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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).

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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.

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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.

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.