Showing Up–Eric West’s Prescription

I walk into The Next Page in Frisco, the Colorado mountain town’s local, independent bookshop. I need a tea before finishing the drive to Aspen–“where the women flock like the salmon of Capistrano.” But I digress.

There’s a line, so I wait and scan the shop. An author has just finished a reading; right on. He’s joking with a kid, something about his goofy red tie. The kid laughs and they have a fun conversation about dreaming big, going for it, what’s on the horizon. I watch for a few minutes and the author definitely has a way with young people, without sounding like … an older guy trying to have a way with young people. Right on, again.

Eric West and his now-wife, Eveline Wessels
Eric West and his now-wife, Eveline Wessels

Turns out he’s Eric West, author of Showing Up. In a nutshell, he’s a) a yacht captain b) an Everest summiteer c) a guitarist in a Dead cover band (based in Japan) d) an English teacher e) and a fun writer.

I finally get my tea and stroll over. Eric’s still chatting with the kid, talking plans, dreams, strategies for making it happen. I pick up his book, thumb through the pages.

Eric finishes his chat with the young guy and then I have three minutes before I continue my trip to the Roaring Fork Valley.

“Cool book, that’s cool you climbed Everest,” I say.

“It was cool,” says Eric, smiling. “I met my wife there. I went back the next year and climbed it. My dream was just to see it, let alone climb it!”

Eric summarizes his book, his approach to life, his quick-and-dirty prescription for creating your own happiness, fulfillment, and success: show up. Or Showing Up, as his book is titled.

“Simple stuff,” I think to myself, chatting a few more minutes before I return to the westbound I-70 madness.

I thank Eric for his time and I tell him I’d like to read his book sometime. By the time my trip to Aspen is over, he’s already put one in the mail–nice guy, I think. 

And indeed, he is a nice guy. And a good writer and an adventurous spirit, by the sound of it. I generally detest “self-help” books and most climbing titles work like Ambien for me. Eric’s book, though, isn’t self-help, nor is it just a climbing book. It’s a 300-page gumbo of life adventures, stumbling mishaps, ambitious dreams, and some common-sense get-it-done advice that works, I think. I like it!bg010

Sure, it’s easier for healthy white folks (like me, like Eric, probably like you) living in Colorado to simply show up … and accomplish things, fulfill dreams, surprise ourselves. Cynics these days love to remind us, though, we’re lamenting our “First World problems,” as if that somehow means we shouldn’t work to fix things in our lives, even if they’re small, or insignificant in the face of Ebola, Amazonian deforestation, or malnutrition in Haiti.

But thankfully a lot of folks around the world don’t have to deal with stuff like that and we’re left to deal with writing deadlines, putting shingles on the kids’ tree house (I swear I’m going to get this done before May 1), or sore knees from a lifetime of skiing and soccer. And showing up, the older I get, the more I parent, the more I accomplish, seems to encapsulate a pretty solid strategy for crafting a good life. If I look back now at getting through school, nurturing relationships with friends and my wife, raising happy boys, getting my guiding certification, much of that comes down to showing up, committing to it, being present, and taking the time.

Eric’s autobiographical book relies on a bunch of his own missteps and triumphs as illustrative fodder for a wide-ranging explanation of showing up. I think a sharp editor at Harper Collins would’ve probably chopped the book down a hundred pages and hyper-focused it, restructured it, but I think that would’ve polished away too much of the … Eric West. I like Showing Up because it’s real and it feels like a longer version of the conversation I had with Eric. It works that way.

It’d be easy for an Everest summiteer to spend an eternity on climbing the mountain, instead we track a young man’s life through his dumb mistakes, first jobs, through the Khumbu Icefall, eventually to the top of world, and with a bunch of side trips along the way. For example, on page 180, Eric writes:

“Before long I made it to a hospital room and was scheduled for more X-rays. The doctor needed to verify the fracture in my neck before he administered further care. After he extracted the rest of the glass from my arm and stitched up the wounds, he explains what happens to patients with injuries like mine–and I was formally introduced to the halo…”

Two days later Eric and his buddy are at Oktoberfest, in Munich, Germany. Sound like something out of your past? Yeah, we were impulsive, but good kids once, too.

Grab a copy of Showing Up if you’re in the market for a read. It’s fun; it’s a great reminder and prescription for keeping on the right track. Eric’s a local guy and his heart’s in the right place. I’m not quite done with the book–I’m trying to get through another local’s work, The Tower, by Kelly Cordes!–but I’m psyched to finish it off. A likable, big-spirited writer has managed to pen a book that’s just that, likable and big-spirited. Thanks for the journey, Eric!

Rob Coppolillo is an internationally certified mountain guide and co-founder of Vetta Mountain Guides, based in Boulder, Colorado. 


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