Steier Family with Aaron Ralston.JPG

This past week, my family and I had a chance to spend some time with Aron Ralston when he came to town.

Now, your first response might be, “Who?”

But he is one of the most famous survivors in U.S. history because he was the young man who had to cut off his own arm with a butter knife, after 127 hours pinned deep in a Utah cavern, with no chance of ever being found! I remember like yesterday when the national news broke back in 2003 because it just made all of us think, “What? Could I? That is crazy!” Some questioned the story, but it was the absolute truth!

Yeah, there was a best-selling book called ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place,’ and then an Academy Award-winning movie called ‘127 hours,’ with James Franco as the main character. Aron became famous for something that he never wanted to happen because he was a loner – traveled alone, and often hiked alone – and this is why no one was around for miles to help.

Anyway, my children hung on every word, staying around to talk with him privately because they were so moved. I wanted to share the takeaways that made it an amazing message to process.

‘Boulders to Blessings’ – by Aron Ralston

First, he had accountability (and so do we) for what happened to him because he chose to tell no one! And for where we are, and the life we choose, it was really about our own free will. Many try to find excuses and blame others; he wanted you to accept accountability as the starting point.

Second, everyone has been ripped apart physically, mentally or spiritually with their own boulders. But if we look at what comes from it, they are blessings. It hit a raw nerve with the parents because there is always deep pain from life’s journey for all of us – I know I carry mine – but the survivors find beauty and deeper connection to others because of it.

Third, your “will to live” dies in a few days, as he talked about that will dying after four days. But your “will to love,” express it and make things right is why he got out, and that never dies! So the more we can love, the stronger life force we are and the harder it is to ever kill us off.

Fourth, he was an engineer and thought pragmatically, early on in the encounter. He looked at every angle but still missed the obvious: the rock was stronger than bone and he could have snapped it early against the rock, but he did not see this until the final two hours. Most of our mistakes are in our planning stage, so remember master scenario planning as a leadership skill because you can’t will everything to work!

Fifth, we really do not have it that bad compared to what could happen to us at any one instant, so be grateful and live with gratitude daily! He lost his arm and survived a horrific accident but found a deeper journey.

Sixth, there is a deep survival instinct in our DNA that we may think we don’t have but we all do, and that’s the insatiable will to exceed what we never thought possible. It’s liberating to know this. Think about how many tests you survived that you never thought you could, and most of them are unplanned events that rock our worlds.

Seventh – for children – always tell your parents where you are or where you are going. Because despite all of his ordeal, it was his mother’s search, email spying, checking phone and bank records, and engagement of public rescue resources that ultimately saved him, which was a miracle.

Eighth – right before he thought he would die, God gave him a vision of a son playing next to him, which he felt a connection to. This new purpose made Aron wake back up because there was still a life to live. God’s vision became true when Aron became a father several years later, and the vision gave him the mental strength to make the painful amputation as his only option to see it through.

Ninth, there is nothing like family. It was his strength in the end, something he did not truly appreciate enough while he reflected for 127 hours with unbearable pain, but knowing he needed to show them the love they deserved. And this is true for all of us, most of the time.

Lastly, we can overcome any handicap or limitations because Aron, with an artificial arm, did climb Colorado’s over 50 ‘fourteeners’ solo years later (first person ever), along with every other major climb in the world, setting the example to never say you can’t do something, because we can.

My children now have a new friend…he made all of them part of his rich journey.