What is your 'Dawn Wall?'
On Wednesday, January 14th, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson reached the summit of El Capitan's Dawn Wall -- a quest that included years of planning and that many considered the most challenging rock climb in the world. The event was chronicled in countless newspapers and magazines. The New York Times ran an article entitled Pursuing the Impossible, and Coming Out on Top.
I remain in awe of, and inspired by, this near-magical feat. Not only did it capture my imagination; it has become a metaphor for living -- certainly, for me and, possibly, it can be for you, too.
One of the climbers, Kevin Jorgeson said of the achievement: "I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall. We've been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context."
Jorgenson's comment touches something I sense is universal in all of us: the belief that our lives can have an impact beyond the everyday tasks and challenges we face.
What is my Dawn Wall?
I've asked myself that question many times, since reading about this amazing feat. What is that outsized goal I aspire to achieve that will stand as a milestone of my life?
Sometimes, at two O'clock in the morning, I imagine having helped thousands of young people -- kids in high school and college -- get a clear handle on who they are (and are not) so they consciously make better academic choices, pick the right extracurricular activities and majors, and find truly worthy friends, before they make painful, often avoidable, mistakes.
Dawn walls are deeply personal, often private, and always powerful in their ability to motivate. They thrive on vision, patience, planning, determination, passion, and resilience.
Where do you start?
Some people know what their Dawn Wall is. Others don't have a clue. Speaking of clues, they're there. You will find them lurking in the slivers of time that punctuate the night when you can't sleep. They also show up at 35,000 feet when you're staring out a plane window into the vastness of the sky.
Clues to your Dawn Wall can be found in many places. They can be found in things that make you indignant or feel outraged, because something you feel strongly about -- chronic poverty, needless illness, nursing home residents who still yearn to be heard - just isn't right and needs to be fixed.
Clues also can be unearthed in things that open up rivers of joy, which race through your veins. For example, you have a deep love of classical music and want to devote time and energy to ensuring that your local community orchestra survives, not just this year but for years to come. You thrive on adventures in nature, and resolve to lead annual excursions into semi-wild terrain for young people eager to explore the world.
Dawn walls tug at you deep inside. They simply won't let go. Whatever your Dawn Wall is, find it. It holds the key to your purpose -- why you're here, why you matter.
You can argue that summiting El Capitan hardly captures the essential purpose of these two mens' lives. I would agree. Perhaps, as Kevin Jorgeson stated, their less-obvious purpose was to give us all something that would shake us up, wake us up, so that we might -- as Teddy Roosevelt wrote -- "dare greatly" and, in turn, make a mark that inspires others to do the same.
What is your Dawn Wall? Share your story at the