Ambition, Balance and Integration with Ben Gibson
Ben is a superhuman. He’s currently testing his limits as a dedicated family man, adventure explorer and podcast host of The Athlete Dad.
This episode is packed with insights around ambition, the pursuit of balance, testing our emotional limits and the beautiful integration of all this back into family life.
Ben shares his epic story of recently climbing Mt Denali in Alaska. Details of his journey were so real and vivid that I felt like I was right there on the mountain with him! There is so much wisdom in his experience, including a conclusion you wouldn’t expect.
I appreciate Ben for his curiosity and integrity. He’s showing up for himself, his family and his community in a very authentic way.
[00:00:00] Ali: Welcome back, folks. Today, I have Mr. Ben Gibson, fellow Front Row Dad, who I met at FRD live last year in December. Had an awesome time, we played some ball, we got to chat a little bit, understood a little bit about your background, and just who you are, but not enough, which is why we're chatting today.
There's a lot of stuff I want to get to, Ben. And on this show, I like to let people introduce themselves. So how would you introduce yourself today? Who is ben Gibson?
[00:00:34] Ben: Yeah, thanks Ali. Excited to be here, man. And, I will also add context that while we did play basketball, mostly what I did was run around and throw the ball into the air. And it made no contact with anything. So yeah, I am not the guy to pick for pickup basketball, but I did have a great time with you.
So I would say first and foremost, I'm a dad and a husband. Those are my main priorities in life. The things that really give me the energy that also really pushed me to grow as a human.
But I I'd also say that I am uh, I'm adventure curious. I am constantly curious about ways that I can go out into the world and I can explore and I can get my hands dirty in the outdoors. And that's in all fronts, the mountains, the oceans, the deserts, whatnot.
And, being that my roles of dad and roles husband are most important, I try to find ways to combine those things. So, you know, how do I integrate the people I love with the things I love? So I'd say that that's really how I introduced myself as dad, husband, who also happens to try to drag them out into the woods and the mountains as much as I possibly can. Yeah.
[00:01:43] Ali: Totally. Yeah. As I was, uh, snooping on your Instagram profile after we chatted a few weeks ago. And it's beautiful, dude. It's the type of stuff that lights me up. I see you on mountains. I see you skiing. I got a great laugh at a picture of you, like sippin some wine with your, uh, youngest, who was probably very young at the time.
You know what I'm talking about? Just like "parenting's easy." I love that because it was playful. It's like, parenting's hard, really hard, if you're balancing the things you love, like adventure, while still prioritizing being a dad and a husband. So, your Instagram, Ben, is something that I feel shows authenticity. A lot of times I run into Instagram profiles that just look like a straight up performance.
And so, I love that you're kind of living into what you just spoke to. And, as it relates to that, my first question comes right into the balance of your role as a father and a husband, and then The Ben that wants to be adventurous. Did you always have this balance? Or was there sort of a journey into making them blend? Making them integrate?
[00:02:58] Ben: I'd say, oh absolutely not. No, and I, and I think it's, something that I am still I don't know if struggling with is the right word. I think of balance is like balance is certainly at least for me, it's not like I'm going to put an equal amount of time into all things, and there I have balance. But it really is just this oscillation between things, you know, investing in 1 and then investing in another. But we can't really do those things at the same time in as many ways as we'd like to.
And so, I think because seeking to achieve balance is so fluid, I don't know that anyone ever really like nails it long term. And I certainly haven't. I don't know that I've ever fully achieved it. And I don't know that I really have it now, you know, fully transparent.
And, I think it is really in the pursuit of balance that I find a lot of that. Those benefits come from. And so, yeah, I think it's a thing that I've tried to be more conscious of, especially since becoming a dad.
You know, when you become a husband, certainly those priorities shift, right? You want to make sure that you're showing up in a different way. But it's also like, you still are like with your friend and you can take your wife with you on these things and not a whole lot, maybe changes on the balance front. But kids kind of rock your world in terms of balance because it's a 24, seven round the clock job.
And I think a lot of us realize too, that it's not just about showing up and clocking in and clocking out. But like, oh, wow, if I want to show up more in line with these grandiose visions that I had of how I thought I'd show up as a dad, like, I also have some homework that I've got to do on the side and then I also have to do my job as a dad.
And so that's where I think balance became really challenging for me, especially when it came to my physical pursuits. Because it was easy when I was just married, no kids to be like, Hey, I'm going to go climb a mountain for three days. I'm on the sat phone, you know where to find me. But with kids, it's like, there's so many other factors that come into play and it's a much different, more serious conversation than just say, I'm going to be on the mountain for 3 days.
But, yeah, I think that that's why I've had to be much more deliberate about it. I would say it's, it would be so much easier for me just to be like, well, these are important to me. So, like, yeah. I'm just going to go do them and like whatever chaos ensues at home ensues.
But again, coming back to like, that's not how I want to show up and that's not how I want to be. That's not the model I want to set for my kids and it's certainly not the experience I want for my spouse.
So yeah, I think it's been a big focus lately. And for me, it's like, I feel like I'm constantly coming with more questions about balance and answer and kind of like forcing my way through the never ending fluid battle of trying to achieve it.
[00:05:41] Ali: Yeah, that's real. That's very real. It's interesting, Ben, because I used to really grip that term work life balance, especially as I became a father. Like you said, all the new chaos, all the changes came and I was like, whoa, and balance was just thrown off. And I was, I remember now that we're talking about this, I remember just like you said, trying to pursue this like beautiful vision of equilibrium. Like, yo, I got everything here and here and it's all just great.
What's interesting, too, is that I didn't use to like the term work life integration. I thought balance was way better. My ego mind was like, nope, it's gotta be balanced. Forget about integration. Whereas now I'm actually starting to come around to look at the other side of that equation saying like, Oh, to your use your words, balance is this never ending pursuit.
In some ways we're just a constant uphill battle because it is quite tricky to feel that and preserve that balance. Right. But integration has been a very powerful word in my world recently. And now that we're talking about this, it's reminding me that I see the integration of the things you said, investing in different things, as a better path towards the way that I'm showing up the way that I'm being in the world.
And I appreciate just your candor there. Like it's not easy, whether it's balance or integration, doing the things we love and caring about the people we love and giving it all energy can be exhausting.
[00:07:15] Ben: Yeah. And I think of it like there's like a sequence of it. And I guess I'll preface this by saying that I don't think that not achieving balance is necessarily a negative thing, but that the constant pursuit of trying to attain momentary balance is actually beneficial for us.
Because it's one of those things where I think that there's a lot of ways in our lives that we find ourselves needing to like, sharpen our axe, to stay sharp, to stay on top of our game. And so if balance was something that like we sought out to achieve and we achieved it and then we're like, cool, I'm balanced. Uh, that's it. I'm done. Then we've stopped growing. We've stopped challenging ourselves.
And odds are, if somebody feels like they've got a good balance, I'd probably challenge are you being ambitious enough in your life and your pursuits? Do you have enough that you're trying to accomplish with your life, with your family? Or in order for you to feel confident, they're like, yep, got it all figured out.
Whereas like when I'm constantly trying to find that balance, it makes me better at what I have to do, because it means that I am that much more present. And I have to learn how to be present. I have to learn skills and frameworks of how to be present.
And also these little things around the house where it's like, okay, to invest in my family before I go on a trip, I have to be that much more thoughtful. I've got to think about meal plan. I've got to make sure. Coffee's ready. There's flowers for my wife. Like there's there's all these other things that I need to include to truly make sure that I in this moment have achieved balance.
And I think that healthy, constant pursuit shouldn't necessarily be perceived as a negative or I used to get myself a really hard time of like, like, why can't I figure this out? Why am I so out of balance? As opposed to like, Okay, This is something I'm never going to nail, but it's in that momentary achievement of I, I feel like in this moment, the things that I have my focus on, they are equally invested in.
But to your point, too, of this idea of integration. Like, I think there's like a 3 step approach and part of being in that process of trying to achieve balance had to really sit and distill these pillars for me to be able to deliberately try to go after.
And so I think the first one is this idea of modeling ambition. Going out, being ambitious, going after your goals, going after your work pursuits, your physical pursuits, your family pursuits. Like all those things are an important piece of showing up, I think, as your best self.
But there's there's a component of that where now you have to really focus on trying to achieving balance. And that's, I think, the easier of the two when we think about balance versus integration. And so balance is something that is often done in isolation. So like you may be investing in your family, but then you leave to go do this other thing and leaving those responsibilities behind is way easier.
Then the third piece, which is integration of like, how do I bring those responsibilities along with me so that there's no distance between the people that I love and the things that I love.
And I think that those three work together in kind of a beautiful harmony. Because there are times where I can't bring my family along, right? There's no way to integrate. It's just not possible. I'd love to bring them on to a mountain in Alaska, but it's just not feasible for a one and a half year old. Right.
And so that's where that separation is okay. And I think that that's where you have the responsibility to invest in them equally, invest in before, invest in after, be present, et cetera. But the integration piece, man, that's a hard one. That's a really hard one because it requires a lot of creativity, a lot of sacrifice sometimes.
Like there's a lot of times with the integration piece where it's like, cool, I have a three hour workout today. And I'm going to try to bring the kids in a stroller with me on this three hour run. And anyone who has tried to do anything with a child for more than 30 minutes knows that there's a lot of shit that goes into that, right?
Like I need three hours worth of snacks. I probably need three different distraction mechanisms. I need to look at the trail and I need to know where I'm going to be able to let them out and run around. So it's actually not a three hour workout. It's probably a six and a half hour day with dad that I'm now planning for.
And, like, somebody's gonna lose a shoe, somebody's gonna need a full outfit change, like, there's all this stuff. So, like, yeah, sure, much easier for me to go, how about I just set you guys up for success and then leave. But, man, the integration piece, how about I take you with me for three hours. Like, dude, if you can achieve that, like, that's, like, next level dadding, husband for sure.
[00:11:39] Ali: Dude. Totally. Wow. I love that. I love so much of that. I love the three, these pillars, these words are using ambition, balance, integration, how they can flow and be together. And then you segued right into what I wanted to kind of talk about next is adventure.
Mountains. Getting out, whether it's solo versus kids. There is a difference as you explained. I want to zero in though on one of your recent adventures, which really piques my interest, climbing Denali.
Tell me about that in terms of right in focus of what we're talking about, kind of preparing to leave and then being gone. This was a multi week adventure, correct?
[00:12:22] Ben: That's right. Yeah.
[00:12:23] Ali: And then just bring your pillars in what happened? Where was the balance? Where's the integration? Cause you're now you're what? A couple of months from it?
[00:12:30] Ben: Yeah. Several months removed from the adventure. So yeah, we spent about a month on the mountain total. You know, the way you get on to Denali is it's so remote. It's way out in the mountains of Alaska. So the way you get on the mountain is you get dropped off on this essentially like modified bush plane that lands on a glacier.
And then you're out there. And the only way you get off the mountain is if a plane can come back to that same glacier and pick you up. So sometimes you're waiting to get on, sometimes you're waiting to get off, which actually happened to us on both ends. But yeah, see, we were out there for about a month.
But you know, this was for me a really big leap in my physical pursuits. And so right from the bat, I knew that like the hardest thing for me wasn't going to be preparing for the climb or the climb. It was going to be all the other stuff, the family stuff. And I don't want to diminish how difficult it was to prepare and to do it. It just is, I think sometimes emotional weight is much heavier than physical weight, right?
Where, and I was talking with a fellow dad friend of mine who's a big athlete. And we were just talking about this idea of like, Man, when it comes to physical pursuits, like we can push through just about anything. Like any amount of pain for any amount of time, we can always kind of like muster the strength to push through it.
But man, when it comes to emotional weight, sometimes that first you know, confrontation or first mistake or whatnot, man, that just we break, we totally break. And it's like, why can't we apply the same mentality for our emotional weight, our emotional challenges as we can for for physical ones?
And so, for me, I knew that the, the emotional weight of this trip was going to be really heavy. It started with a conversation with my wife, probably about a year and a half before I actually was going to commit to doing it. Because I knew it was going to be several conversations and I needed to come really prepared for that. You know, out of respect for my wife, I needed to have a really clear why.
You know, here's why this is really important to me. So that there was something that was really grounding the conversation and purpose and meaning and not just like, well, this would be cool. It's like, this is why this is so really important to me.
And I think that that's important because it really it creates this like mutual buy in for the ask that I'm about to make. And then through those first several conversations, a lot of it before I even knew if I was going to be able to do this was ideating with my wife around what would this even look like for the home stuff?
Like, okay, I'm going to be gone from a month basically. And not even just that. In committing to doing this, I'm basically training for a year before doing this, which means that I'm not just asking you for a month to watch the kids. I'm asking you for these very long training days for a year. For me being annoying with what I want to eat and how I'm thinking about my diet during training.
And me being annoying on vacations when it's like, "Hey , I know we're on vacation, but like I got to go for a run. So I need to wake up at like four in the morning to go and I'm just gonna, I'm going to meet you guys." And like, all of that is it goes into it. So it's not just like the event itself.
And then, of course, like most well laid plans, they often need change. And so it was talking through not just like, what would this look like? But what are all the potential implications of the plan changing?
Like, a big thing for us is that my oldest son, who's four now, he was born preterm. So he's got like, chronic lung disease. And so anytime he gets sick, he basically gets hospitalized. And so we had to think about like, okay, well, what if you're, you know, 20, 000 feet up this mountain in remote Alaska, only accessible via like text message on satellite phone... and he has to go to the hospital and we have a one and a half year old. Like, what do we do? How does that play out? Like how fast can you get off the mountain to get home?
And so it again starts with all these initial conversations of thinking through very honestly, like what's all the downside? What are all the things that could go wrong so that we can try to put a plan in place for that? And I think that that's a lot of where if you're going to try to achieve balance or anything of this nature, like you've got to be really pessimistic about the approach.
Because I think where some people maybe fail is they think like best case. Like, well best case, nothing goes wrong. It's so easy. Kids are great. That never happens. Right.
But if I think through all the things that could possibly go wrong, and I'm very honest, and aware and planning for those things, more likely we're going to fall somewhere in the middle. Some shit's going to go south. Some things are going to be better than expected, but like, we've prepared for those contingencies. And so I think that that was a big part of our balance is like, just being very honest around, like, how's this going to go?
And then, you know, there's the preparation for it. And this is where I felt like I needed a lot of help going into this. So I talked with as many people as I could that found themselves in similar situations of dads who have been on Himalayan climbs and dads who have done like rowing across the Atlantic and things like that.
And basically asking them, "like, what were your wins? Where did you feel like you dropped the ball?" And just trying to like piece together some interesting things. And so much of what I think helped make this go well is helping make the day to day successful. It's always like the little things, right? Like, Can we get meals ordered in advance so that my wife doesn't have to cook every night?
Like everyone, every parent knows that like, man, the nights that you decide just to kind of tap out and just order food, you're like, Oh, bless DoorDash. Like no dishes, no food, like, Oh, it's like vacation at home. Right. And so like, how much of that can I iron out in advance of it? And so I said, yeah, that was a lot of the balance piece.
And then the integration piece was fun, like trying to incorporate my kids in as many of the training days as I could. You know, throwing them in the stroller, throwing them in a pack. You know, the good thing about your kids getting older, if you're a climber, and you need to carry heavy stuff up a mountain is that as your kids get older, they get heavier, and they can, they can just be thrown right in the back. And it actually works out really well.
And then my wife actually printed out the route for our wall in our dining room and cut out my head. And so every day is on the mountain as I would provide my updates of where we are and how it's going, my son would move my head kind of up and down the route to know what that is.
Yeah. And then I shared with them in advance kind of like , you know, there's always very prominent features about where you are on the route and kind of shared that with them so that they knew that, okay dad's at 14 camp. And then he could like, see pictures of 14 camp and learn about it. And mom could read about it.
And so, yeah, it was again, a lot of, like, almost like disaster planning. Like, what all can go wrong? How do we plan for that? But then how do we thoughtfully weave them into this process in as many ways as we can?
[00:19:09] Ali: Wow. Oh man, there's so much in there as I'm listening and learning, Ben. And we haven't even got into the, that's just planning.
That's just prep.
[00:19:20] Ben: Right. Yeah. That's just thinking about it. Yeah.
[00:19:24] Ali: Okay. So I want to reflect some things back to you. First, I love how much intention went into this. That you saw ahead. You proactively reached out to other dudes, other people. I know a part of me would have just been like, "I'll figure it out."
I really love how thoughtful you were. And how you brought this convo to your wife consciously way in advance, knowing that you'd need a year to plan.
And, dude, you're spot on. It's like the little things. I was just talking to Gabrielle about this this morning. Like the little things are often what cultivate into the larger things or kind of trigger some subconscious stuff that it's a little bit deeper that we don't even know what it is yet. And just taking care of those man, whether it's like meals or just getting some people to like pop in every now and then to help, especially with young kids is massive.
So very wise of you there.
The thing that I have to come back to and ask, though, before we go into what it was like to be on Denali, is what was your why? If you could summarize that.
[00:20:29] Ben: Yeah, I would say my why has always come back to this idea of transformation.
Like when I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut because I wanted to go to foreign lands untouched unseen by most human beings and experience what that would be like. And I think that's where I talked about at the beginning I'm like adventure curious. Like so much of me is like, "God, I wonder what that would be like, I wonder what that would look like to see that with my own eyes to experience that with my own body."
And so for me, this idea of transformation when it comes to climbing was understood very early on in my climbing career, probably onto my very first climb. When I realized that the person that went up the mountain was not the same person that came down the mountain. And that it took me like weeks after a climb to figure out, well, who came down?
Because it's a different person now. And something's changed, something shifted in my perspective and in, in my identity with myself.
And so mountain became not just a physical pursuit, but almost like a spiritual pursuit. Which is profound for me because I didn't grow up with a religious background. I really struggled with spirituality and religion as a young adult and never really found a place for me to like buy into any of that until I was on the summit of a mountain. I feel like we have all different definitions of God, but I tell you, I touched God when I went to the summit of a mountain, it was transformative.
And I realized, that my soul was telling me, " We do this now, this is a thing that we do. This is very important to us." And so for me, with my wife, the why was a lot around that continued transformation. And like most things, in order to grow, in order to continue to grow, you have to continue to challenge yourself to a greater degree.
And on many levels, this one in particular was going to be challenging in so many different aspects, the physical, the mental, the emotional, the logistical. And so that was really the why it was like, I feel like I have a purpose in my life to go out and pursue these things because I feel like it's an important part of who I am as a human and how I continue to evolve as a human.
[00:22:39] Ali: Mmm... I love that. Dude, I love that for a variety of reasons. The first is that I too had a... deep fascination with space as a kid. And it's still like, it's still arguably the top of my bucket list. I still want to explore space.
I've started to realize how beautiful this earth is. There's a lot more that I want to see of it. But deep down, like I geek out around like going to space and just kind of exploring. So we are definitely aligned there, brother.
The other thing is that I wholeheartedly agree with you on the symbolism of mountains. I was raised with some Christian upbringing and even I was exposed to like other religions, the mosque as a young kid and nothing really landed.
I mean, I was seeing it, I was hearing it, but as I started to really dive into nature as an adult and find my way up mountains, literally, it became how I interpret spiritual experiences, just like you. And so it's beautiful. I think that more people are speaking up and just recognizing.
That everyone has their own spiritual journey and I, I respect all of it. Some people, it is the church, it's the physical church to go sit down and find God. For me, it's being on those mountains or being deep in a forest and just observing nature, observing myself and kind of getting lost in that beauty. So I wanted to just give you props for noticing that, speaking to it. It's a beautiful thing.
Let's get back to the Denali then. So the prep is done, not done, but the prep is ready. The family is engaged, ready and engaged. So you've got some cool stuff you explain with your wife and your son.
And then we already talked about this epic, like landing to get to the mountain, you have to get helicoptered in. So let's zoom right back to that point. You get helicoptered in. What's it like climbing this massive mountain?
[00:24:43] Ben: Yeah. I mean, talk about going to another world, like. When you fly in, you know, you start flying in over tundra, so it's green, it's pretty lush, and then you look into the distance, and you start to see these mountains rise up. But you go, wait a minute, I'm here to climb the biggest one in this range, where's the biggest one? Where's the biggest one? And then suddenly you see it, and it's so tall that it's still incapped in the clouds. And you're like, there's the one I've been waiting to meet.
And you've been thinking about this one for a long time, and you've been waiting to see it with your own eyes. There's something interesting about this idea of kind of coming back to what you said of like, you know, climbing a mountain is like a metaphor that gets thrown around. Like, metaphorically, there's a lot of power in this idea of mountains.
And I was always like, what if I, instead of metaphorically, did this what if I literally went up the mountain? Right. And so there's this interesting thing where you've been seeing pictures of Denali even seeing the route and then to finally see it in person, that in itself is like this greeting of "Hello old friend, I'm here to meet you. I'm here to greet you."
And so right away, it was like this very deep moment of you're the one that I've been waiting to meet. And we fly in and the mountains are getting higher. And what's crazy was when you fly in, you don't fly over the mountains. You literally fly through the mountains and see you're passing these crazy steep ridges of rock and ice and snow.
And then you make this really big swooping landing down to the glacier. And what's great about it, as soon as you land and the plane leaves, it's like you're on another planet, because that's your lifeline right there, right? Like that plane is gone, I'm on a glacier, and it's gone. It's on.
And so right away you get to work. Like there's no like, "wow, this is great." It's like, get your tent up. We got to boil water. We got to eat. We logistically, we got to get going. Because you got about like 120 pounds of stuff on you. And so it's a lot to manage the whole time. And so yeah, you, you really quickly understand from that very first moment that so much of your success on the mountain is not going to be due to your ability to climb well.
That is certainly a piece of it, but so much of what makes up your success is how well you can do all the logistical stuff. How efficient can you be? And the most efficient climbers are often the most successful climbers. And for many reasons.
So like we get to the glacier. We immediately start digging out a tent platform. So we're digging through several feet of snow to set a platform. We're collecting snow for melting for water. We're getting our meals together and starting to talk through the plan. And the thing is, is that you're not like dropped off at the doorstep of the mountain. Again, because you're on a glacier, you're kind of on like a fork of the glacier way down the glacier.
And so you're going to unload all your stuff. So that the next day you can pack up all your stuff and you can throw it in a sled and you can walk, you know, about seven hours down the glacier to just get to the base of the mountain. So the thing that really struck me right away was just like the sheer scale of everything. Like, mountains have this weird thing where they're often so big that they seem like they're just right there.
Oh yeah, it's like right there. Right. And then you're walking for like hours and you're like, why are we not there yet? And why is it still so far away? And you're like, oh, it's so big that the scale is thrown off. And so when it takes you seven hours to get to the base of the mountain across this glacier that is literally miles wide, it just makes you feel the scale of the peaks that are surrounding you, everything is so big.
And so you get to the base of the mountain. And I don't like, I don't like like these terms that like military or like conquering that to apply them to mountains because I think that a lot of people when they're like, "I'm going to conquer the mountain."
It's like, ah, you're not. Like the mountain can flick you off at any time, it's indifferent. But you're essentially laying siege to the mountain in that you are very methodically bringing your gear up and down the mountain. Establishing camps so that you can get your supplies up the mountain in an efficient way, but also to help you acclimatize.
So you land on the glacier at like 7,000 feet. You get to the base of the mountain at around 9,000 feet. And the summit of Denali is a little over 20,000 feet. So from base to summit, it's actually more distance to travel than even a peak like Mount Everest. And so the up and down acclimatization runs, laying caches, is such an important piece of it.
And the more efficient you are in that process, the more successful you're going to be because you're going to have more energy. You're going to be able to get food and fuel and rest in you more efficiently. So that becomes the game right away. How efficient can I be? How methodical can I be in my process to conserve energy and get things going?
So yeah, the scale is enormous. You're way out there and there's also just this incredible sense of like disbelief. "Like, I can't believe where I am right now." I can't believe that there's like these international teams surrounding me right now. Like, Oh, the Polish team is going up. Oh, the Japanese team is going behind us.
Like, it's just this really cool moment where you pinch yourself. Like, wow, I'm kind of like playing in the major leagues right now. And then to come back to the kind of the mountain you're waiting to meet. There's also these like really almost like kind of like when you're a tourist and you're like you go to New York City, you're like, I can't wait to see this.
This, you know, historical thing. It's like, you're so excited to see these like features of the mountain. Like, I can't wait to get to 14 so I can see the Messner Kulwar that people ski or to be able to see the Kassin Ridge, because this epic climb that took place on that, that ridge. And like all the stories and history. I mean, I could talk for probably weeks around the particular adventure, but like, those are the initial things that really like come to mind when it came to the mountain.
Was just this sense of disbelief, this focus on efficiency and methodically moving our way up the mountain. And just the sheer gratitude of playing in this, enormously unimaginably big playground.
[00:31:09] Ali: I love that dude. Yes. And this is so great because like for someone like me who aspires to do bigger mountains like Denali, I've never done something that big. Not only is there just like pure wisdom in here, but it's things that I just wouldn't know. It's things that I wouldn't assume.
Like efficiency, like, yeah, that could seem obvious, but it's not the first thing that would come to mind as I'm training, like, gotta be efficient. Because I would literally probably show up there and be like, "this is amazing, like, oh, my gosh." But to your point, it's like, this is a journey and those who thrive and survive are efficient, right?
I also love the note about scale. Just being in nature's grandioseness and being like, "wow." And as you're describing this, Ben, I'm like, there with you. I don't know tons about Denali, but I know enough. And as you're sort of giving this visual experience, I'm just vicariously like imagining this vast white wonderland and my tired ego being like, "when are we going to get to base camp?" like hours pulling 120 pounds? Like that is serious.
Okay, so, to continue this story and also honor time, like you said, you could probably speak to this for hours, if not days. Tell us a little bit about the adventure to the summit. What was that like? Did you make it? What were some of the biggest challenges, whatever comes, whatever feels like share worthy?
[00:32:37] Ben: Yeah, absolutely. So I think the really interesting climbing on Denali happens at 14,000 feet and above. And I think that that's also where things start to get really real on the mountain. So something happened our first morning climbing at 14 camp that really took us out of that sense of like wonder and really back into grounding like, this is the real deal.
Very serious things happen on this mountain all the time and things change very quickly. So we're packing up our stuff to go up to set a cache. So we're going from 14, 000 feet to like 16, 500. And to do that, we have to go up these fixed lines. So they put fixed lines on mountains where they're very, very steep.
And so this is like 45 to 60 degree plus, some of these sections is like straight up blue ice, which is like the hardest ice you can possibly be climbing on. And the whole climb, the whole day up from 14 to 16, five is straight up this like very steep wall.
We're packing up our stuff to go do a very hard climb and we see all these rescue helicopters coming in. There had been a storm above 16, 000 feet for the last week and a half. So teams had been pinned down, stuck in a storm, above 16, 000 feet, typically at our 17, 000 foot camp. And so right before we're about to leave, we see them long lining a body off the mountain.
And that's not a good thing, right? It was shocking. I felt tingly. I felt numb. I was like, oh, boy, like, "all right, let's go climb this thing?" It really was kind of a shock to the system. And again, a reminder that this is the real deal. And so going up 14 that day was really stressful.
You start to question things like, "What am I doing here? Like, this is insane. Like, I have kids at home? I've got a wife at home. Like, man, like, what am I? Why am I doing this?" And talk about efficiency, like that day in particular, going up the fixed lines for the first time, I was wildly inefficient.
So you get to the top of the ridge and you just had this horrible experience to start the day. And you're like, totally gassed getting to the top of this like knife edge ridge. And you're again, questioning everything.
So it's not just about like, "Oh, climbing is so wonderful and grandiose." But like a lot of it, especially for these very long days was filled with fear and filled with uncertainty and certainly a lot of self doubt.
I remember getting to the top of the ridge and for the first time being like, "I don't know, dude, I don't know if I can do this." Right. And thank God all we were doing was setting a cache and then going back down. But that was a very real moment for me. And then to cap it off that night was the coldest night on the mountain.
And to kind of put it into perspective on like how cold, cold can be. So I have literally every piece of clothing on that I brought with me on my body. And that includes basically what equates to like a fully Himalayan down suit. And then I've got a negative 40 degree sleeping bag. And then of course I'm in a tent with another person which, which helps with the warmth.
And I'm still cold. Normally, like you wear that on a 60 degree day, you are dying. You will literally die from heat exhaustion. And I'm sitting here like shivering in my down suit in a negative 40 degrees sleeping bag next to another human being being like, "Wow, dude, it's pretty cold."
And like that you think about 36 hours of those experiences of the long lined body coming off the mountain. Of wildly inefficient climbing that result in total exhaustion of altitude to all the sheer cold. I mean, it was the 1st time again where I was like, really doubting if I was going to be able to do this.
And so, you know, so much of the climbs is understanding that those moments are going to happen. Where talk about planning for contingencies. The thing that I think I did really well in this prep for this trip mentally was preparing for those mental contingencies of like, there's going to be moments where I am not going to feel my best and I'm not going to be confident in my ability to do this. And I need to be prepared for that.
And so I did that a couple ways where I literally wrote down expressions for self talk for how I would get myself out of that jam. I had a little playlist that I called it my head right playlist. So like, I got to get my head right. You know, what, what am I going to listen to?
And then I knew people that I might actually reach out to, to get my head right. And I actually did all of that, all of that was required for me. So I, I went through my mental self talk. I listened to my playlist and then I messaged a friend through a sat phone that, and I just kind of told him the deal. I was like, "Man, I'm really starting to doubt this. I just need a little bit of confidence boost right now."
And I think that was the start of the most satisfying part of the climb because the next day it was like a shift. It was like, it's game time, baby. Like we're going to do this, but like, we're also not fully attached to the end result of the summiting, right?
Summiting is a dangerous thing, especially on mountains at this altitude. You know, if the soul benefit that you derive from a climb comes exclusively from summiting, then you will not derive benefits on most climbs. Because if you're pushing yourself or if you're respecting the mountain, or if you're playing it safe, more times than not, you're going to get turned around.
Or, conditions aren't good. The weather's bad. You're not feeling it. You're not feeling right. Something goes bad with the partner you're climbing with. Something goes bad with somebody else. You need to jump in and help. So for many reasons, like, I try to detach my success or the benefits I get out of a climb from reaching the summit.
And so it was in that moment that I reminded myself the commitment that the most important thing for me to focus on right now is, you know, getting to the next camp. And really what that came down to the next day was literally the next step.
And that can seem kind of maddening for a lot of folks, but I actually found it was funny. I was talking with a buddy of mine. There's this weird thing that you do when you really need to focus and get into a zone where you, you count your steps, which seems like insane because you're literally walking for 12 hours. Right? So you're like, that's a lot of steps, but you do it in groups of like 50 or 100 and usually like the lower number that you are counting to the more shit that you're experiencing because you can't focus beyond 25, right?
So you're just like, get to 25 and then I cycle again. And that like repetitive mental exercise actually helps you really focus on things like efficient steps, breathing, focus, zone out, but be present. Like this interesting kind of mode you have to get into.
And I remember talking to my buddy after the fact. He's like, "were you counting your steps?" And I go, "yeah." He goes, "what were you at?" I'm like, "I was at 25." He goes, "ah, that was a rough day." And he just knew that because I was counting and because I was counting so low, he's like, wow, that's a rough section.
But so we climbed from 14. We pack up all our stuff. We get up to what's called the 16 Ridge, which is this knife edge Ridge that takes you from the high point of the Ridge up to your high camp of 17, 000 feet. And that next day was like night and day for me. I felt great. I felt terrible, but mentally I felt great because you're at altitude, right?
You feel kind of like crap a lot of the time. It's really hard. You feel tired, but I mentally, I was like, this is no problem. I'm just going to feel gratitude and enjoy this. We get to 17, 000 foot camp and what we found was a theme on this trip was that weather was bad almost the entire time.
Weather's bad notoriously on Denali, but it was extra bad this season.
[00:40:03] Ali: Like windy, cold, that type of environment?
[00:40:06] Ben: Windy, very, very cold, and oftentimes together, and then a lot of precipitation. And precipitation meaning like it starts to snow, right? And so, that combination can be very dangerous because they often happen almost Immediately.
I was shocked at how quickly weather windows would close and these massive storms would come in and bury your tent in snow. And so you were, it's also not like if it starts snowing and you're stuck, you're just like, well, I'll just hang out in my tent for a couple of days and chew on Jolly Ranchers.
It's like, I have to, I have to dig out snow all day, or I will be buried by this storm. And then you also have to like eat and go to the bathroom and like do all these like other normal things. And so it's kind of chaos when these things happen.
So we get to 17, 000 foot camp and we get to basically the last hard section of the mountain, which is called the Autobahn. And it's called the Autobahn because if you were to fall on this particular section, you would pick up speed as if you were traveling down the Autobahn and it drops off for a very, very long time.
And, there's fixed lines, but people still fall all the time. And it can create a dangerous situation because if you're, you know, not clipped into the rope or somebody is not paying attention, you could pull your whole team down the mountain with you. And so 17, 000 foot camp, like you're feeling the altitude. For sure.
And you're kind of mentally preparing for this next day. And the word that we got was like, we got a weather window of one day. And so we've got to get up, we got to tag the summit and we've got to get down all the way back down to 14 camp. So that's 17, 000 feet to 20, 000 feet back down to 17, 000 feet pack camp, and then immediately go down to 14, 000 feet down the fixed lines.
And so we know that like, Okay. Not only did we just have to come up the fixed lines from 14 to 17, we're going to sleep and then the very next day, go for the summit. And then after the summit, we have to go all the way back down to 14. So there's like this mental preparation of the ordeal that you're about to go through.
And here's the challenging part too, like icing on the cake, is that you don't sleep well at altitude. In fact, the first night you get to high camp, you have this weird thing cause your body isn't used to breathing at that altitude. So you wake up with these like deep gasps of breath, really. And you do that all night long. And so you don't sleep. And you're also like excited for the summit. And so you're basically awake for like 36 hours. And then you're going to do that whole thing.
We wake up for summit day, last hard push of the trip. And I thankfully got to witness the sun kind of cresting the summit behind it and just kind of like breaking apart the clouds.
And it was again, kind of that moment of like, there you are. I see you, here I am. I've come here to meet you. And so we get our stuff, we're feeling good, and we start working our way up the Autobahn. And it's very, very hard climbing. There's no footpath. It's meaning there's no, there's no like steps that somebody's already kind of kicked out. It's like very angled, steep terrain. I see your angles are busted.
And unfortunately, as we start to get to the top of what's called Denali pass, which is notoriously the worst weather on Denali, cause it's splitting the two summits. And it's again, like 18, 000 feet up, so it just gets like hammered. The clouds start to kind of envelop us a bit and we start to feel the wind at our back and we start getting hit with a little bit of snow and we're about a third of the way until we finally at least get to the pass and almost with every step the storm is getting worse and worse and worse and worse.
And finally when we're getting around to turn the corner at Denali Pass, we're having to lean into the mountain with our ice axes whenever there's gusts of wind because it's there's this weird effect when the wind comes, it kind of like scoops under you and like kind of peels you off the mountain.
So when the wind gust comes, you kind of like hammer your ice axe into the side and just like wait. And then you kind of sprint in between like wind gusts and we turn the corner and it's just, we're just getting hammered.
And we sit there and we debate and we're kind of peeking up at the summit and you can see this lenticular cloud just squatting down on the summit. And lenticular clouds are indicative of like the worst weather you're going to experience on a mountain. So if there's ever a lenticular cloud on your route, stop. Do not pass go. Turn around immediately and especially the summit ridge to Denali. The wind up there can just flick you off the ridge.
And so we get to about 18, 600 feet and we start having these very real conversations around. I think this is it. Like, I think, I think this is as high as we go. And that's a really hard realization because in getting to that point, that meant that we had climbed all the hardest parts. We did it. Ali, we were done. We just had a little jaunt, couple more thousand feet to the summit, tag it. You know, that would have been something that lives forever, but, you know, it wasn't meant to be.
And I think that that's where the experience comes in of knowing that, well, my goal wasn't to summit. My goal was to give everything I had, and the fact that we're getting turned around because of weather, and not because I couldn't do it, I feel okay about that. And that was something I had made peace with in my tent the night before was, I'm okay if we don't tap the top. I'm okay, I feel good about it. I'm gonna go back and do it again... but I feel good if we don't do it.
So we make that decision. But this is the thing is that, you know, getting to the top is great, but that means you're only halfway done. You got to get down the mountain. Right. And now there's this storm bearing down on us. So we've got to get off the mountain pretty quickly. So I'll try to distill it as much as possible.
It's chaos trying to get down the mountain. On the Audubon it's a one way road and all these other teams are still trying to get up and you can't turn around. You have to go up and go back down. And so we're like literally unclipping and walking around other teams on this slope to try to get down the mountain.
And by then we're in a total whiteout. So the only thing we can see is the feet in front of me. And I can just barely see the climber that I'm roped up with in front of me, that's maybe six arm lengths away. And we're just walking, descending in the cloud. And there was a moment where someone on our rope team fell and we had to catch and self arrest.
And so getting back just to 17 camp took like three times as long as it should have taken. It was such an ordeal. But the climb's not done. We had to pack up camp, we had to go down the ridge, we had to get back down to 14, 000 foot camp. And we basically trudged down there after this, like, incredibly long day, having not slept, having been at altitude for a while to get to 14 camp. And so it was just kind of like this totally dilapidated crew that had just gotten thrashed and worked and kind of emotionally spent pulling into camp to 14 to kind of put a bow on the end of the summit day.
So we didn't ultimately touch the top. But I feel really good that we climbed all the hard parts and we did it in style. We did it the right way.
[00:46:50] Ali: Dude, wow. What a journey. And I want to give you props for your storytelling. Cause like, I'm having trouble jotting some notes because I'm just so immersed in what you're describing. Especially, like if anybody watches the video I'll put on YouTube, like, you're talking about like leaning in with your axe when the storm's coming through, dude. And like how cold it was.
But what I will say to that, Ben, is that there's definitely a level of humility in you and your fellow climbers. Especially noting that some people were still going up, you know, they had to touch the summit.
Part of me wanted to ask like, well, did other people do it? But that's not important because I'm just so immersed in your story. And I love that you made that conscious decision. That you didn't become potentially another statistic where the ego took over. Because as I've done my research and learned from other storytellers, that's literally how people get killed. They just get infatuated with well we're this far , you know, it's so close. And I literally heard you like we did the hardest parts.
But what's so beautiful and powerful about the climax of this story is the way I filter that is You respected in nature. If there's anything to respect in my world, it's nature. Like it will literally tell you.
I was just hiking with my kiddos the other day. We're out in Vail, and even though Colorado is a lot of great weather, when clouds come in, especially when we're at higher altitudes, this is probably like 10 11, 000 feet, I'm aware. And I'm looking around and I'm also using that opportunity to teach my kids. I'm like, Hey, Sepia, who's five now, what is nature telling us? And she looks up, she's like, well, the skies are dark. I'm like, are they normally dark? She's like, no.
And I'm like, cool. So this is a time to be more aware. And then a few drops started coming through. Right.
So this is, I'm trying to like, you have this epic adventure. And I'm like giving this hiking story, but anyways, I sat in pause. I go, we have to make a decision now. We've been hiking for almost an hour. If we keep going, we risk hiking higher into a storm where it's more likely for lightning to be present and be in danger.
And so it was just a really good opportunity for me to distill the one thing I wanted them to take away from that experience was respect nature.
You did it on a much more grand level with so many other factors. Like you had invested years into this prep. You're weeks in, you're tired, but I also want to reflect I love that you shared your mental sharpness was still there. Because what I'm gathering as I'm hearing this Ben, and learning from you, is how much of a mental and emotional game it is.
Like to your point, a lot of us are probably in physical shape to climb some of the highest mountains in the world, but are we in mental and emotional shape?
So that's one of the biggest lessons I'm taking from this or the gifts. So thank you. Just, yeah. Thank you for your story. Thank you for sharing that.
So you hit 14k. Is there anything past that or at that point does the journey kind of unfold? Actually, no, of course there's stuff past that. I want to know how you kind of reintegrated into life.
[00:50:08] Ben: Yeah. Yeah. I think you hit it too with like the mental aspect of it. Like something I realized early on is like the physical stuff is important, but it is actually your mental desire that makes up the most, the biggest piece of it. Like if you have a desire to do something, you will outrun people that are more physically prepared than you in every aspect of it.
And that's why the mental aspect of it, I think, was so important. And I'll say this last thing on that piece of, uh, you know, the mental sharpness. This idea of balance. Like in that moment, it was a really important test of my balance. It's really easy to say that we can be balanced or try to achieve balance at sea level when we're at our home and things are comfy.
But when I'm getting hammered by wind at 18. 6, and I have every right in my mind to be able to justify I should be able to keep going, it puts into question my values and I have to really double down on, am I going to live out the way that I talk about my values or is it going to show that they're not really rooted in something?
And I always say that, like, the way that you are able to balance things, or at least the way that you're able to attempt to achieve balance is a litmus test for the health of your ambitions. So I think that in that moment, had I been willing to take on more risk than I should have, put my, my role as a father, as a husband at risk, I think that would have shown that my ambitions were not rooted in something healthy and that I had some introspective work to do to right that when I got back down.
And so, because I felt really secure in the root of my ambitions, it made the decision very easy. Didn't make it not difficult, but it made the decision easy. It's like, I've already made this decision. I'm just having to do it now.
And so getting off the mountain, before I got the opportunity to integrate back in life, it was kind of harrowing. The storm followed us all the way down the mountain to the point where we basically went from 14, 000 feet all the way down to the airstrip without stopping.
We took breaks along the way, but due to various factors, we basically just had to pack up our stuff at 14 and go all the way, basically walking for a little more than 24 hours straight to get back to the airstrip. Only to get stuck at the airstrip for four days, waiting for the weather to clear for planes to get off.
So it was, uh, the mountain didn't want to let us go. And I think the hardest part about integrating was that not only did the mountain not want to let us go, but I feel like I left a piece of myself on the mountain. Like, it took me a while to get back to where I felt like I was normal. I've talked about it earlier where it takes like weeks to kind of figure out the meaning of what did that climb mean for me and who came down the mountain and how is that person different than the person that came up.
And more than ever, I think because of the duration and the intensity of the climb, I was stuck for months feeling like a little bit lost and spacey trying to navigate this new person that is just jumping back into dad. Jumping back into doing all the normal things of life and sending emails.
And that contrast was really challenging. I think that that really was because much like going up the mountain, your work is not done until you get off the mountain. I think when you get off the mountain, your work is not done until you've completed that introspective work of like, what did that mean for me? And who am I?
Because that's the other part about these physical pursuits is that if I believe that I need to pursue them because they're important to me, but as a family man, I also have a responsibility to bring those benefits that I gained back home. And I think that's the introspective work. That's the responsibility there is to continue doing the work until the work is done so that I can figure out what that meant for me and then bring those benefits to my family, and not just be like spacey dad forever that's just dreaming about getting back to Alaska as soon as possible.
So there was a lot of journaling, a lot of just sleepless nights, laying in my bed, thinking, and not in like at all a negative way. But almost like a, if I closed my eyes, I was right back there to figure out what did I leave there and what did I take with me and, and all that work.
And so I know it sounds like I might be dancing around a lot of like, uh, like nebulous thoughts. And I think to a degree, it's almost like we talked about balance where it's like, I don't know that I ever will fully know with certainty what that meant for me, but I think it's in the exploration of finding that meaning and finding more of that meaning that is where I find the benefits of it.
So yeah, integration was challenging, but fairly meaningful to have to go through that exercise.
[00:54:22] Ali: Man, I love that. Wow. So I love the metaphor of leaving parts of you there and the focus on introspection. The focus on giving yourself space and not just coming down like, boom. Got to get back, got to be a dad, got to do all the things I'm normally doing. But, you know, sort of sitting in the rawness of what you just experienced.
I've had many versions of that where, in fact, this Colorado retreat that I led out here with Chris Emick over the summer. Same thing, man. We were in the wilderness for three or four days. We climbed a thirteener, which isn't, you know, as high as Denali, but it was meaningful for me and the other men. And I had this 48 hour period, Ben, where like I just had to sit. And I had to be with the things.
I remember my mind wanting to do things. It was like, yo, dude. Snap out of it. Like let's go, because my family's in Florida and I had some opportunity to get caught up on some things But my body was like no thanks. We are going to sit here and we are going to force you literally to be with what just happened. And it was beautiful.
And the other thing that I heard from what you shared is like coming back to balance and an integration. I think part of you is left there, and that's just part of your journey.
You might not ever make complete sense of that. It might just be this thing that continues to live in you and through you. And then one day you might have an insight. I'm describing a way of being open and not needing closure.
Because I think that's what can kind of destroy us inside. It's like, well, what did it mean? Like, who am I now? Instead of being like, yo, that was an extraordinary experience. I left a part of me there and now that's a beautiful part of who I am today. You know?
[00:56:11] Ben: Yeah, that desire for definitive outcomes is something that's so normal in life. Like something we all need is to a degree in our life, we all require certainty and closure. And I think some of this stuff is like tangential to other important things.
Like I talk about balance being a litmus test. I think the need for definitive outcomes with physical pursuits is also a litmus test of " is my goal the right goal?" Right? Like if my goal is only to summit, then what benefits do I think I'm going to actually gain that I will then be able to bring back to integrate with my family?
And I don't know that those are the right ones, right? I don't think that it's like, well, I did some extra risky shit and that's why I was able to summit. And so how does that come back and benefit my family? How does that benefit me as a human? Other than knowing that, like, woof, got lucky on that one.
As opposed to the alternative, like my goal is to venture forth into the unknown literally and figuratively and give everything that I absolutely have in the safest way possible. So that I can explore these unique spaces on the mountain and within my own mind and I can come back and take those lessons back to my family. Like, if anything's going to be definitive, it's that I will bring something back and then I will come back and I will be able to share those.
And I think that that's like where I think I learned really early on my first climb where I got sick and had to turn around. I was like, my goals have to be different. And I think that a lot of that was releasing the need for the definitive outcomes when it came to these things. Because that's just not how life works, you know.
And I think there was a lot of people that came off climbs like this that they were like already ready to go back. And I'm like, I'm not judging any everyone's different, right? But for me, I was like, huh? I feel okay. I'm at peace. I certainly want to go back, but it's because I feel like there's more to learn to be able to finally put that last couple thousand feet together and put it into play and be more efficient and yada yada. And that's not the time right now.
[00:58:17] Ali: Dude, that is powerful. Releasing the need for a definitive outcome. Just to repeat that. That is powerful because you're so spot on, man. Like humans just get caught up with these laser focus goals.
And I read it really well the other day. How dangerous expectations can be in all facets of life, especially something like summiting Denali, like the expectation to summit.
And so releasing the need for this definitive outcome and just being with the journey.
Ben, this is an epic story. Before we wrap, I want to actually transition this a little bit into your podcast. So you run The Athlete Dad Podcast, which looks awesome. You interview some super cool humans on there.
Just tell us a little bit about that. I have to imagine it blends into everything we just discussed with this adventure.
[00:59:11] Ben: Yeah. Yeah. So I recently spun up The Athlete Dad Podcast. And the idea is that we explore this intersection that we've talked about between physical pursuits and fatherhood. Right.
I actually spun it up out of a moment of desperation around this idea of balance and was like, man, I, I'm not starting this podcast because I have all the answers. I'm starting this podcast cause I need to be able to ask questions at scale. Because boy, do I need some guidance here.
And my hypothesis was that other men must feel this too. This desire to go out and explore these physical pursuits of ours. And I specifically call them physical pursuits as opposed to sports because it can encapsulate a much broader array of ways that we can go outside of our home and challenge ourselves and push ourselves in nature.
But I just felt like there's got to be other people who are out here that feel this innate need to go do this and this is such an important piece of our life. And they've got to be probably doing the like the bringing of the home of the lessons better than I can. Or they're managing balance a lot better.
And so, yeah the idea is that we hear from incredible humans, incredible fathers who also just happened to be doing amazing feats. And what's interesting about these conversations is that, you know, I was talking with a guy named Garrett McNamara, who surfed waves that are like 80 feet tall in a place called Nazare. So the largest waves on earth.
And yet when we dive into these conversations, the thing that I really love is that being a dad is the great equalizer. So even though this guy has surfed a hundred foot wave, you know, all we really dig into and riff on is like the dad life.
And what does it mean to be an athlete that is a dad? What does it mean to model ambition with these pursuits with your kids? How are you trying to achieve that balance? How are you trying to integrate them into your passion? So we remove that distance between the pursuit of our goals and the pursuit of being a great father.
And so it's just been so many rich and meaningful conversations where like every call, I feel like it's like a therapy session for me when I'm just like, yeah. Reminded of what's important and I'm grounded and I'm just getting the opportunity to talk to this, just this incredible human being again. And I always like to say that it's like these incredible dads who just also happen to be the world's greatest, you know, fill in the blank.
And the thing that I think has been a really important reminder coming out of this show is that there's this great story of so many dads doing these amazing things and they have these young kids who have like no context for what their dad has just done and how epic it is or how like how like cool their dad is outside of their house. And their kids love them just because they're dad, right?
Or their kids are almost like annoyed at their like celebrity status of like, it's just dad. Like he's, he's just dad. And I think that has been the most important reminder of everything is that even though we feel this desire to go outside of our home and pursue amazing things, the most important thing always remains the people that are within our home.
And we have this quote that my wife put up on our house and it's like that "the most important work you will ever do is within the walls of this house." And that I think has been a healthy reminder to kind of relinquish some of that anxiety that's maybe associated with, I need to go out and do this and say, well, let me make sure that that the people that I'm leaving behind me to go do these things are the ones that I'm really here serving in these pursuits.
So yeah, long story short, the podcast has been phenomenal. I feel very privileged to talk to these amazing human beings. And we've just finished our first season and are about to start digging into the season two and make some really cool changes to the podcast. But, you can find it at theathletedad. com or on all majors podcast platforms. So.
[01:02:57] Ali: Mm. I love it, dude. Yep. It's an awesome show. One of the things that I want to reflect back that I love about your pathway into this is that it's rooted in curiosity. I see a lot of podcasts that are not rooted in curiosity. They're rooted in other agenda based things.
Like, Oh, well, I do this business in the world, so I should just do a podcast because it's going to give me leads, blah, blah, blah. Whereas you're like, Yo, I want to know how other dads are doing this. Like, I still want to adventure and I still want to be an awesome dad. So how can I learn?
You know, that's very much why I started my podcast. This show we're listening to that's around personal growth, discovery, transformation, which you highlighted in your story. And so I'm a huge fan of you and pursuing this podcast and pursuing these conversations because it's authentic. And I hear that. I feel that from you, dude. It's rooted in curiosity.
I think curiosity is not only a superpower, but it's one of the most beautiful things that can keep us grounded, like you said. When we're naturally curious, we tend to show up as we are. When we let go of that curiosity and we start to become overwhelmed by fear and other, you know, ego based emotions, then we just start doing things that don't really align with who we are.
So I love that. We'll definitely link to the show. And what I'd love to do if you have some space for it is end on a few rapid fire fun questions.
[01:04:28] Ben: Yeah, we'll love it.
[01:04:29] Ali: Yeah, sweet dude. So number one, what's your favorite food?
[01:04:35] Ben: My favorite food. I would say eggs, baby. Eggs and eggs. Here's the kicker though. Eggs with chili crisp sauce. There's nothing better on this earth than an over easy egg with chili crisp on top.
[01:04:49] Ali: Nice.
I too love eggs. In fact, I have a almost unhealthy obsession with egg burritos. I make at least three or four a week. Usually after my 11 a. m. workout , I make an egg burrito, put all types of stuff in there. So I love that answer.
Number two, designed for you, what's your next adventure?
[01:05:11] Ben: Yeah, the next adventure is really exploring my backyard here in Bend, Oregon. And I've already started to do that. We have the beautiful cascade mountain range with all these interesting, unique volcanoes.
And so I actually just climbed middle sister with a dad friend of mine. And talk about releasing definitive outcomes, we just went out there as like a reconnaissance trip, like no idea what's going to be good, you know, might be shitty, might be awesome and ended up summiting and having an amazing time.
And that really just put me in the back country. And you see all these interesting ridge lines on all these other peaks and the mind starts wondering. And so I'm actually really excited to adventure closer to home, more day trips in the cascades around Bend. And specifically too, I want to try to ski off a couple of these summits. So.
[01:05:54] Ali: Very cool, dude. Yes. You live in a beautiful place. We talked about that a few weeks ago. We had an awesome time visiting Bend. And I love that after coming off of something like Denali, you're like, there's so much to explore right in my backyard. So that is cool.
Last question for you, brother. What's one of your favorite childhood memories?
[01:06:15] Ben: You know, one of my favorite childhood memories that that has come up a lot lately is actually around this idea of like the relationship with our kids. So, you know, I think that as dad's oftentimes we feel like we have to be superheroes and design these like amazing perfect moments or like we're going to say we're going to deliver like dad wisdom that's just going to, you know, change their life.
But I think about this moment in particular where when I was a kid I grew up wrestling and that meant that we were driving, like, you know, four hours to the Central Valley in California. And that meant that on the way back it was like driving through the dark with my dad, just talking. And there's nothing out there.
And I just vividly remember sitting in my dad's truck with just the glow of the radio and the headlights on a road in front of us just driving straight for miles and just talking about everything. About life.
And I love that memory as a kid because it kind of reminds us to again that like the most important thing that you can be for your kids is there and present and engaged. And you don't have to be superhero and that they love you because your dad. And my dad did a lot of amazing stuff for us, but it was that moment, those moments that I really appreciate the most.
[01:07:23] Ali: That's real. Wow. I feel the goosebumps of that energy, man. So thank you. That's very real. Just show up. You know, it doesn't always have to be some epic gift or adventure or surprise. Like, just show up. And if you're going to show up, be present. Don't just be in the room, but be present.
And wow, that's so nostalgic. Because I had some beautiful road trips with my family. And you just kind of brought me right back there, brother. So thank you.
And this was a gift. This was an epic story. There was so much wisdom in this. I got to know you better. I'm excited for some future adventures. So I'm going to figure out how to get into your world and be like, yo, let's go do this. Let's climb that. Probably be in Bend sometime soon. Hope to see you at FRD live this year.
So thank you, brother, for being here. Thank you for sharing this. Anything left unsaid?
[01:08:16] Ben: You know, I just want to express my gratitude for you, man. I just love getting to have this conversation with you. I love what you're doing with the podcast. I love the thoughtfulness.
And, you know, you and I had talked a bit offline before we started recording. And you're like, how are you doing? And I'm like, I'm actually pretty stressed right now. But, I wanted to have this conversation 'cause I knew that talking to an amazing human like you was gonna give me energy and ground me and get me right back to where I needed to be.
And so, just wanna express my gratitude to you and, um, I'm excited to keep our own journey as friends and dads going together. So.
[01:08:48] Ali: Mm, thank you brother. I receive that. That is another gift, just shows the quality of human you are. So great words to end. And yes, I hope to see you soon.
Ali is a creator who's passionate about guiding people to their truth. That's a fancy way of saying he wants to help people realize their most authentic life. He's a father, husband, podcaster, blogger, technologist and many other things that inspire him to stay curious and learn. He's also a huge advocate for nature, hiking, adventure, testing physical limits and experiencing the natural world.