Ski Patrol

Happiness Comes From Helping Others

Mark Suster wrote a great post yesterday called “Life is 10% How You Make It and 90% How you Take It” and it’s definitely worth a read for anyone doing the entrepreneurial thing.

He talks about how “happiness has to be a state of mind” and how “you need to constantly remind yourself to be happy whatever your life’s circumstances.”

I was thinking about this a lot over the past two days. The idea of “happiness” and what it really takes to be “happy” – a sort of corollary to Mark’s post. And I couldn’t help think about one of my most serious rescue incidents on Ski Patrol.

It was my first year “cut loose” on mount snow’s ski patrol, which meant I was able to go out on codes (which are reports of an injury or incident) and provide emergency medical care to guests. I didn’t have to shadow any of the seasoned ski patrollers. I had passed my certifications, was approved by senior patrollers to respond to codes, and was now ready to handle situations on my own.

It was Saturday. Sunny, blue skies, with a temp of about 35 degrees. I was wearing my new, fresh, red ski patrol jacket with a white cross on the back, had all my medical equipment in a pack strapped around my waist, and was sporting my new Burton snowboard. I decided to take a run down the front side of the mountain on the “Standard” trail (this ski trail runs directly under one of the main ski lifts). About half way down the trail and towards the top of the ski lift, I approached a group of people huddling around what seemed to be a small person laying on the ground. I quickly sped up on my snowboard and as I got closer, I could see that there was a person in a blue jacket performing CPR on a young boy who was about 12 years old. There were about 10 other people huddling around the boy and meanwhile, there were hundreds of people passing above us from the chairlift, with their eyes now peeled on the ski patroller and the boy on the ground.

The person in the blue jacket quickly identified himself as a doctor (ironically enough, many doctors are never fully trained as first responders and never get experience with emergency situations. This doctor was one of them). Witnesses told me the boy tried jumping off of a log unsuccessfully, fell back, and hit his head on the log. He was not wearing a helmet, became unconscious and stopped breathing.

Within seconds of my arrival, the boy began breathing again but was still unconscious. I performed a quick assessment, took his vitals and stabilized his neck. I radioed in (as a code 3 – the most serious of codes) for additional personnel and equipment, specifically needing a backboard, neck collars, oxygen, and suction (in case the boy started to throw up while still unconscious). I requested a helicopter to transport him to a hospital and within minutes, a helicopter was put in the air en route to the mount snow airport.

About 1 minute after I called for extra hands and equipment, 3 more patrollers were on the scene helping me package, stabilize and transport the boy off the hill. We put him in a sled and I quickly snowboarded him down the mountain and into the doctor’s office. As soon as we got him off the mountain, we put him in an ambulance that was already waiting for us, shut the doors, and watched the ambulance take off to meet the helicopter for transport.

The boy’s fate was now out of my control. I had no idea what was going to happen to him and didn’t know if my actions helped or hurt his chances of survival. That night was tough for me and I can’t imagine how tough it must have been for his parents.

The next day, I returned to the mountain to patrol and at about 1:00pm I got a phone call at the summit rescue building.

It was the doctor who treated the boy on his way out with the ambulance. He said that the boy had suffered major head trauma and that his fate could have gone either way, but as a result of my actions and that of my team, the boy was going to be ok.

I realized at that moment that true happiness comes from helping others. The bigger impact you make on someone else’s life, the happier you will be, and the happier they will be.

Win, win.

Picture of me and my daughter, Michaela.

Shaun White is Crazy Committed to Gold

Two years ago I was volunteering on ski patrol at the Winter Dew Tour at Mount Snow, Vermont.

I was stationed at the top of the super pipe for the men’s half-pipe competition, but my shift was for the practice session. There were a handful of competitors and they were all mostly between the ages of 15-30. One of those competitors happened to be Shaun White.

I remember sitting there thinking, “Damn, these guys just snowboard all day, every day, for a living and soak up all the media attention during events.”

Then I saw Shaun White walk up to the top of the pipe. I remember thinking, “this dude is going to crank on some tunes, have a couple of red bulls, BS with the cute mount snow employees and tear up the half-pipe with ease….”

But when he got to the top, I quickly realized I was wrong, mostly.

Once at the top, he simply sat down in a chair (barely making any hellos), strapped on his board, and dropped in the pipe for one of the most ridiculous run’s I’ve ever seen live.

When he finished that run, he came back up to the top and did the same thing. Said almost nothing to anyone and dropped in for a second run. He did this maybe 2 more times after that.

Meanwhile, all the other competitors were goofing around, talking to the fans and soaking up the media attention.

Well, this week Shaun White won a repeat Olympic Gold Medal in Vancouver and I imagine he did it with the same style I saw at the Dew Tour.

Total concentration.

No BS.

No Games.

Dead committed to be the very best at what he does.

Props to Shaun.

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Glorified Plumbers

Emergency medical technicians evacuating an in...
Image via Wikipedia

I always thought I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger. I joined the National Ski Patrol at age 14 (EMT on a snowboard), attended a National Youth Leadership forum on Medicine, signed up for Biomedical Engineering in college, sat in on 3 open heart surgeries (thanks to my uncle who is an electrophysiologist), and set out on a path to
becoming Dr. Reich.

Now while I have THE utmost respect for doctors, above every single profession (most of my family are just that..and builders), I realized one day that doctors were nothing more than glorified plumbers.

(Before you say how absurd that comment is, please continue reading)

As I got older, gained some experience and business intuition, it just became clear to me that being a doctor was limited in growth potential. My earnings and output would be tied to a fixed amount of patients or hours, unless I pursued tangent endeavors. If I was going to become a doctor, I wanted to do just that and not become some medical adviser for a television station, movie consultant, etc for additional income.

When I told my parents I didn’t want to be a glorified plumber they laughed with discerning looks on their faces.

“A doctor is by no means a plumber. Are you fu$!ng crazy?”

I didn’t think I was crazy at the time and still don’t now.

I am currently reading The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (have to see what all of this hype is about), and while most of this book is fairly obvious, what he wrote did however validate all of my “doctor” thoughts:

“Some professions, such as dentists, consultants, or massage professionals cannot be scaled: there is a cap on the number of patients or clients you can see in a given period of time….

If you are an idea person, you do not have to work hard, only think intensely. You do the same work whether you produce a hundred units or a thousand. In quant trading, the same amount of work is involved in buying a hundred shares as in buying a hundred thousand, or even a million. It is the same phone call, the same computation, the same legal document, the same expenditure of brain cells, the same effort in verifying that the transaction is right.”

The profession is not, as Nassim puts it, “scalable”.

Thank you Nassim. Case closed (at least for me).

What other jobs are scalable? What jobs aren’t?

Disclosure: I believe serving and helping others is THE very best thing a person can do, and there is no real way around this other than being a “glorified plumber”. This will be my 8th consecutive season volunteering or “glory plumbing” for Mount Snow Rescue. I will be volunteering this weekend for the AST Dew tour competition.

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