Marketing, Mountaineering, and Making Meaning

The other day Vicki and I were talking about this blog, the Heart of the Matter. Sparked by an idea from my brilliant brother’s marketing blog, Vicki asked something like, “So, are we on brand?”

Hmm, on brand for being a blog where we have conversations about things that matter.  On brand for telling stories that inspire and dig deeper?

It made me think of mountain climbing stories. Anyone who thinks that the art of telling stories is dead should spend a couple of days up in the mountains with a group of guides. With no distractions from electronics, the practice of sitting around the camp stove to tell stories while the snow melts for tea is very much alive.

And the guides are often very good story-tellers. They have a lot of stories about poop since that frequently is a vulnerable and trying act in the mountains. There are some stories about sex although that is often a first-day thing. As in it needs to happen on the first day otherwise people are feeling a little too ripe and worn down after that. Generally speaking, of course, and I’m not talking about personal knowledge here.

But there are not very many stories that go beyond the humor and preposterousness of life on the mountain into deeper stuff. Years ago, a mountain climber named Jim Wickwire or Wick published his memoir Addicted to Danger. Wick was a lawyer from Seattle, not a guide, but he was the first American to summit K2, and spent a lot of years climbing big things with a lot of notable climbers.

And in nearly every chapter of his book, someone died, or so it seemed. There was even a chapter where his law partner was assaulted in his office and died. I doubt anyone wanted to climb with Wick after that book came out but thinking back on it, I see how Wick was wrestling with the stories that matter, the ones with the awe, sadness, ambition, and how to face death.

Like Wick did with his climbing buddy, Chris Kerrebrock, after he fell into a crevasse and the 50 pound sled he was hauling jammed him in upside down so tightly that there was nothing that Chris or Wick could do to get him out. So they sat together, sang and told stories until Chris died. Then Wick took the trumpet mouthpiece that Chris always carried, and started the long, lonely trek out of there and back to his family.

Whoa – talk about an experience that is ripe for the making of meaning. Brené Brown talks about the making of meaning, and finding the language where we can make sense of our experiences, in her book, Atlas of the Heart:

“I want to open up that language portal so even more of us can step through it and find of a universe of new choices and second chances – a universe where we can share the stories of our bravest and most heartbreaking moments with each other in a way that builds connection.”

Atlas of Heart by Brené Brown

Which bring me back to my central question – are we telling the stories that matter? I think so – in the 6 weeks or so since we started this blog we’ve been telling stories about joy, death, health, family, relationships, saying “yes,” taking the leap, science experiments, love experiments, the power of knowing people and their names, empathy – and all the amazing comments from insightful, intuitive and interested readers that push the conversations further. It feels to me that we’ve co-created a space where learning, curiosity, people trying their best, and working to make meaning is happening.

And it’s not like I’m beyond telling poop stories from climbing. We’re just trying to figure out how to make meaning out of that shit.

So, back to the original question. Are we on brand here at HoTM? I think we are but I’d love to know what you think.

Please visit my personal blog at and I also post on Wednesdays at the Wise & Shine blog. And if you want to follow me, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @wynneleon

(featured photo from Pexels)

32 thoughts on “Marketing, Mountaineering, and Making Meaning

  1. Well—your story reminded me of my granddaughter’s poop experience on the Appalachian Trail where she lost her balance and rolled down a hill with her pants down around her ankles. Thank God she didn’t die from it, but the possibility chills my bones, and the visual is hilarious. Yes, The Heart of the Matter is on point, providing a space for self-aware students of life to share with others of like mind and express heartfelt feelings and opinions in a place of safety—and yes, tell poop stories in a comfortable space where there is no judgment, condemnation, or criticism. One might need to find some mighty tall mountains to climb in order to find such a place. So thank you.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Oh my goodness, Julia – that’s a good story! It’s so hard to poop out there. I’m so glad that she is okay.

      And I love your sentiment that we get to tell our poop stories in a safe and comfortable space. Blessings to you for helping us create that safe space when we can laugh, lift, and learn!! ❤ ❤ ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I believe storytelling is core to who we are as humans. I once read a theory that written Greek was created to record Homer’s stories that were so compelling. The historian who wrote Sapiens weaves a beautiful story about our super-power to form communities because of the enormous potential influence of stories. Deb and I bonded over our joy in exploring the philosophical side of the stories, and are seeking more kindred souls who are similarly interested.

    And I wouldn’t have snorted this morning as I read the mountaineering poop-shower 🤣 Stories are the backbone of our life, thank you for creating such a fantastic forum for them, and for us!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Irony at work this morning EW! Was just commenting on LA’s blog about existential musing with Brenda and had to go back to add in how engaging it has been to head down this path with you as well- inspired I believe in part by this blog. I suppose that may mean I am a bit biased here, but I think things on HoTM are coming together splendidly! Thank you for your part in making that so!

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Mountaineering poop-shower. Now I’m totally cracking up all over again EW!

      I’m so glad that you brought up Yuval Noah Harari – someone you introduced me to. Yes, our ability to bond via gossip and stories — I love that you call it a super-power. Isn’t this fun?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, you and your colleagues are trying to create meaning. Indeed, to the extent you follow that path, you are channeling your inner existentialist. Camus and Sartre would applaud.They have given me permission to applaud in their place!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I’m going to take a slightly different approach and ask another question back – my own experience with blogging is that it has opened up and expanded what my intentions were when I started. I cant believe HoTM has only been going 6 weeks … it already feels so well established. However, my question is this: have the expectations of the founders, your contributors and folliwers/readers and commentors pushed the boundaries further than you hoped?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What a great question, Brenda! And I love the way you think to flip the question around a bit. I’d say that you’re right – the collective has pushed my boundaries because it’s made it take shape in a way that is bigger what I could come up with on my own. Which is part of the beauty of groups, right?


    1. What an interesting distinction you make, Ally. Not all stories will land. And yes, you are a storyteller (and a very good one) so maybe that is a bias – but it also seems to be an integral part of how we relate and learn.

      Liked by 2 people

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