Friday, May 29, 2015

IDVA Graduation Speech 2015 in CDA, ID

Everything I learned in Life, I Learned on a  zip line

Good evening IDVA class of 2015. On behalf of the board of directors, I would like to congratulate you on a job well done. You worked hard, overcoming many obstacles, and this wonderful moment is finally here. I’m certain you learned many important lessons along the way that you will carry with you for the rest of your lives.

As I thought about what to say to all of you tonight, I wanted to impart some thoughts that would help you in the future as you navigate onward to the next phase of your lives. As luck would have it, I spend quite a lot of time in an environment that dispels wisdom, builds character, and never ceases to entertain. If I could, I would take all of you there to learn for yourselves, but, that could be tricky logistically, so, I will just tell you about it instead.

Nestled in the hills in South Eastern Idaho, on the outskirts of Ririe, is a place called Heise. Heise is an outdoorsman’s dream come true, from the fishing, to the swimming and the golf. But, my favorite things at Heise are the zip lines that stretch across the hills for several miles. My husband and I are licensed zip line guides, and, as you can imagine, my family spends a great deal of time there, from the moment the snow melts, until it flies again. Besides being a good time for those who want to enjoy that adrenaline rush, it has also taught me some important life lessons.

1.       Rise to the occasion When I was training to become a zip line guide, my trainers were all a bunch of off duty law enforcement officers who stood about 6’ tall and weighed well over 200lbs. I’m a little smaller than that. Just figuring out how to get myself unhooked from the line when my feet couldn’t really reach the ground was tricky stuff. I didn’t weigh enough to make it in on all the lines, so I had to figure out how to pull myself in quickly too. The rule on the hill is that everyone has to be able to do everything and physically, it was quite the challenge.

I quickly found that I had two choices. I could give up, or find a way to make it work. About 300 zip line rides later, I’ve managed to make it work.

Don’t let your size, gender, athletic ability or any other limitation stop you from doing something you want to accomplish. Rise to the occasion.

2.       Always have a plan and a back-up plan, just in case. On the lines, we have our main trolley that is connected to the harness. That is what keeps us attached to the line instead of plummeting to our deaths. That’s a good thing. These harnesses are rated to hold a lot weight and withstand some pretty crazy abuse. I absolutely trust my harness. However, see that yellow rope? That’s my back up line. It is also connected to my harness, and to the line. This means, if my main line ever fails, I still have a way to stay connected to my line and survive. I NEVER go out on a line without both ropes attached to the line. Sure, the odds are that I’ll never need that back up, but, if a day comes when I do need it, I’m going to be very happy I always had it attached.


Having a plan is great and you need to always have one. Having a back-up plan could save your life someday.

3.       Surround yourself with people you can trust Always be trustworthy yourself. You may have already guessed this, but ziplining can be dangerous. There is an understanding that it isn’t a matter of “if” something happens on the hill, it is a matter of “when.” As soon as you understand that, it becomes very important to be surrounded with people you know will be there to help you when you need it the most. This pairs with another important thing I’ve learned…

4.       Never leave a man or woman behind. We all get stuck sometimes. It can be pretty scary where you are hanging out in the middle of a line with no way in. Always be the person who goes back to help another person. If you can’t do it yourself, bring a team along. Before the big season starts, all of the zip line guides go out on the line and practice saving each other. We need to know what to do in order to keep everyone together.

Whether we need to jump on the line, roll out, and drag someone back in, or if we need to grab you by whatever body part is handy, you never leave anyone on their own.

5.       You don’t have to do things the exact same way as everyone else. Remember when I mentioned that most of the guides are much bigger than me? Well, when I was learning how to stop people on the zip line, that became a bit of a sticking point.  It was very difficult for me to have the control I needed over my brakes and the ropes while I was trying to use my weight to stop 250lb people before they reached the pole.

I’ll be honest, I started to doubt my ability, until one of the guides came up with a brilliant plan. They took those giant block brakes and cut them into what we now call “baby brakes” that fit my baby hands and gave me the ability to control the ropes. I love my baby brakes so much that they go with me everywhere, even to Couer d’Alene!

6.       Find the fun in whatever you are doing. It doesn’t matter what you do with the rest of your life, it will get monotonous and boring if you let it.

 Be silly, laugh when things get rough.

 Embrace the weird moments and people in your life.

Try to stick the landing, but, when that doesn’t work out, make a splash instead. Life is full of responsibility and stress, that is true, but, it is also ridiculous and fun and always an adventure.

 Make sure to sit back at least once and day and enjoy the view. There is always someone spectacular about it.

 Once again, I congratulate you, class of 2015. We can’t wait to see what you are going to do next.

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