ep. 20 - Alison Levine: History-Making Adventurer & New York Times Bestselling Author‎


Alison Levine served as team captain of the first American Women's Everest Expedition, climbed the Seven Summits and skied to the North and South Poles. A history-making adventurer who also spent time in the business world, she has survived sub-zero temperatures, hurricane-force winds and sudden avalanches – and that was while climbing the corporate ladder! 

In her New York Times best-selling book, “On the Edge: Leadership Lessons from Everest and Other Extreme Environments,” Alison asserts that the principles that apply to the world of extreme adventure also apply to demanding business environments. A former part-time faculty member at West Point, Alison understands what it takes to lead teams through challenging situations.


ep. 20 - Alison Levine: History-Making Adventurer & New York Times Bestselling Author‎

Alison Levine: Oh, yeah. Let's start.

Kyle Davis: I figure which podcast to get start. Go ahead.

Gail Davis: Ready?

Kyle Davis: Yeah.

Gail Davis: I am so excited about our guest today. She is one of my all-time favorite female speakers. She is a real rock star. I refer to Alison Levine [00:01:30] as an adventure grand slammer, which means that she has climbed all seven summits, skied the North Pole and the South Pole. She is a New York Times best-selling author. She has lectured on leadership and continues to at West Point. She is the executive producer of a new film. Welcome, Alison.

Kyle Davis: Hey, Alison.

Alison Levine: Thank you. Thanks for having me on your podcast. I'm super excited to be part of your show today.

Kyle Davis: Well, thank you. We think the one thing that we just left out is that you're also a dog lover.

Alison Levine: [00:02:00] Huge. Huge dog lover.

Kyle Davis: It's an important thing we will talk about in a moment.

Gail Davis: Very, very important. There's so much to talk about, but I guess my first question, Alison, that I think listeners would like to know is, how does someone get into this whole adventure world? It's one thing to climb a mountain, but all seven summits; North Pole, South Pole, how did you get into this?

Alison Levine: Well, when I was younger, I was always very intrigued by the stories of the early Arctic and Antarctic explorers and the [00:02:30] early mountaineers. I would read books and I would watch documentary films. Long story short, I was born with a couple of holes in my heart. I had my second heart surgery when I turned 30. At that point, the light bulb went on in my head. I thought, "Okay. If I want to know what is like to be Reinhold Messner and drag a 150-pound sled across 600 miles of Antarctic ice, then I should go do it instead of just reading books about it." I want to know what it's like to be these [00:03:00] mountaineers and these explorers that are going to these big Himalayan Peaks, then I should go to big peaks instead of just watching documentary films about other people going there. I just thought, "Well, if these other people are doing these things, then can I do it, too? Why not me?" That's how it got started. I didn't climb my first mountain until I was 32 years old because I had to wait until my heart was healthy enough.

Kyle Davis: Well, don't talk about it, be about it, right?

Alison Levine: Exactly.

Kyle Davis: Now, one of the things that we did mention and then [00:03:30] I'm just curious because we thought about this online, but you grew up in Phoenix, if I remember correctly. Did you climb Camelback and all the other little mountains around there and did that pique the interest or was it just something else?

Alison Levine: No. Not when I was screwing it, because when I lived in Phoenix, I still had that hole in my heart. I actually didn't start doing any adventure stuff until I was 32 years old and I was living in California at the time. Man, Phoenix is so hot anyway. All you can do is become really [00:04:00] good at sweating.

Kyle Davis: I think I would master that. Just give me two gallons of water and I'll provide you with that.

Alison Levine: As you brought up Camelback Mountain, there's some great hiking in that city, believe it or not. Even though it's at sea level, it does have some great hiking spots, for sure.

Kyle Davis: Yeah.

Gail Davis: Well, what was the first mountain that you climbed?

Alison Levine: The very first mountain I climbed was Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, which is one of the seven summits. It's probably the easiest of [00:04:30] the seven summits. If you need any technical skills, I basically used frequent-flyer mile, flew to Tanzania by myself, hired a local guide at the base of the mountain for a couple $100, borrowed everything I needed for the climb, for the trek. I borrowed a backpack, and a fleece jacket, and a Gore-Tex jacket. Because growing up in Phoenix, we didn't own those things, we didn't ever need them.

I borrowed everything I needed. By this time, I was living in [00:05:00] California and there were tons of outdoorsy people in the neighborhood so I could borrow things. I flew to Africa and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Even though it's not technical, it's a great first peak for people to go climb because you can really feel for the altitude. It's over 19,000 feet. You really do get an idea of what it feels like to have to take one step in three to five breaths. Feel like your lungs are being crushed and feel like you can't keep going, but you [00:05:30] find this voice in your head that tells you that you can.

Kyle Davis: I have a friend of mine who's two years into a remission with MS and she's going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in a couple months.

Alison Levine: Oh, good for her. I love hearing stories like that.

Gail Davis: Did you know after Kilimanjaro that there would be another one? Did you have any idea this was going to lead to this distinction of being someone who's done ...

Kyle Davis: Basically, did you get the fix and you go, "Okay."

Gail Davis: Yeah. I guess that's what I'm asking.

Alison Levine: [00:06:00] Yeah.

Kyle Davis: Let's ask questions the way they should be asked. Did you get the fix and you're like, "Okay, now I got to go do something else. I got to go to Kato or Everest" or something like that.

Alison Levine: Well, that didn't come until a little further down the road. Basically, I was getting ready to start graduate school. I was starting business school at Duke, and so I quit my job two months before I started [inaudible 00:06:19]. I just wanted to go something that I wouldn't have been able to do before, before I had that heart surgery. I wanted to calibrate my new state of [00:06:30] get health and I was going to go to Kilimanjaro with two other girlfriends. At the last minute, they canceled and decided they wanted to go Club Med in Cancun instead. That's how I ended up going to Kilimanjaro by myself. The reason that mount was so special to me is because that is where I learned that I had that voice in my head to tell when I felt like quitting that I can take one more step. Then I could take one more step after, and one more step after that.

[00:07:00] I really didn't think I could get ... when I kept thinking I was going to quit and turn around, but I just kept taking one step and then I got there. After I summited Kilimanjaro, I thought, "Well, I wonder if I could do this again? Was this just a crazy flu where I just made it? Because I got luckier. Could I do this again?" Then shortly after I got back from Kilimanjaro, I went to Mount Everest in Russian and did that climb as well right ... literally, I mean, I think I got back two days before I started [00:07:30] grad school. That was the second one and I thought, "Well, maybe I can do this. Maybe I'm okay with this. Maybe I'm pretty good with this. Maybe I have what it takes to be a mountaineer," and I knew that I needed to build my skills over time. They don't just go from Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Everest, to a big Himalayan peak. You have to work your way up to that, but it was something that, at that point, I knew I wanted to try.

Gail Davis: So awesome.

Kyle Davis: Well, it's awesome. Hey, speaking of one more step, would you mind doing one in the direction of better self [00:08:00] on reception?

Alison Levine: Really? Look at that.

Kyle Davis: Yeah. I started cracking up at the end of that.

Alison Levine: I don't know. Seriously?

Kyle Davis: Yeah, but you're fine. I mean, I can hear you, but I mean, like you know.

Alison Levine: That was like, "No."

Kyle Davis: By the way, in case people are wondering, we can do this. We have that relationship. We can jive like that.

Alison Levine: Can you hear me now?

Kyle Davis: I can hear you.

Gail Davis: That's better.

Alison Levine: Can you hear me now?

Kyle Davis: Much better.

Gail Davis: Super better. Awesome.

Alison Levine: Is it better? Oh, my gosh. Okay.

Kyle Davis: Cool.

Gail Davis: [00:08:30] Okay. How did you go from the adventure world, to speaking? At what point did that happen/

Alison Levine: Well, I knew I was hooked on doing these adventure trips and I love adventure travel. I knew that a regular job would not really allow me to do that, because most jobs get a two to three weeks' vacation a year. A lot of the expeditions that I was interested in were six weeks to eight weeks long; two months. There's just [00:09:00] no way I can get that much time off of work. I did actually end up getting a leave of absence from a job in 2002, the first time I went to Everest, but I thought, "This is never going to happen again." Well, when I returned from my first Everest expedition in 2002, I was being honored by the ... what was then called the Anaheim Angels. I know they've changed their names a few times since then, changed their team name. The Anaheim Angels [00:09:30] was giving me this award for courage and sports.

They give it every year during their spring training to four athletes; two amateur, two professional. It was one of the amateur athletes that was getting the Anaheim Angels' courage and sports award. This award was presented by former pro football player Lynn Swann who is a former wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who's a four-time Super Bowl champion, three-time pro baller. He also was a sports commentator. [00:10:00] Well, I had to standup and give this acceptance speech, this events for the Anaheim Angles. I didn't really had anything prepared, I had nothing in the teleprompter like the other award recipients had. I just kind of jotted some notes down on napkin. I had to standup and wing it.

I [down 00:10:22] a couple of glasses of wine and stood and gave this really funny acceptance speech, pretending like I [00:10:30] at speaking at my own wedding reception. I was [inaudible 00:10:38], "Thank you all for being here. This is probably the closest thing to a wedding reception I will ever have." Just started cracking all these jokes. Lynn Swann came up to me afterward and he said, "Okay, what do you do for a living?" I said, "I work in finance." He said, "You could make a living as a speaker" and I said, "What are you talking [00:11:00] about? Don't you have to be a famous person to make a living as a speaker? You have to be Lynn Swann, a professional athlete or an Olympian, or a movie star. You can't just be a normal person and get paid to speak." He said, "Uh, but you're wrong." He said, "If you have a compelling message and you can deliver it in a way that really connects with the audience, you can make a living as a speaker." He said, "You should look into that."

He was really the first person that encouraged me to look into [00:11:30] professional speaking. I thought, "Well, if I can do that, then I could take time off whenever I wanted it and still pay my bills and keep a roof over my head and make my car payments to get myself out of my student loan debt." I learned that you can be someone who is not a household name and still make a really good living as a keynote speaker."

Gail Davis: How many years have you been doing this, Alison?

Alison Levine: Oh, good Lord. I [00:12:00] probably been doing this for about 10 years now.

Gail Davis: That's awesome. I know you're constantly on the road, and I was thinking about that earlier and I thought, "I should ask Alison if she has any big travel tips. Because she is out there all the time."

Alison Levine: I do. Number one travel tip; never ever, ever check a bag. Always carry it with you. I mean, if I'm on the road for three weeks, I have one carryon bag. The key is to buy clothes that are made [00:12:30] out of microfiber that you can sponge down. If you spill something on a dress that's made out of microfiber, you just take a washcloth in your hotel room and you wipe it off and it's fine. Microfiber clothes, that's number one. The other thing is, and this is a really good little tip, look at the types of planes that you were flying on. Realize that if you have a connection that's on a regional jet, you're going to have to gate-checked your carryon [00:13:00] bag. You'll get it back after the flight, but sometimes it takes airlines 15-20 minutes to get your gate-checked bag back to you and you could miss the connection.

I look at the types of planes I'm on. If I have a regional connection on a jet. I do not a bring a standard wheel to carry on, I pack my stuff in a soft-sided duffel because they'll let you take that on the plane with you. As long as you cram it on the overhead space, you can bring a soft-sided duffel. They just won't take a wheeled, [00:13:30] standard-sized wheel to carry on the plane.

Gail Davis: A real road warrior. I love it.

Alison Levine: Yeah. Because I know people have missed connections waiting for their bag to be brought back to the ... their gate-checked bag to be brought back up to them on the jet way. They ended up missing connections because it takes airlines so long to take your bags back to you.

Gail Davis: I always marvel at you because I never know where you're going to be, but you must have so many frequent flyer miles. You're way up there, that's for sure.

Alison Levine: [00:14:00] Yeah.

Gail Davis: Tell us about how you got started with West Point and what you do there. I think that's a really interesting connection.

Alison Levine: I love going out there so much. It's a highlight for me. Whenever I'm there, it's just the highlight of my week, the highlight of my month. Many, many years ago, I was speaking at a leadership conference at Duke and a guy named Thom Colditz, Colonel Colditz who's now ... well, he retired as General Colditz. At the time, [00:14:30] he was a colonel in the army. He heard me speak and he gave me his business card and said, "I really like what you have to say. If you ever need anything, let me know." I thought, "Well, what would I ever need from a colonel in the army, but okay. Nice to meet you. You seem like a great guy, smart guy."

A couple of years later, this is toward the end of 2008, I decided that I wanted to enlist in the army. Because I felt like I wanted to serve my country. It was something that [00:15:00] always was in my heart and in my head, just something I thought I would always do. I knew I was nearing the age limit to serve, because the age limit for the army is 42. I got in touch with Colonel Colditz and I said, "I don't know if you remember me." I shot him an email and said, " I don't know if you remember me, but I spoke at this leadership conference, you told me you like what I had to say. If I ever needed anything to get in touch." I was trying to enlist in the army and I met with a recruiting officer who told me I was too old. [00:15:30] I said, "I'm not too old, I'm 42. That's the age limit." He said, "You have to enlist before your 42nd birthday." I was being [crosstalk 00:15:39] ...

Kyle Davis: You're looking for a waiver.

Alison Levine: Yeah. I was being blocked from enlisting in the army, so I contacted Colonel Colditz. I said, "Hey, you said if I ever needed anything to contact you. I need to use my silver bullet right now. I'm trying to enlist in the army, they're telling me I can't. They're telling me I'm too old. Could you pull some strings for me? If you feel comfortable [00:16:00] doing so. If you don't, that's cool, but maybe you could point me in the right direction if somebody who could help me get pass this age limit thing." He said, "I have another idea for you. If you want to do something help the army, come lecture in my department at West Point. I am the head of the department of behavioral sciences and leadership. I really the cadets would benefit from your point of view. They get to hear from decorated military leaders and army generals fairly frequently."

"I think they might find your perspective on leadership [00:16:30] really interesting, because a lot of the theories are the same. Leadership in extreme environments when lives are on the line, but you present them in a totally different context with your expeditions. There are a lot of similarities between being on a battlefield and being in a remote extreme environments where there's a lot of inherent risk present all the time." He said, "I really think the cadets would enjoy hearing from you." He made me a part-time faculty member at West Point and I got to lecture in the department [00:17:00] of behavioral sciences and leadership for four years, which was amazing. Now, I work with the Thayer Leader Development Group, which is an executive education program that shares West Point leadership best practices with corporate executives, and I love it. I love it.

Kyle Davis: When you're teaching cadets or you're teaching getting like their EMBA through West Point or through Thayer or whatever, what are your leadership principles that you're advocating [00:17:30] for, that you're striving to tell?

Alison Levine: A lot of it is about creating trust and loyalty among teammates. A lot of it is how to lead when you're in these extreme environments where lives are on the line. Where you are in these environments that are completely unpredictable. You have no control and they're going to be all these factors that affect your success or failure that you have zero control over. [00:18:00] These types of environments are different from everyday environments when maybe success might be determined by revenue, or market share, or profit margins, or things like that. When you're in these in extremis environments which are the types of environments I'm in or the types of the environments that military leaders are in, success is measured by coming back alive. Whether or not your people, [00:18:30] your team comes back alive, whether they come back healthy or hurt. There are some differences between the extreme environments that we're in versus the everyday sort of business environment. Those are the types of things that I talk about.

Kyle Davis: When someone like yourself or a cadet at West Point is learning, kind of the ropes about how to enter into a non-permissive environment, what is the planning that goes into it and then [00:19:00] how are you ...? Because I've been following it up. I mean, what program are you using then to think about things? Are you running an OODA loop in your head every single time you get through this or are you always thinking about what could happen next, like each third, fourth, fifth order effects?

Alison Levine: Yeah. I'm glad that you brought up planning, because that's something that I talk about quite a bit. Planning is obviously super important, because it's going to keep you organized, it's going to keep you on track. [00:19:30] What you have to realize is that when you are in these environments that are constantly shifting and changing, you cannot hell-bent on sticking to your plan. Because whatever plan you came up with, last year, last month, last week, even that morning, your plan is outdated as soon as it's finished when you're in environments that are constantly shifting and changing. You have to forget being hell-bent on sticking to your plan and you have to focus much more on executing [00:20:00] based on what is going on at the time.

Kyle Davis: What I would call from the startup community is the "pivot," but you're talking about adapting and learning when to ... military term "exfil out" of a situation. You're trying to say that you may go in there with the plan of doing one thing, but the reality is you're probably going to come out and it's going to be something completely different?

Alison Levine: Right. Yeah, because for example, you might have a certain plan on how you're going [00:20:30] to attack the mountain and head up, but you've got things to do with your health, the health of the team, the conditions of the route, the conditions of your gear, the weather. All of these things are going affect to your climb, and you cannot control any of it. You can't say, "Well, this is the plan. This is what we decided to do, so we have to stick to this." You have to be able to adapt and adjust and as you said, "pivot." It's all about the pivot.

Kyle Davis: Improvise, adapt and overcome?

Alison Levine: Yes.

Kyle Davis: That way [00:21:00] you don't die. Because in all sincerity, you could be ... if your plan was to just march up the face of K2 and you're like, "Well, storms be damned, I'm going to keep going." That's going to get you killed.

Alison Levine: Right. Here's the thing, even in good weather, if you think, "Well, my plan is to summit tomorrow," and you start heading to the summit and you start running out of steam, what you have to remember is the summit of a mountain is only the halfway [00:21:30] point. It's never the goal. It's only halfway. You have to be able to get yourself back down. When you're thinking, "Well, my plan is I'm going to summit today and this is how much oxygen I've got left. This is how much food I've got left and this is where my tent is setup right now." You can't think about just getting to the summit, you have to think about getting yourself back down. The majority of deaths that occur on mountain Everest occur after people have reached the summit when they're on dissent. Because they use everything [00:22:00] they've got in them to get themselves to the top and they don't have enough left in them to get themselves back down.

Kyle Davis: It's interesting to me, because I had something in my head that was going to be so perfect to follow that up with and then now I've lost it. [crosstalk 00:22:18] I will say this though, is that so many people just go into stuff and they just plan it, plan it, plan it. Just because it doesn't execute or go the way that you should doesn't mean that you're wrong or that you did something to mess [00:22:30] up, it means that you have the ability to make something new out of it. Here's what I was trying to say, is that everything is fluid and it's set in water, not concrete so allow it to move and shift meander the way that it should.

Alison Levine: Understand that it's not always going to work out the way you thought it was going to work out. I talk a lot in my keynotes, it's about the importance of failure tolerance and why it's so important to allow yourselves and your teams to fail. [00:23:00] Because a lack of failure tolerance really stifles progress and innovation and prevents people from taking risks. Of course, everyone knows the name Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, right?

Gail Davis: Sure.

Alison Levine: First guys ever summit Mount Everest, but there were dozens of climbers who tried and failed before those two made it to the summit. Those two had the benefit of the 411, right? All the information from those previous climbers. It was their failure, I think, that helped lead to Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's success. [00:23:30] When you try something and it doesn't go as planned and you look at it as a failure, don't necessarily look at that as a bad thing. Just look at it as a huge learning opportunity and don't forget about the people that are going to follow in your footsteps down the road and how much your past experience, even if didn't go as planned will help those people achieve something really big.

Kyle Davis: Because failing is a good thing.

Alison Levine: It is.

Kyle Davis: Provided you learn from it.

Gail Davis: Provided you learn from it.

Alison Levine: Exactly. Of course, I'm not [00:24:00] talking about failures in morals or judgment, I'm just talking about when you try really hard things and you don't always achieve them the first time.

Gail Davis: Alison, tell us nerds about that first time that you tried to summit Everest with the all-female team and the decision that you had to make. Yeah, that decision. That one.

Alison Levine: I'm glad you ask about that. In 2002, I was the team captain of the first [00:24:30] American Women's Everest Expedition and we are sponsored by Ford. We were this very high profile expedition as the first team of American women to try to summit. We ended up missing the top by 200 feet because of bad weather, which was just such a crusher. Because we had this big sponsor, we had all this media attention. We did all the interviews on the morning shows and then evening news anchors were interviews and then [00:25:00] we didn't make it. You come back from the trek and then you're just the butt of Jay Leno's opening monologue show. How does that feel? Right? It's brutal and it's such a high profile failure. That it's hard to get back up and recover from that.

I felt disappointed for myself, I felt disappointed for my team. I felt certainly disappointed for our sponsor, Ford, who [00:25:30] put all the money behind us and allowed us to go, have a shot at this dream. I honestly felt that we let down our country as the first team of American women and we didn't make it. It took me eight years before I got up enough courage to go back to mountain again and I really regret that it took me so long. What took me so long was just fear of failure. I wish I hadn't been so afraid of it. I wish I'd gone back sooner because I went back eight years later and did [00:26:00] make it to the summit. I felt like an idiot for the fact that I let this fear of failure stop me from going for so long.

Gail Davis: Well, I think it's really cool and I love the story behind your inspiration. Do you mind sharing that with the listeners about your friend? I think her name is Meg, is that right?

Alison Levine: Yeah, Meg. Yeah, great memory. When I got back from my first expedition, I swore I was not going to go back to the mountain. "I'm not going back there again. I haze zero unfinished [00:26:30] on that mountain. No way, no how." One of my best friends was a named Meg Berté Owen and she said, "Oh, you're going to go back and try that again." I said, "Shut up, I am not going back there." She said, "I know you. You're going to want to give that one another try." I said, "Okay, only if you go with me." Because she was this amazing athlete, she played soccer her whole life, all-American soccer player at Harvard and captain of the soccer team there.

Long story short, she ended up passing away [00:27:00] very unexpectedly at age 37 in 2009. I always said, "If I ever went back to the mountain, I would want to go with Meg." She was this person that had so much courage. I feel like she just busted through every barrier that was ever put in front of her. She was really the inspiration for me to go back the mountain because just a couple of months after losing Meg, I decided to engrave her name [00:27:30] in my ice axe and head back to Mount Everest for a second time in the spring of 2010. I felt like I sort of had super powers when I went back the second time because I had her spirit with me, sort of giving me the strength and the courage to go back a mountain that I had been so afraid of for eight years.

Gail Davis: Awesome tribute.

Kyle Davis: One of the questions that's coming into my head, I understand it from the seven peaks and the fact that it's cold. [00:28:00] I'm a person who doesn't like the cold, so I'm curious as to why you went to the North Pole and the South Pole and you skid across the ... I mean, what's your fascination with freezing?

Alison Levine: Again, it just goes back to this, for whatever reason, knows where the adventure stories that resonated with me when I was younger. Then the crazy thing is that in 2004, this woman named Janet Hanson who ran this women's network, this professional women's network. [00:28:30] It was called "85 Broads" at the time, it's now called the "Ellevate Network." It's run by Sallie Krawcheck. Janet Hanson approached me and said, "Hey, there's this team of business executives going to the North Pole, most of them are from the UK. They were British." She said, "I know the guy that is running this trip, he's this British explorer named Alan Chambers. We want to send somebody on this trip. Would you be interested in going?" I thought, "Wait, what? You want to send me on [00:29:00] a North Pole trip? Are you kidding me?" This would be a dream for me able to do, so they sponsored my expedition and sent me on this trip to the North Pole. It really caused me a lot of anxiety because it was ... mountain climbing, it was dragging a heavy sled on ski, so that's one thing I had never done before.

Kyle Davis: It wasn't like the kite skiing that I've seen?

Alison Levine: No. It's just you and your sled. [00:29:30] I wasn't much of a cross-country skier. Actually, I had never been cross-country skiing before, to tell you the truth. This was my first experience on cross-country skis.

Kyle Davis: The way to jump in the deep end.

Alison Levine: Yeah. I didn't feel like I ... I didn't want to bypass the opportunity. I just thought, "Well, I don't know how to cross-country ski, but hell, I'm not going to let that stop me from cross-country skiing to the North Pole. I can just learn as I [00:30:00] go." I will tell you that I really struggled and I was probably one of the slowest, weakest people on the team, but I got there. I learned also on that trip and on Everest that you don't have to be the best, fastest, strongest person. You just have to be absolutely relentless about putting one foot in front of the other or sliding one [00:30:30] ski in front of the other if you're on ski. That's all it is. Don't worry if you're not the best, and the fastest, and strongest. Just be relentless and that's what's going to get you to where you want to be. That's how I got to the North Pole.

Gail Davis: That's awesome.

Kyle Davis: Would you say on that relentless note, would you say that out of all the stunt that you've done, that's the constant theme that keeps carrying throughout your life and what you share with other people?

Alison Levine: Absolutely. [00:31:00] You just realize that that's what's going to get you to wherever it is that you want to be. It's just being relentless. It's just putting one put in front of the other. Even trying to get to this foot of Everest in May ... May 2010 when I finally did summit and completed the Adventure Grand Slam. So many times I thought, "I'm not going to make it, I'm going to have to turn around." The storm, the weather, it's just too much for me to take. I can't see, [inaudible 00:31:26] horrible, but I'm [inaudible 00:31:29] just [00:31:30] going to take one more step and then I'll turn around. "Okay. Wait, just wait, one more step. Okay, wait, one more. That's going to be my last one, just one more." Then and one more, and one more, and one more. That's when I realized it's just about putting your foot in front of the other. That's all it is.

When you feel like you can't do something, when you feel overwhelmed, just put one foot in front of the other. Don't think about the summit of the mountain, just think about the next step that you're going to [00:32:00] take. You can always take one more step, no matter how cold, or scared, or tired, sick, or however you were feeling. You can always make one more step.

Kyle Davis: One of the things that I've started doing recently is distance running. The trail that I have, the Fortune of the city of Dallas building puts a mile marker every quarter mile so you know the distance. That's my thought process. I was like, "Okay, I finally got to this one. I just have to run the next [00:32:30] one." So then I run out and counter-intuitively, unlike you, I don't think about the return trip. I just think about how far out I can get. Then I'm like, "Now I have to run back." At that point, I just to suffer in silence and just keep going.

Gail Davis: That's awesome.

Alison Levine: You're like, "Where's my Uber app or my Waze app?

Kyle Davis: That's the thing, is I don't run with my phone. I don't care to do it. It's too heavy.

Alison Levine: Of course.

Gail Davis: I know you have a new project, Alison, [00:33:00] a film, the Glass Ceiling. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Alison Levine: Well, the film is about a woman who has a huge inspiration to me. The film is about a female Sherpa named Pasang Lhamu Sherpa. A lot of people think that Sherpa is a job of caring things up a mount, but Sherpa is actually an ethnicity. [Den Thalin 00:33:23] was the Sherpa, she lived in Nepal and she wanted to climb Mount Everest. She had a dream of climbing Everest. She saw [00:33:30] plenty of men climbing, her brothers, her father. All these other people were climbing Everest, but Nepal actually wouldn't allow Sherpa women to climb Everest because they thought it would somehow desecrate the mountain and the gods would be angry.

She was the person who fought for women's right to climb. She had no education, she couldn't read, she couldn't write but she have the courage to go off against the government of Nepal and fight for women's right. She tried three [00:34:00] times unsuccessfully to reach the summit, one time getting as high as 26,000 feet, all the way to the high camp and wasn't permitted to go to the summit because she was a woman. They didn't want a Sherpa woman touching the top because that would just ruin the mountain, of course. She finally made it to the summit on her fourth attempt in 1993, but she died on the dissent.

Gail Davis: Oh, no.

Alison Levine: Yeah. She left three children behind and she didn't lived to see her legacy. [00:34:30] She really changed the future for women in the Nepal. She was the first one that broke through that glass ceiling to allow women to climb and [inaudible 00:34:39] Sherpa women, but then allow to climb a mountain then earn money on a mountain like [inaudible 00:34:44]. It's so tragic that she didn't live to see her legacy, but we want to share her story with the world. The director's sister is actually married to Pasang Lhamu Sherpa's brother. [00:35:00] Because we have a family connection, we got access to all of her photos, and all of her film footage. It was actually the first time a body ever been brought down from high up on the mountain because she had become such a beloved figure to people in Nepal, that a team of men risk their lives to climb up and bring her body down so they could give her a proper burial.

There's a museum named after her and a street named after her and a big statue of her in Nepal, but people outside of the country don't know her story, and I think [00:35:30] it's a story that will resonate with people of all different cultures and all different countries. We're working on getting that film together now and I'm really excited [inaudible 00:35:41] story. It's tragic obviously, but also very inspirational.

Kyle Davis: Do you have like an idea when the release date is going to be for that?

Alison Levine: Good question. We actually ...

Kyle Davis: Or is it fluid right now?

Alison Levine: It's based on when we get finished raising the fund. We still [00:36:00] need to raise about $380,000 to get the film made. If anyone listening has their checkbook who wants to write a $380,000 check, because I'm sure everybody's got that much in their account right now. Who doesn't? Right?

Kyle Davis: You want to produce your credit on the movie. Duh.

Alison Levine: Yeah. We are still looking for ... if anyone knows of any corporate sponsors or individuals that might want to partner with us, any amount to our film will help. As soon as we raise the money, [00:36:30] we should be able to finish the film within a couple of months.

Kyle Davis: For those listening, if you want to help with the raising of the funds for the movie, you can go to the website for your movie which I think is www.theglassceilingmovie.com?

Alison Levine: Exactly.

Kyle Davis: Cool. One of the things that we mentioned earlier was dogs. While I do want to talk about that, I am curious as to what next adventure is before we segue into dogs.

Alison Levine: [00:37:00] I actually just got back in November from a big adventure. I went back to Nepal and did the first assent of a peak called "Kang Karpa" which had never been climbed by anyone before. I went with two girlfriend who live in the French isles, [Swash Falkner 00:37:19] and [Kath Stannelyn 00:37:21], two of my favorite climbing partners. The three of us girls went over to Nepal and we're the first people who climbed Kang Karpa, it's a little over 20,000 feet. That gave [00:37:30] us an idea for our next adventure, which we're hoping to maybe go to Bhutan and do a first dissent over there.

I like one of the mountains that nobody's ever been here before, because you don't have any beta. You have no information at all. You have to go and figure out the whole thing, and the route, the [crobat major 00:37:53], you have glaciers, everything. I love that.

Kyle Davis: That's awesome. I think for people listening, if I remember [00:38:00] correctly, and I'm like the encyclopedia of random facts. Bhutan actually measures gross domestic happiness. It's the happiest country in the world.

Alison Levine: It is? Wow.

Kyle Davis: Boom.

Alison Levine: I just figure whatever country has the most jobs is the happiest country in the world.

Kyle Davis: Now, let's talk about dogs.

Gail Davis: What kind of a dog do you have? Trooper, is that his name?

Alison Levine: Trooper. I have the best dog in the world.

Kyle Davis: Watch it.

Alison Levine: [00:38:30] He is 105 pound black lab, and he slobbers everywhere, and he sheds everywhere, and I'm covered in dog slobber dye all the time and I don't care. I love him so much. He is the best dog.

Kyle Davis: Well, I don't know about that. I'm sure if you ever met my 55 pound Belgian Malinois named Titan who sheds all the time, too. He doesn't drool. However, his tongue is insanely [00:39:00] long and his teeth are razor sharp. He ate out of his harness the other day. [crosstalk 00:39:04] Not like chewed out of me, not like little chew marks that you would see out of a dog. It was a razor cut, because those back teeth on those dogs are so sharp.

Alison Levine: Our dog is so spoiled. We spoil him. I mean, we don't have kids, we just have Trooper and he's so spoiled. I figure, it's okay to spoil a dog because they don't have to grow up to be productive, contributing members of society. They're just great dog.

Kyle Davis: You don't have to worry about their downfall [00:39:30] afterwards, because all you did was spoil them.

Alison Levine: Exactly.

Kyle Davis: Cool.

Alison Levine: It's fun. I love dog. It's real, it's a real love and everybody should have a dog. Everybody.

Kyle Davis: I think we mentioned this before we went to recording, it's because cats just don't get it. They're too ... I don't know. I have yet to meet a cat person I like. I'm a mess.

Alison Levine: [crosstalk 00:39:54] Cats are not very good hiking partner.

Kyle Davis: No, they're not.

Alison Levine: Trooper is a great hiking partner.

Kyle Davis: [00:40:00] Okay. Cool. Well, hey, this was a blast.

Gail Davis: So much fun.

Kyle Davis: So much fun. If you all want to read the transcript for this podcast, you can do so by going to gdapodcast.com. Other than that, thanks so much, Alison.

Gail Davis: Yeah. Thank you, Alison. We are going to stay tune watching for the release of the film and watching for your next adventure.

Alison Levine: My pleasure. Thanks for having me on your podcast.

Gail Davis: Thank you.

Kyle Davis: All right. Thank you.

Gail Davis: Bye.

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ep. 20 - Alison Levine: History-Making Adventurer & New York Times Bestselling Author‎ by GDA Podcast is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.