Richard Delaney on location at Smith Rock Oregon.

“Something is brewing from the west”… sounds like a tale from Lord of the Rings.  Well, that isn’t to far from the truth.  As I woke up this morning… hot coffee with my Laird Superfood in hand, my mood was somewhat whimsical.  I have large window to my left… open space, trees blowing… ice everywhere!  My thoughts drifted back to years prior.  Reminiscing on dreams, visions, purpose and to some degree… a decomposing soul,  I wasn’t as much lost as I was in a state of  discontent with a view of things I didn’t understand.  However,  one thing I did know… I wasn’t made to sit around and do things that didn’t make a difference.  I am made to build and create.

I came into this industry not because I wanted to.  I didn’t really fall into it as much as it fell into me.  Being a pharmaceutical rep for many years taught a number of things.  One of those “things” was that boredom will suck the very soul from you if you don’t fight for something larger than yourself. My days were numbered… I lost the “work ethic”.  I honestly didn’t even know “work ethic” was a term, much less lose it. This loss is in epidemic proportions in our culture and young people today.

Reed Thorne and Glenn Speight during our filming of Tower Rescue for Emergency Responders

Now… A note of revelation…  Unbeknownst to me was that I was bored for something unique to me.  See, I actually did care about “something”, but the nice clothes, clout, authority,car, house… none of that mattered much.   If felt like bee wanting to pollinate but working in a neutered field… nothing I did really mattered.  I and every other “drug rep” were simply a people conducting business at drop off points.  No one really cared about the scientific breakthroughs I was bringing them. “Just leave the samples on the counter and the doctor will sign for them when he is finished with his patient… thanks for coming by”.

My path then veered into selling computer applications for mainframe computers (what the heck is a mainframe right?)… I regained something I lost.  My “work ethic”.  See a friend hired me and “something” told me.. I’d better shine here or I am SOL (S@#$ Out of Luck).  Well, luck has nothing to do this.  We are created to do amazing and crazy things.  Not for ourselves, but for others.  We are made to bring favor to others by offering our gifts to those that need them.  A quick backstory to this.  I am an exercise physiologist by trade and because I didn’t understand computers, I had to translate what computer performance gains were by translating them to physiological terms first.  What I spoke to the customers about, was not at all what I saw in my head.  Two separate conversations going on at the same time.  This will be important in later years as I realized I could not describe what I wanted to do without understanding the imprint of something else in my own head and soul.

A life shift on Wy’east … A blue sky turned ugly.  Two friends and I, were rescued in a whiteout.  Come to find out… salvation was simply “down and to the right”.  We didn’t know it at the time, so we hunkered down in a fumarole for warmth.  Something shifted in me that day.  My friends later laughed at it and continued on with their normal climbing mentality, while for me… I was shaken a bit.  Not about climbing, but about being in a better headspace.  FYI… neither of these friends climb any longer.

One of our early trips to Nicaragua with Travis Reid (Oregon Rescue) and Bend Fire Department.

A paradigm shift happened for me that day…. folks had given of their time and lives for me (us) and I had some payback that needed to happen.  Deschutes County Search and Rescue became my home for a bit, but living in Sisters Oregon, the small town feel was better… I then joined Camp Sherman Hasty Team (Essentially Jefferson County Search and Rescue).  I loved it!!!  And now in the swing of living out a hidden dream and (possibly) a passion, I found myself working part-time for Rescue Response Gear.  Stranger things have happened, but God knows what He is doing… as I later purchase RRG.

Ashlee during one of earlier our filming projects. Before she became a professional triathlete, she was our best customer “happiness” rep.

I had a dilemma.  I couldn’t simply sell gear.  Boring and without meaning, I trudged along this path until an interesting meet up with Reed Thorne of Ropes That Rescue.  My path and paradigm just made another shift.  Artwork and poetry in motion.  I had never seen anything like it.  For sure, I wasn’t catching everything.  In truth, I was behind the 8-ball most of the time, but something was happening and I loved it.  It had nothing to do with the how gear was being used… it had everything to do with people.  When I saw their “lights go on” and realized they just built something of monumental importance to them… I got stoked.  I wanted more.  Not really knowing the path I was on, I understood enough about learning principles to know that seeing, touching and doing are vital, but even then 80-90% of what we just “learned” we forget within 4 weeks.  So the 20-80 is solid and true, but you can’t build something with 20% knowledge.  How can I create something that fills in the rest of the puzzle and at least get that retention  number up to 70% or so.  My life was about to change again.. the magic of film making.

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The year is 2005 and we just completed the first ever full-length training project done for rescuers. Tower Rescue.  Going back a bit, I had approached Reed and a friend of mine, Rick Johnson of Strada Cranes Unlimited to create the production group Highline Productions (later to become Raven Collective Media).  It was here I was then privileged to work with  Reed, as well as Pat Rhodes and Glenn Speight, who would later start up Axcess Rescue.  Understand… these guys work at a level I can’t see myself ever attaining… However, my joy and passion was bringing what they had to give to others.  I was watching the coolest stuff ever to unfold; huge film cranes, massive moves, guys doing their art hundreds of feet off the deck and I am standing at ground level going “oh my god!  What have I gotten myself and these guys into?”.  I was scared!!!  It was if I was making this up as I went along.  And in truth, (at points) I was, but the lack of a plan, mixed with my vision, was beginning to show.  I got bit and there was some collateral damage as well.  Note to self… without a well laid out plan, the vision is screwed from the start.  It would be another 10 years before I got another chance for redemption. The Tower Rescue Series was successful on many levels though and are still included in our course curriculum today.

Pat Rhodes leading our course project Horizontal Rigging.

Eventually, the production company ended and some friendships took a beating.  It had nothing to do with mal-intent or anything… but had more to do with the bane of being a director, producer and marketing group, without having a solid framework and a well thought out plan to move through.  I was alone and very uncomfortable and yet!!!… very much energized by something that was stretching me beyond what I thought I could handle.  I wasn’t giving up on this.  If I am going to do this, I need to do it right and in front of everyone.  As impulsive as I am, I can really piss people off quickly and while not my intent, my desire to pursue  amazing and creative projects for others, but they got contaminated by my own impulsive nature .  I lost my “Why”.  Another detour was about happen.

Driving along an open desert road… thinking about life and pondering stuff, I get this call.  It was Pat Rhodes.  Oh man!!!  This call set the hook for things I am still dancing with.  The “double-edged sword” came back again.  There is an amazing quote that many of you know… “without vision, people perish” and “wise counsel can move mountains”.  I felt like I was now moving in both, but how often do we understand that (we) ourselves (and our own mountains) must move aside for a greater work to happen and it is rarely about ourselves.  As our lives intersect with others, we become part of their storyline, for good or ill, and we don’t know how the script will play out.  So for the next number of years, dancing with the likes of Mark Pfeifer, Craig McClure,  Pat Rhodes, Glenn Pinson (Peak Rescue Institute), Tom Wood (PMI-VRS), Richard Delaney (RopeLab) and many others,  would change my view on not just business, but life as a whole.  Right place, right time, right headspace is huge, but right people is the crux.

Mark Pfeifer with Ronin Rescue working out the kinks for Confined Space Rescue coming Spring of 2018

I will say this… looking back on things, I have more benefits than regrets.  There is a sense of pleasure and honor in knowing people trust their identities to your vision.  Trust and Honor!… these are not idle words.  They are living and breathing.  They are active and together they are another “two-edged sword” we want to carry and use throughout our lives.  Both sides have a cost to them.

As I look at this new year of 2018, I have an immense sense of, well… peace.  What I mean by that is that I have had the privilege of being allowed into the houses of great men… men that have helped me not just carve out a living, but a life mission.   This is not a small thing for people like me and while I do not carry a debt mentality, I live a life of “paying it forward”.  I also want it known for the record that there are many others who have spoken huge jewels into my soul and it is because of them, I am a tangible gift giver of what they have poured out.  See, you are a recipient of their glory. We can not give what we do not possess and only walking in the authority of what we possess do we have ability to give to others.

So my encouragement for all you are reading this is to pay attention to what you have been taught as well as given too you.  Take it apart and ask questions.  That which bears great fruit… keep.  That which is in constant toil and really bears nothing… throw it away.  Our society and culture (if news and social media is any indication) no longer honors those with “common sense”.  They are actually fearful of it.

Tom Wood of PMI VRS during Highline / Gin Pole project.

We all have Michelangelo(s) in our lives, so look for them.  Men and women of renaissance. At the time of this writing, I had two people walk into my world in the forms of an electrician and a plumber (thanks Gary and Scot).  The music I am listening to as I write is the soundtrack from Unbroken.  It takes me back to my dad and his unsung heroes who gave their lives for a country that was theirs.  These heroes are multifunctional, crazing and full of life and hope!  These folks are still around us.. yet we have lost our ability to “ask, seek and knock”… We haven’t lost the ability, but chosen to not embrace the gifts we all have and inquire as to “what makes people tick”… “who are you”?

So in closing, I… and thus Rescue Response Gear and Rigging Lab Academy, along with Raven Collective Media and Red Ibex Films… want to say thank you.  Thank you for trusting us through the highs and lows of the last 25 plus years.  Crap!  Even saying that sounds older than I feel!  And as Torrey, Duane, Monika and I vision and dream into what lies ahead, just know your betterment is also at our focal point (our resultant if you will).  Things may not always hit a high note at a synchronous time, but it will.  I don’t believe in perfect practice.  Those are juxtaposed terms.  I believe that passion, vision, dreaming and hard work will pay huge dividends, but often leaves a bit of blood, sweat and tears in the wake and to be honest… I love to bleed for what is important.

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Peace on your days!