and art is powerful in creating dialogue and change. The winning organization is one that captures our imagination and moves us to action.  Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes not. But, always – it is the artist who crafts a vision in ways that first cause us to stop and take note.  Hire an artist and be amazed at what can be accomplished by rising above all the noise.

Technology – is no longer an option, it is an integral part of most every set of actions. Rather than be lulled into the passive “swipe right/swipe left” mentality of the followers, take action and use technology to gather your community, inform them and move them to coordinated action. We don’t have to go it alone. We don’t have to be the product being sold. As social media matures into social business, we too can use the tools and compete with the Goliath of big funders with the deft creative skills of a David. Time to use our voices and our creative talents and make a difference.

BAT2018perfect JaxMiceWarholTweetHere’s my first pick for an organization going to #BAT2018- The Jackson Labs make a huge difference in global health – and I have both intersected with & followed their work for years. They are a best practice example of integration of Art & Technology, Social media and Community, Outreach and Diversity in everything they do. Check out the client calendar they offer. Creative – compelling. Follow them.       Support their work!

#BAT2018 #my3words

Last year my words were Focused, Filtered and Fluid and they each played a strong role in keeping me on my plan and not getting overly distracted by all the incoming noise of today’s internet experience.

Now its your turn – Pick any three words share them with me if you like (I’ll publish them online ) – but be sure to spend a few minutes daily insuring that your beacon and path is clear and make it a great year.

Welcome anew, Maine Alliance for Arts Education

In a world of tightening budgets, where advocacy is important, the Maine Alliance for Arts Education welcomed their new executive director, Peter Alexander.Maine Arts Education

Peter is right for the job as he is more than just a guitar playing, photography book publishing, business traveler who has done good things. He has a long list of accomplishments and a range of experience that will position him well for the task of keeping the arts central to the discussion of Maine’s educational focus.

To many in this country, the education process is broken. Still based on preparing students for factory jobs that no longer exist, our education process could use some creativity and outside the box thinking that incorporates the social media, real time web based world in which we find ourselves.

I presented at Jeff Pulver’s 140 conference in Boston and I’ve attended the #140 education conferences each year in New York, where Jeff and co-curator Chris Lehmann take a hard look at the state of education now and provided a platform for all stakeholders to explore and share successful programs that are changing the way we engage the energy and creativity of youth in their own learning process.

Art teachers can be among the most influential in extending the boundaries that students encounter. Music teaches teamwork, awareness of others and a basic rule of learning that practice, more than testing, is important and critical to successful outcomes.

In this time of budget cuts, maybe the political leadership needs to take a closer look at the skills that are imparted by Arts Education and incorporate more, not less, of it into the learning curriculum.

By contrast, just look at how many worthless, negative and defamatory ads, flyers, direct mail pieces are showing up in our mailboxes at election time. Didn’t your parents often tell you, “don’t tell me what other people are doing, show me what good things you have done.”  If we could take just a fraction of the  $$$ spent on negative political campaigning and redirect it toward teaching the skills needed for the real-time-web enhanced global marketplace, which very much includes jobs in the Creative Economy, we would see revolutionary change in education. Perhaps that is what is most feared by the old guard.

Here are a couple of additional  photos of the welcome reception for Peter held at Slates restaurant in Hallowell Maine, October 21, 2012.

Maine arts educationMaine Arts Educationarts, education in Maine