On Zipling and Customer Support: What Two Passions Can Learn From Each Other

The sun danced through the wise, old trees as the familiar ‘ziiiiiip’ hummed all around me. In my head I did a quick check. I had sent four people across the cable and had four more brave soles huddled on a platform around the trunk of our tree 100 feet above the safe, sturdy ground. I followed the caribiners and webbing anchored from the trunk to the harness of my next zipliner and looked in to her eyes, smiled, and said ‘How about it?’.

Sometimes that would be met with an eager ‘Hell yeah!’, sometimes a quiet nod and fairly often a look of ‘why did I ever let you take me up here?’.

That moment where you connect, trust, and move forward together is why I’ve felt called to guide through out the last couple years. This has looked like guiding ziplining trips in the Tongass rainforest, climbing mountains in Colorado or kayaking in the Northwest. Currently, it looks like being a Happiness Hero for customers at Buffer. I think these adventures are quite one in the same in terms of the fulfillment I receive!

I see guiding as taking something you really love and enjoy and helping people, if they’d like, get to that same place.

With Buffer I like to think about it a bit broader than helping people go on that one time adventure, like ziplining might be, and focus more on teaching people to move from their call for adventure to planning, preparing and setting off on their own trip. Perhaps something like moving from ‘It would be cool to have a way to tweet overnight’ to ‘I’m going to use the power scheduler in Buffer to share this blog post four different times and hit different audiences’.

I’ve also found that a number of lessons aren’t exclusive to mountaintops or rivers. I’ve seen that listening can prevent things from snowballing — listening to the darkening clouds peeking over that ridge line as well as the tweets coming in reporting a similar bug. I’ve learned how remaining fully engaged can be a powerful tool for connection— whether that’s looking someone in the eye as you hold them on a cable in the sky or emailing a customer back as you would an old friend. I remind myself to be humbled often as the learning goes both ways— the unadultured giggle of someone getting splashed in the face by a wave on the river reminds me to stay passionate as does the very, very kind and excited emails from customers as they just discovered a tool that frees up half their day.

Listening, full engagement and humility feel like really powerful ways to connect with people and teach on how to feel comfortable with Buffer. I by no means get these right all the time and feel lucky to have encouragement as I work on these skills.

As I write about all of this, I’m curious if anyone else has pretty different passions that are driven by similar motives? While helping someone rock climb for the first time looks a bit different than walking someone through connecting their twitter profile to Buffer, I feel driven by hopefully opening up a whole new world to people(sorry Aladdin).

Giving Thanks — Lessons from a big, dumb dog

Gnawing away on the leg of a long forgotten animal, Bobo really isn’t much different than most of us on Thanksgiving day. Focused on the deer leg before him, he has zeroed in. The rest of the world does not exist. That is until suddenly — snap—Shredder has come pouncing out of the woods and enticed Bobo to join him in one of their favorite dog activities, looking out at the land.

Sitting at the top of his hill, Bobo stares out into the distance as he watches over what he most certainly thinks is all his. Similar to how the polar bears must be starting to feel, Bobo is a giant splash of white in an otherwise brown and green landscape. He yawns. Rolls over. Squirms in the grass to get that one impossible to reach scratch. Stands up.

Now, this place he sits to watch upon his kingdom just happens to be in front of the biggest window in the house. After taking turns narrating Bobo’s thoughts, I hop outside to give him some love. He slowly makes his way over, as to not seem too eager, but nudges right into you so there is no mistaking what he wants. As I reach down to pet Bobo he flops onto the ground, never letting his eyes leave me. Bobo is happy.


As I wander over to the volleyball court Bobo follows me. He joins one of the teams as their 7th member, taking up more space than each person. Unaware of the volleyball speeding above him, Bobo makes the rounds to each person — just to check on them. Realizing he is not the center of attention, Bobo makes his way back to coveted deer leg.

Sitting down to return to the moment where he started, Bobo is once again fully engaged in his deer leg. As I sit down on the couch to check my email, attempt to Skype a friend, watch college basketball, write this very blog post, I’ve been certain about the fact that I think Bobo is big and lovable. Uncertain, entirely, about where I was going with this blog post. The contrast between Bobo and me, however, comes down to Bobo’s single track mind. And now, for the holidays, I’m determined to take a lesson from Bobo. The best way to give thanks is to give each moment, each person, each deer leg, the time it deserves.

The Hummingbird

I think Hummingbirds are really fascinating. Their heart can beat twenty times per second and is so stinkin’ teeny tiny. For their size though, Hummingbird’s hearts are quite big.  Hummingbirds can dive at 60 miles per hour and they can fly backwards. They work so hard to exist. They also suffer from heart attacks more than I expected.

I’m not trying to inspire you guys to become hummingbirds, rather I want to inspire through their biggest imperfection—their heart.


One of the hardest things in the world is to be vulnerable—just kind of strip everything away and lay your emotions, your heart, out on the table.

It is something I am working on myself. It’s terrifying but I think being vulnerable is the best way to create genuine connections and let you really be seen. It takes courage and willingness to let those people in but it also liberates others to feel like they can open up their world to you. Whether it is admitting you don’t know how to do something but would like to learn or sharing a feeling with someone that you haven’t quite worked out yourself, being vulnerable allows for opportunity.

You can’t pick and choose what you feel or numb certain feelings with a six pack of beer or an entire pint of ice cream. When you mute certain emotions, you mute all of them and it’s these vulnerabilities that make you beautiful.  Being able to embrace and own those tough parts of your life is what allows you to feel things wholeheartedly

So, let your heart beat fast and hard to keep up with you. Put it to work and feel every beat inside your chest because if by chance it does fail at least you’ll know, like a hummingbird, you gave it everything you had.

Thrive, Don’t Just Survive

BITING DOWN on an oversized mouthful of sunflower seeds I peeked back at my dad wondering how he spit out just one seed at a time. Giving up in this new skill, as it was as useless as trying to figure out exactly who assassinated President Kennedy. I dunked my fingertips into the cool clear water of the Buffalo River. Abandoning my paddle because we both knew I was only pretending, I joined my hands and clapped along as my dad became John Denver belting “Rocky Mountain High”.

SETTLED INTO a comfortable rhythm, my mom and I slowly wound our way up Schweitzer Mountain. Communicating through a silent telepathy we stopped as my mom pointed out a single flower sprouting from a field of mangey three leaf clovers, the red and yellow popped from the sea of green. Reaching up toward the sun like a yogi in warrior pose the red pedals cupped the yellow pollen as if it were the last drop of earthly water. Taking in the flower we continued up our path, drinking plenty of water of course.

1. Yoga on the trail up Dude Mountain. 2. On a boat in the Misty Fjords. 3. Family in Ketchikan, AK. 4. Ellen and I were feeling Sluggish. 5. Jenna and me looking toward San Francisco from Angel Island.

TURNING OVER in my warm cacoon of a sleeping bag, I looked outside to see Jenna and Luke brewing coffee. If the smell wasn’t enough to help me shed my cacoon, the company was. Joining my sister and brother-in-law on our claimed side of Angel Island we took in the view of the sun rising over the barges in the Pacific Ocean. Admiring the strength of the tug boats, we packed up our bags and headed out along the trail.

“KOBY! COME!” Sara hollered at her goofy black dog as he leapt across the field almost out of sight. In a flash he was back, back at her side. Sitting in the shadows of the mountains in Breckenridge, we took turns throwing Koby a chewed up tennis ball. Recovering from an ACL tear, my sister looked up at the snowy slopes the same way I look at a Chipotle burrito. Off her skis, only for the moment, she had Koby to romp around in the snow with.

STOPPING TO catch my breath I saw Ellen way above me, leaping along the trail with the giggle of a kid being chased during tag. After years of taking insufficient mental polaroids in order to divulge my passion for the mountains to my sister, I no longer had to try. Our feet were sharing the same high soil and our hair was being brushed by the same mountain air. Besides its unavoidable attachment to the Big Lebowski, this mountain–Dude Mountain–will always stick out in my roladex of mountains because it was my first shared with Ellen. And she finally understood.

What my family has taught me is to surround yourself with people who challenge you, people that make you better. People that teach you the importance of sunflower seeds on canoe trips, communication through silence on a hiking trail, the joy of drinking coffee with the sunrise, the happiness and friendship of a loyal dog, and to never forget that mountains are the playground for adults.

These memories with my family members are all outside because I think it is then that we are all out best self. While these are the people that have shaped me, its been the mountains that have taught me what to do with that.

So what is it that makes me thrive? I suppose it’s not solely the gigantic tectonic plates waging war on each other in order to make me smile. Or the security of knowing the mountains will always uphold the basic moral principles I aspire to. What makes me thrive is being that person to others that my family is to me. Perhaps my logic is dangerously reminiscent of  the proud drivers who slap “Jesus Saves” onto their back bumper with rigid belief, but I’ve always felt a heavy sense of duty to open peoples eyes to the majesty of the mountains.

India: Chello

There was no deafening gunshot reverberating off the stadium walls. There was no irritating buzzer to encourage the drones. It was simple really. At 7:30 a firm “go!” sliced through the crowd. Nothing extravagant but it got the job done, fitting of the India I had just spent three months taking in.

The stationary feet were now quite mobile and the Delhi half marathon had officially begun. I looked to my left to get that goofy reassuring grin from Jack, then over to my right at Jesse who was still unsure about what we’d gotten ourselves into. We’d shared many trails over the last couple months, we’d shared seats on a raft, we’d shared packed jeeps winding up mountain roads, we’d even shared preferred trowel techniques; now we were about to share another experience that would try and test our ability.

Jesse, me and Jack before the race

Our semester NOLS course had just come to an end two days prior, placing us in Delhi just in time for the city half marathon. While we’d spent months in the mountains we hadn’t been running and none of us had even run half of the distance we were trying for that day. Runner Magazine had nothing on us though—I couldn’t have asked for better training.

Through my time in India I had been connecting the dots between physical and mental endurance. I saw it in my friends who strapped on a pack for the very first time and walked into the Himalaya. I saw it in the people who lived in the mountains we passed through. I saw it from the mother of my home stay, donning grass, child and goat on her back in unison. I even saw it from the earth as massive boulders clenched to the steep mountainsides like that last baby tooth unwilling to fall from your gums.

Maybe we hadn’t been hitting the pavement but I had been hit with something much stronger. India had become more than just a place where gigantic tectonic plates waged war on each other in order to challenge me.

Our single goal for the race was to run it in its entirety—never walk. I’m proud to say, as my throbbing toes and knees could attest, we all met that goal. 21 kilometers later and Jack, Jesse and I were all still standing. The thought of that kind of distance before my trip would have just made me laugh in disbelief. Now however it wasn’t even a question. I was certain in our ability because of our determination, our grit.

While our fellow runners didn’t know what to think of the three westerners chanting NOLS around kilometer 5, or why we began offering feedback to everyone around kilometer 10 or even why we apologized to LNT every time we threw the water bottles to the ground, they knew we were giving 100%.

            As I crossed the finish line, Jack, Jesse and I looked at each other trying to understand how we just passed the last two hours. We were giddy, we were ecstatic and we could hardly move without our muscles screaming at us. Maybe the three of us would fall asleep in a rickshaw in the middle of Delhi later that day but in that moment, at that time, I felt alive.

India: Namaste

Stepping off the plane in Seattle, I was overwhelmed. Face to face with a Christmas tree, I had honestly forgotten it was that time of year. The trees, the television monitors, the cell phone service, the bag and bags and bags, they were all getting to me. Really though I was overwhelmed by what was missing. I was no longer in constant company with the same fourteen people, I no longer had people watching my every move (as staring is a national sport for Indians) and I no longer had people overly eager to communicate. I was back in America.

As the overwhelming waves have settled a week later I’m still struggling to decide how I can possibly share my experience in India. Disconnected for most of my trip I’ve been left with the task of trying to deconstruct three months to my family and friends in just one sitting.

As every interaction starts in India, I’m going to start this with

Winding through a maze of stone wall, we walked through a gateway and into a backyard that would impact us all differently. A backyard full of giggles, childhood games and endless exchange of charades to communicate. Sitting with “grandma”, “mom” and Imesh we swapped smiles, understanding, eye drops and sunglasses.

Besides the physical lenses being shared, a new perspective was placed in front of me. Two hours went by with a barrier of language being crushed, beaten down, destroyed. Words turned out to be just that–words. We had meaningful conversation regardless.

A couple days later we trailed the family out of their village, Martoli, as they headed out of the mountains for the winter. Each with only one bag tied to their body and the goat plodding along they went on their way. India is a country that never rests; the cars keep honking, the porters keep marching, the cows keep roaming. Living in a country that is so jammed pack you become limited to jut the necessities. Whatever it is you can carry on your back. Watching this family descend deeper into civilization with just the necessities inspired me.

I can be sustainable with just the items on my back. 

A Pirates Life for Me

Shaking uncontrollably in the frigid waters of the Atlantic while clutching onto a doorframe and staring into the eyes of Leonardo DiCaprio is where I thought I was headed when I rolled through lane four and boarded my ferry back to the mainland. While I was going to be traversing the Pacific and the men on my ferry were more reminiscent of Alan Arkin, my eyes remained glued forward ready to alert the Captain of any and every iceburg that might stand in our way.

Luckily my attentiveness yielded more results than the realization that iceburgs don’t exist this far south. Armed with the full series of Planet Earth on DVD, I set my laptop on the window sill and pretended my screen was the happenings of the world in front of me. This lasted for a good 15 minutes until I looked past the screen and realized I had the Discovery Channel live all around me.

Perhaps it is a consequence of growing up in the land locked Show-Me State, but the ocean is a fascinating world. My ferry was a two day jaunt from Ketchikan, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington and now that I have my feet on solid ground I want to go back! The photos below were taken along the way–as I somehow managed to escape the fate of Rose Dawson.

Better than a door frame.

Ideal place to spend the night.

Goodbye Ketchikan!

Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.

Inspiration to speak Whale:

The colors!

The mainland!