Posted by: hikerdude | September 23, 2017

Life Lessons from My Most Recent (Not Last) 14er, An Epilogue

IMG_1066When the end of your journey comes into sight it gives you the energy to finish strong. The hike up and down Mt. Democrat was not that long. It was only about a 4 mile round trip. Nonetheless, I was tired as I neared the end of the hike. However, when the parking lot where my rental car was parked came into sight I felt a renewed energy. There is something about seeing the finish line that will give you a second wind and allow you to “kick it.”

In a few weeks, I will be 59 years old. That seems much younger than it did just a few years ago. 60 Is sneaking up on me. As an attorney, I deal with life tables which estimate your life expectancy. My projected life expectancy is 24.2 years. Of course, that is just an average. I may live to 100 like my Grandmother Pope, or I may not wake up in the morning. However, one thing is certain. My life on this earth is closer to the end today than it was yesterday. Even with all my Dad’s heart problems, he lived until he was 84, so the estimate given by the life table I consulted is likely pretty accurate. There are a lot of things that I still want to and need to do before I go to my heavenly home. I am not trying to be morbid, but there is an uncertain deadline looming over all our lives.

My career has been filled deadlines. As a lawyer, you must keep a very close watch on your deadlines. There are deadlines to file claims, deadlines to respond to motions, deadlines to file briefs, submit evidence and file appeals. I have laughingly said that my epitaph would read, “Deadline to deadline, almost too busy to die on time.” All kidding aside, I don’t want to leave anything important undone when my time comes.

Knowing that the end of my journey is nearing gives me a renewed energy to finish strong. There are many adventures yet to be lived. There are many victims yet for me to help become victors in their legal matters. There are many in conflict I still need to help find peace like a river. There are many men to mentor. There are many joys yet to be shared with my wonderful wife, Terri. There are unborn grandchildren, yet to be spoiled. There are many life lessons I wish to pass on to encourage others who are on this journey with me.

The painting shown here is by Paul Calle, and it is called “Beyond the Ridge – Mountain Men.” There are many searching for the way, and I am like the old mountain man in the painting showing the younger guy the best path to follow. A copy of this print hangs in my office by my rocking chair, reminding me that the end of the journey is in sight, and I need to finish strong (and make sure the wisdom of the mountains is not lost to future generations).

I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts. Until the next inspiring adventure, remember the wise words of G.K. Chesterton, “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”


Posted by: hikerdude | September 20, 2017

Life Lessons from My Most Recent (Not Last) 14er, Part 15


(Someday in Sedona, AZ)

Don’t wait until retirement to start living. May 1st of this year marked 8 years until my full retirement date. I still enjoy practicing law and mediating, and I plan to work beyond my retirement date. However, I will cut back on the caseload and do other things. I love to travel to new and different places. I love to hike in the mountains. So, I look for opportunities to do these things now, even while maintaining a very busy work schedule. Just recently, I shared with a fellow lawyer who started his own firm that he was about to begin work with the hardest boss he ever had. Country lawyers work set hours: from can ‘till can’t. But, it is easier to ask off from work.

Too many people work very hard to be able to enjoy their retirement years, but then don’t have the health to do those things they always wanted to do when “someday” finally arrives. About three years ago, I decided to start enjoying those “Somedays” now. I remember a tee shirt I read a few years ago on the Appalachian Trail saying, “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday…see, there is no Someday on the calendar. The only way Someday gets on your calendar is to put it there. A “Someday” is my own personal holiday, which I celebrate any way I want to, as long as: (1) it is not done at work; (2) it is relational in some way; and (3) it serves to recharge my batteries and revive me. A “Someday” is when you have permission to do all those things you say to yourself, “someday I’ll…” Think of it as a reverse structured retirement. For more about Someday read –…/my-present-the-someday-mo…/

I had done pretty well observing Someday until the first half of this year. My work schedule got pretty crazy, and it was hard to find time for Somedays. But I have become more intentional about carving out those Somedays on my calendar recently. The family vacations at Hilton Head kicked it all off. Then, the Christian conciliators’ retreat and the hike up Mt. Democrat were great Somedays.  A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated a Someday in Athens with just a few other Dawg fans as the college football season began. Then over the Labor Day weekend Terri and I had a Someday with Ashton and David in Atlanta.  Last week, I celebrated a Someday at a Social Security Lawyers’ Conference in Phoenix, along with a side trip to Sedona and a hike to Sunrise Peak. At the end of September, we’ll have another Someday in Raleigh at the Storytelling Festival as we visit with Ashton and David again.

You have heard the old axiom, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Well, there is a remedy for that problem. “If the ax is dull and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success.” Ecclesiastes 10:10 Take time to sharpen the ax by rest, recreation, relationships and revival by declaring a Someday to celebrate these things. I am a firm believer we are to live an abundant life, not a redundant one. What will you do on your next Someday?

Posted by: hikerdude | September 19, 2017

Life Lessons from My Most Recent (Not Last) 14er, Part 14

IMG_2258Be inspired, and become inspiring. There is just something about hiking to a mountain top that is inspiring. The English word “inspire” comes from a compound Latin word, inspiro – in, and spiro – “to breathe.”  So to inspire is to “breathe in.” In the Latin Vulgate translation of the creation story, the word inspiravit is used when it says “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).  You may recognize that spiro is the source for our English word spirit.  I think it would be fair to say that inspiration is essentially a life-giving influence; it is our spiritual CPR! 

Life is hard, and life is short on this fallen earth.  We all need inspiration – whether we get it from the beauty in nature, a great book (the Bible is one of best for this), a memorable quote, a moving movie, a stirring piece of music, a motivational speaker, a revival service, quality time with a loved one or just soaking in God’s presence.  Be inspired, but don’t stop there.

After you breathe in the inspiration, you have to breathe it out.  That is the way breathing works. After you are inspired, be inspiring!  Share it with others.  Pass it on.  Take someone on the journey to inspiration with you.  Or challenge them to do something inspiring on their own, or with others.  Share the beauty of this world with others.  Create a community that is inspired, and encourage that community be inspiring.

Posted by: hikerdude | September 18, 2017

Life Lessons from My Most Recent (Not Last) 14er, Part 13


Make perseverance your superpower.  In recent years, a popular question has been, “If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?”  My answer to that question would be “perseverance.” A common definition of perseverance is continuing a course of action despite discouragement, opposition or previous failure.  It is also persistent determination to adhere to a plan of action or direction.  You don’t hike up a 14er without a certain amount of perseverance.

On my hike up Mt. Democrat, I wore my Nike, Super Lawyers baseball cap.  After practicing law for 33 years, I was honored by Thompson Reuters as one of their 2017 selectees as a Super Lawyer for Georgia.  Only about 5% of the lawyers in Georgia receive this recognition, and this had been a professional goal of mine for several years.  “Nike,” in Greek mythology was the goddess who personified victory. So, it seemed appropriate to have a Nike cap since my firm’s trademarked logo was “Helping Victims Become Victors” between laurel leaves.

Someone had asked me what my superpower was as a Super Lawyer.  I did not think long before I said, “perseverance.”  I have found that this quality has served me well as a mediator and lawyer through the years.  Looking after your clients’ best interests takes time and it can definitely require perseverance.  It takes going into the office on Saturday, late night sessions researching and writing briefs and filing long-shot appeals that eventually pay off.  But without perseverance I would probably not have become a lawyer at all.

I think perseverance is sanctified stubbornness.  God will take a negative unwillingness to change course and sanctifies it so that it becomes a positive unwillingness to give in, give out or give up.  I think Travis Bradberry captured the idea when he tried to describe “grit.”  “Grit is that ‘extra something’ that separates the most successful people from the rest. It’s the passion, perseverance, and stamina that we must channel in order to stick with our dreams until they become a reality.”

I grew up with great influencers in my life.  My parents instilled perseverance in me.  My baseball coaches instilled an “it ain’t over ‘till it’s over” attitude in my life.  And this was necessary when I graduated from undergraduate school a year ahead of schedule and ran into a roadblock in my legal career.  For some reason, I only applied to one law school.  I had good grades and only an average LSAT score, but I only wanted to go to one law school, so why apply to more than one?  Well, I found out why when I was placed on the “wait list.”  That means you don’t get into the law school unless enough people they accept go elsewhere and open up a spot for you.  That did not happen, and I could have quit trying to become a lawyer.

However, I knew in my heart I was supposed to be a lawyer, so I did not give up on my dream.  I worked at City Lumber Company over the next year and developed people skills, learned customer service and matured.  I also retook, the LSAT two more times with only modest improvement in my score. So, having learned my lesson the first go around, I applied to twice as many law schools this time and got “wait listed” by my first choice again, but was accepted at Mercer.  I began at Mercer Law School in 1980, and subsequently ran the gauntlet of 1L, the bar exam and those early associate years. And over 34 years later, I am still persevering in the practice of law.  Your peak performance in any profession or undertaking will require perseverance, just like summiting Mt. Democrat.

Has God place a dream in your heart?  If He truly place it there, He will give you what you need to reach your goal.  Call on your superpower of perseverance, and there is no telling what you can achieve.

Posted by: hikerdude | September 14, 2017

Life Lessons from My Most Recent (Not Last) 14er, Part 12

IMG_2249Take a break.  Rest is a four letter word to many driven, ambitious people.  But on the trail, as it is in life, rest is necessary.  But more than that; rest is good.  It is refreshing.  It enables us to restart our tasks refreshed.  Sometimes we just need a little break to catch our breath, renew our strength and refuel before we recommence our journey.

Revive your body, mind and spirit.  Take a few minutes to recharge your batteries.  Enjoy the view.  Take some pictures to capture the memories.  Celebrate the accomplishments to that point.  Build some relationships as you rest.  Rest is part of the rhythm of life.   I once read about the cycle of the hunter-gathers.  It began with planning the hunt.  Then, you go on the hunt.  Next, you celebrate the hunt.  Finally, you rest from the hunt. And then begin the cycle once again.

In a way, rest may be our supreme act of worship.  It shows that we trust God, because He told us to rest.  God, who made us, gave us the example and instructed us to rest one day in seven.   The Sabbath rest example was shown to us in Genesis 2:2-3, “And on the seventh day God ended the work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” The Sabbath rest command was given to us in Exodus 20:8-9, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work…”  It’s in the owners’ manual, so I think we need to rest appropriately in order to keep ourselves in good running order.

Dr. Richard Swenson says, “Remember the Sabbath rest.  Take back the day.  Stop your work – and stop thinking about your work.  Clear your mind.  Calm your spirit.  Bless the children.  Worship, meditate, pray, nap, walk, enjoy nature.” Can this “work” for us in this busy, industrialized, information-age society?  Ask Chick-Fil-A.  Ask Jesus, who said He would give us rest.  Ask Dr. Swenson.  Sometimes we just need to take a break!

Posted by: hikerdude | September 13, 2017

Life Lessons from My Most Recent (Not Last) 14er, Part 11


Down presents the greater danger.  After you have made it to the summit, you would think the hard part is over and it’s all downhill from here.  It may be counterintuitive, but, on the way down you actually are at greater risk of injury.  There are several reasons.

First, you are more fatigued on the way down.  Your legs are tired and it is much easier for you to lose your footing and fall.  On the way up on the hike up Mt. Democrat I didn’t fall once on the way up.  However, on the way down I slipped or lost my balance two or three times. I never fell all the way down and was able to brace myself with the trekking pole.

Secondly, once you have reached the summit it is easy to try to hurry to get back to the starting point.  That can lead to “coasting” and carelessness, which in turn, can lead to a fall, a much faster descent than you had planned and serious injuries. Slow down and enjoy the journey – the whole journey, both ways.

Thirdly, going down puts a different kind of stress on your knees.  I had conditioned myself better for this hike by running stadium steps for several weeks beforehand, so I did not have the “strained ligament” type pain I had in past trips back down the mountain.

The danger on the way down is a metaphor for life as well.  It is easy to get complacent, careless and deconditioned once you reach a certain mature age in life.  Be vigilant.  Be careful.  And be conditioned.  Enjoy the whole journey…all the way to the end.

Posted by: hikerdude | September 12, 2017

Life Lessons from My Most Recent (Not Last) 14er, Part 10

Encourage the folks going to where you have just been.  I love the Rocky Mountain high you get when you summit a 14er. One of the things that seems to make it last is to encourage folks you meet on their way up as you go back down.  Oftentimes, they are tired and have that “am I ever going to get there” look on their face.  I try to offer these fellow travelers encouragement in the form of, “the hard part is behind you; you’re almost there”; or “keep going, it is so worth it!”

Charles Swindoll wrote, “Encouragement is awesome.  It has the capacity to lift a man’s or woman’s shoulders.  To spark the flicker of a smile on the face of a discouraged child.  To breathe fresh fire into the fading embers of a smoldering dream.  To actually change the course of another human being’s day, week, or life… Consistent, timely encouragement has the staggering magnetic power to draw an immortal soul to the God of hope.*** I know of no one more needed, more valuable, more Christ-like, than the person who is committed to encouragement.” Encourage Me, pp. 89- 90 (Zondervan 1993).

It takes courage to live the abundant life, and courage comes from the heart.  In fact, the very word “courage” comes from the Latin word cor, which means “heart.”  This is where we get our English word “coronary.”  To be discouraged is to be disheartened.   To encourage someone is to give heart to them.  Do you know someone just about ready to give up today?   Infuse them with courage by sharing an encouraging word with them today.

My cell phone ring tone has been from the Tobymac song, “Speak Life.” It comes from the Scripture 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  You have the ability to speak life into someone else’s life (or death).  Speak life!  Speake words that give heart, not take it away.

I learned encouragement from my Dad, who was an amazing encourager.  The world is full of discouraging people, events and circumstances.  Help someone along their long, hard journey with some encouraging words today.  It is a priceless gift that costs you nothing but a brief moment of your time and a little breath.

Posted by: hikerdude | September 11, 2017

15 Life Lessons from My Most Recent (Not Last) 14er, Part 9


Don’t settle for a mediocre life.  About half-way up Mt. Democrat, I was a little tired.  I stopped at the saddle between Mt. Democrat and Mt. Cameron.  I took a break to eat a snack, drink some water and enjoy the view.  At that time, a little voice suggested that I had gone far enough, and I should settle for where I was, rather than push myself to finish the climb.  No one would know I did not finish if I didn’t tell them.  But I had heard the seductive sirens’ song of settling for mediocrity before, and so I ignored it.  I rested long enough to revive my mind, body and spirit, so that I was ready to continue the upward climb.

Did you know the word “mediocre” literally means “halfway up a stony mountain?” Mountain top experiences just cannot be experienced half-way up the mountain!  We must overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of our upward ascent.  We usually think of mediocre in terms of average quality.  Although some dictionaries accept the meaning of this word as “medium” or “average,” in fact its connotations are almost always more negative. When something is distinctly not as good as it could be it is mediocre.  It has been described as the best of the worst and the worst of the best.

I once heard a sermon where the preacher said there were three kinds of people: settlers, quitters and climbers.  Some people will settle for mediocrity half-way up the mountain.  For them, good enough is good enough.  Others will quit somewhere along the way to their goals in life.  Once they quit, they will coast all the way back to their beginning point, never putting forth the hard effort to attain their goal again.  Finally, there are the climbers.  They will never give in, give out, or give up.  I want to be a climber, how about you?  Up ain’t easy, but it is certainly worth it.  The view from the summit always surpasses the view from the saddle. Unfulfilled potential is a burden I am unwilling to bear.  A summit smile is missing from those willing to settle for mediocrity. Commit to continue the climb and reject mediocrity!

Posted by: hikerdude | September 10, 2017

15 Life Lessons from My Most Recent (Not Last) 14er, Part 8


Don’t let comparison suck the joy out of your journey!  There are all kinds of people who hike up 14ers.  There are young couples, groups of all ages, parents with young children, older individuals, people who live in Colorado (and are used to living about 1+ miles above sea level) and trail lawyers, like me, from the east coast (more accustomed to oxygen levels at about 1000 feet above sea level).  This was not my first 14er, so I was prepared to have other people pass me on the way up.  Earlier on, when I first started hiking in Colorado, that used to bother me – a lot.  However, I came to realize I was not in a race and to try to compare my pace to younger, more fit, or just other people from the area did nothing to enhance my experience.  In fact, I found that if I was not careful comparison could completely suck the joy out of my journey.  Teddy Roosevelt shared in this sentiment when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Comparison and competition seem to thrive in our cities.  But out in nature, over time I have found contemplation cooperation are much better companions.  One of the reasons I venture out into nature is to escape the rat race (the rats are winning, by the way) and the crab bucket way of living (where the crabs climb on top of their companions to escape their confines).  When I begin to breathe that Alpine air I am looking to slow down and enjoy the beauty in my journey.  I want to walk slowly and not only experience the beauty, but I want to capture it along the way.  I am more of a plodder than a track star.  That’s OK.  That’s who I am – a picture-taking plodder pondering the grandeur of the mountain peaks.  Put this plodder on the slopes of a beautiful, high mountain, and I’ll be a happy guy because I am blessed right where I am.

God made each of us unique.  We are all one-of-kind masterpieces.  No one else in the whole world can be a better you than you.  Embrace your uniqueness.  Maria Goff says it well in her book, Love Lives Here, when she says, “We all have something we are good at.  Figure out what it is and celebrate it.  Value what you are good at and you’ll understand more about yourself.  Find your worth and you’ll find your release from comparison…We weren’t created to fit in; we were made to stand apart.”

Are you letting comparisons suck the joy out of your journey?  Quit trying to keep up with the Jones’!  It’s exhausting, and that’s not who God made you to be.  Be yourself, and be the best you possible.  The world needs a lot more of that and a lot less comparison.

Posted by: hikerdude | September 9, 2017

15 Life Lessons from My Most Recent (Not Last) 14er, Part 7


Be willing to re-chart your course when you get off the trail. Most of you have some sort of GPS on your phone, whether it is Google Maps, Apple Maps or something else. If you miss a turn, you will hear a voice say, “recalculating.”  At that moment, your course is being re-charted.  Sometimes, this is what we need to do in our lives when we take a wrong turn, or stay straight when we fail to make a turn.  However, guys will sometimes just increase their speed going in the wrong direction faster – getting more and more lost.

There were several times on my hike up Mt. Democrat I accidently got off the trail.  Right at the beginning as I left the trail head, I started blazing my own trail across a stream.  I thought it was a rather precarious path as I had to really had to stretch out to reach the “stepping stones” to cross the stream.  After reaching the other side, I looked to my right and saw other people on the main path starting their hike without near the “water hazard” I had just crossed.  My slightly damp feet would be a reminder to try to stay on the trail the remainder of my hike.

The first half of the hike, it was pretty easy to stay on the well-marked trail.  However, the second half was a different story.  After leaving the saddle between Mt. Democrat and Mt. Cameron, much of the trail was across a scree field.  This is an area of rocks that cover the slope of the mountain and the trail can be easily lost as you navigate your footing across them.  A couple of times, I looked up ahead and saw other hikers who were on the trail and it was clear that I had meandered off the trail.  At that point, I did a course correction and re-calculated how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.  One thing about hiking up a 14er, if you ever get off the trail or get lost, you can just keep going UP to the summit (but it is easier and safer if you stay on the trail).  If you are just pushing forward with your head down trying to watch your step and not stumble, occasionally it is a good idea to take a longer range view to make sure you are still on the path you intended to take.  What is true on a mountain trail is true in life as well. If you have strayed from the trail, just re-calculate and re-chart your course.  Take a moment and think about where you are in life.  Is it where you intended to be?  If not, re-chart your course, find your way back to the right path.  Then, continue the climb.

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