GAP Mark Pattison | Mindset Shift


Mark Pattison is a Former NFL Player, Speaker, Mountaineer & Sports Illustrated Executive. Mark and Glenn discuss the most powerful tool at your disposal – your attitude.


Show Notes:

1:20 – Mark Pattison introduction.

3:20 – What is your definition of attitude?

7:49: – What was your attitude to get out of loneliness? Being the first NFL player to ever climb the 7 summits. New energy. New attitude.

12:56 – Profound story.

15:47 – Feelings of peace and reckoning? Getting unplugged. Meditation. Being in the mountains.

17:25 – Don James attitude? University of Washington. John Wooden. Competitive greatness. Sports Illustrated. Mount Everest. Stepping into the fear. Ronnie Lott. Do the thing with daily discipline. Commit.

22:01 – Close to death on Mount Everest. Building red blood cells. Waiting for the jet stream to rise. Death Zone. Snow blind. Stepping over dead bodies. NFL 360 Presents: Searching For The Summit Documentary. –

29:35 – Partnership with Higher Ground.

31:43 – Knowledge through the decades. What is the attitude lesson at birth? Wonderment. Leave it To Beaver.

34:00 – What is the attitude lesson at the age of 10? Figuring out girls. Obsessed with the word “play”. Classic gym rat. Rain in Seattle. University of Washington. 3 years of dark times. Going from the star to a nobody. Separating yourself from the pack. Having a winning program.

40:22 – What is the attitude lesson at the age of 30? Building and reinvention.

41:45 – What is the attitude lesson at the age of 40?

43:45 – What is the attitude lesson at the age of 50? Worst day of my life. Ticking time bomb. Sometimes the worst thing can be the best gift. Divorce.

47:18 – Show close and message of hope. Finding your summit playbook.

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Here in season two, we’re highlighting influencers and innovators. I always forget to say the award-winning show, Jason. The award-winning show won a Communicator Award for Diversity and Inclusion. I’m so happy and thankful to the Audiovisual Arts Society who gave that to us. In this episode, we got a cool guest, Mr. Mark Pattison, who scales personal and professional summits. He is the CEO and Cofounder of The Pattison Group, a branding and merchandising company. He has all kinds of very cool stories to tell you. He has an NFL documentary. Let’s go ahead and take a quick peek at what is getting ready to be produced by him. Here we go.

We are honored to be with the one and only Mark Pattison. Mark, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

It’s awesome. I’ve never interviewed anybody that’s been at the top of Mount Everest, so we have made history on the show, which is so cool. Mark, we always love to start the episode with our guests getting their definitions. I almost feel like there are pre-Mount Everest Mark Pattison and post-Mount Everest Mark Pattison. Maybe what we should do is talk about pre-Mount Everest Mark Pattison. Who was your best attitude coach? What’s your definition of attitude? Did it change after the climb?

There’s a long story behind that because I did play in the NFL and played major college football at the University of Washington. I’ve started different businesses. A slight correction from your intro, I’m an Executive at Sports Illustrated. Each one of these things has a link. For the past several years, I’ve been climbing mountains all over the world. The pinnacle of achievement is the highest mountain in the world, which is Mount Everest.

I did the Seven Summits. There are less than 400 people around the world that have done all Seven Summits. I felt like I was in a very elite group, but each one takes a huge mindset. When you and I were talking before doing the episode, you were telling me the whole theme of your show. There’s a guy that I was interviewing a couple of years ago. He’s a former All-Pro Raiders linebacker, Jerry Robinson. The first thing I ask him is, “Jerry, how are you doing?” He goes, “Every day, I wake up with an attitude of gratitude.” That meant so much to me because that’s what it is.

Many people get caught up in their circumstances like, “Poor me and pour that.” They get in their own way. When we can shed that negative weight, have an attitude of gratitude and zero in on the things that we need to zero in on to accomplice great things, anything can happen. I’m a great example of that. You asked about great mentors in my life. I had a Hall of Fame coach, Don James. We can get more into that, but he taught me about the Pyramid of Success and the blueprint or the roadmap on how you accomplish different things in your life.

When we can shed that negative weight, have an attitude of gratitude, and zero in on the things that we need to zero in on to accomplish great things, anything can happen. Share on X

You are also a very distinguished and veteran podcast host. Tell us a little bit about your podcast and what your focus is on that.

This is another one of these things where success leaves clues. There was a guy who is one of the announcers for the PAC-12 Network. He had come to me and said, “I want to do a podcast on you.” He came over and we did this podcast. I was spitting out these words like I’m doing to you. I have this little voice inside my head like, “You can do this.”

Fast forward the clock, he gave me the keys to how to do a podcast, so we launched this thing with 50 episodes later. I have a wonderful podcast called Finding Your Summit. It’s about people overcoming adversity and finding their way. Getting back to that word of the attitude of gratitude, let’s put that into perspective. While things may go wrong in certain people’s lives and we all run into bumps, it’s what you’re going to do about it.

I’ve had the great fortune of traveling all over the globe, attacking these different mountains. That’s been a wonderful thing. Going down to Tanzania or even Nepal, where the average wage is $6,000 a year. There’s this correlation that the people with the least amount are the happiest in those different cultures. To have a podcast, as you know, Glenn, takes a lot of discipline. Also, chasing people around the block, scheduling and everything else. Every single time I have a guest on, it’s so uplifting to hear their circumstance and how they work their way out of it.

I’m a football coach who played at Ball State University. It’s not quite as esteemed as the wonderful Washington Huskies. You immerse yourself in this life called football and went on to play in the pros. You said you felt lonely. I can tell you this. There are people that are reading this show that is maybe done with marriage or job and filed bankruptcy that is feeling that same type of loneliness. What was your attitude to get out of that? What was the impetus to get out of that? What was your mindset? What would you communicate to those people that may be reading who have that empty and lonely feeling to help them climb that summit out?

When you’re playing professional sports, in my opinion, the only way that you can attack is by being at the highest level at the University of Washington, the Pac-10, going to the Rose Bowl multiple times or the Orange Bowl. We went to bowl games every single year. Going on into the NFL and against Lester Hayes. You got to be cocky, full of attitude, sass and confident that you can do this job because it’s so competitive that people are trying to take that away.

You asked the question life happens. When life happens, you get knocked off your block. In my case, I was going through a bad relationship for a number of years. She’s a wonderful lady and we’re good friends now, but she didn’t want to be married anymore. I’m committed from the very beginning. It was hard for me to transition out of that marriage but things happen. You got to deal with it.

I was stuck in this awful place for a couple of years. I kept asking the question, as what a lot of people asked themselves, “How did I get here? This is impossible. I was the last guy that this would ever happen to,” yet it’s happening to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a divorce or bankruptcy. Stuff happens in your life. One day, I walked around. I don’t even know if it was a shift in the stars or the moon or I was hit by a lightning strike or something, but I said, “I’m done with that. I’m going to shift that question I keep asking, ‘How did I get here,’ to, ‘What am I going to do about it?’”

When I said that, it shifted my mindset. I was able to get clarity to go back and start thinking about what would give me great joy and happiness and what was going to give me the lift. I started doing some research. I’m from Seattle, Washington. It’s very mountainous up there. What I discovered and what I wanted to do is try to become the first NFL player to ever climb the Seven Summits, the highest peaks around the world. I said, “I’m doing that.”

GAP Mark Pattison | Mindset Shift
Mindset Shift: Shift that question from, “How did I get here?” to, “What am I going to do about it?” When you do, it shifts your mindset.


From that moment on, it gave me the cape, the high to get after it and a new goal. With that goal, it gave me new energy. With that new energy, it gave me a new attitude. I worked my way out of that bad space I was in and flew off to Tanzania, Russia and Australia. Every year, it was the goal to climb a new mountain. I don’t know. It gave me the lift back under my feet. Over time, I got that confidence back.

In the book that I discuss, the quality of your life is determined by the quality of questions you ask yourself about your life and you went through this. Many people are asking themselves the wrong question that doesn’t empower them, juice them up or give them any hope and drive. It sounds like when you changed your question, that was the flip or switch, which is profound and smart.

I also want to throw one other thing because this was classic. A good friend of mine, his name is Hugh Millen. Hugh played for ten years in the NFL. He’s a quarterback at the University of Washington, my quarterback. He went off and we had very similar careers. He played a little bit longer. My daughter, whom he was speaking to, at the time, was about six years old. This was several years ago. He comes over to the house and gets right down. She’s only so high. He goes, “Claudette, let me ask you a riddle. What’s the one thing that you are born with that you can 100% control the outcome?”

You can’t control how tall you’re going to be, what you’ll look like or what kind of an athlete you are going to become. Those things are set in stone. Also, your intelligence and things that. The answer to the riddle was attitude. Her eyes were spinning around. She was six years old, trying to figure out what he was saying, but that was it. He goes, “It’s the one thing that you control and all you have. You’re going to have ups, downs, adversity and all these other things, but that’s the one thing that when everything else clears away, you can step up to the plate and either attack that with a smile or say, ‘Poor me.’” His advice was, “Have the right attitude.”

Have the right attitude. It’s the one thing you control. You're going to have ups, downs, adversity, and all these other things, but that's the one thing that, when everything else clears away, you can step up to the plate and either attack that… Share on X

You said something to me pretty profound that I want to explore very quickly. It seems that the economic levels of the people you’ve met in third world countries while you were climbing, their happiness was in correlation to how poor they were. I’ve done a lot of work with the Timmy Global Health Organization. They focus on, “These people are poor, but they smile. They’re happy. They don’t have a lot of our problems.” Expand a little bit. What was the realization? What is the attitude of some of the most peaceful or unbelievable people you’ve met that would cause you to say that, especially if you got a story?

I’m talking to you here in South Valley, Idaho. That’s where I live. It’s a little small ski town in the middle of Idaho. I was in Seattle, Washington. It’s got pretty destructive up there from the standpoint of having tent cities and this and that. I don’t know the exact answer to this. I don’t know if it’s a circumstance where people were at a certain level. They went bankrupt, lost their job or something, so despair kicks in. They’re on the streets and living that way.

I can speak to the people in Tanzania and Nepal. They don’t have anything to compare it with. We have so much here in the United States and it’s easy to drive down the street and see a big house. In these villages, in the Serengeti, the people of the Maasai tribe live in little huts and their floors are all dirt. Their currency is a goat. Think about that.

When they go to the market, they’re not going to the local grocery store with the refrigeration section and getting a chicken. They are cutting the head off and eating it right there. Their whole perspective on where they’re coming from is at a different level. What they value then is the relationships that they have with other people, the environment, birds, giraffes and everything else that is running by. That is their value system.

Up in Nepal, I got back climbing Mount Everest. It’s the same type of deal where they come from these villages at 14,000 feet. The only thing they can grow up there is potatoes. They work year-round. It’s their whole level of appreciation, gratefulness and their value system at a different level than what we seem to value here in the States.

That is off the radar of 99.9% of Americans. Certainly, when you started to experience those relationships and what I would call the attitude rhythms, did you feel at peace? Did you feel different inside? What was that reckoning like?

I would go back to the part of the healing. I climbed seven mountains, but it took me almost ten years to climb Seven Summits because of COVID that shut the world down, so I couldn’t go in 2020. I was on Denali, which is a mountain up in Alaska and we were stopped by minus 80-degree weather. There was this gap in time. In the earlier days, what gave me the most healing was being in nature, having butterflies and birds chirp, fly by and flutter and seeing trees.

I’m looking out the window and I see a bunch of aspens. They’re called quaking aspens because they flutter in the wind. They go back and forth. I had to get unplugged. I wasn’t in front of my computer. I wasn’t sitting in the day-to-day mock. Maybe some other people might call that meditation, but for me, that was my meditation by being in the mountains to be unplugged and being in these different places to see how other people live and get out of my perspective and my own way.

If a doctor could write that on a prescription pad, he should. Getting unplugged would be very cool, for sure. You mentioned Don James. I always love to know our guest’s attitude coaches. You may or may not know this GAPpers, but this guy was a legend at the University of Washington. We can always learn from people like that. What was the one attitude lesson he gave you that stuck with you?

I’m going to give you a little bit longer answer. I’ll keep it short and simple, but it was this Pyramid of Success that he had taken from John Wooden. John Wooden was a famous basketball coach who won ten NCAA championships in a row. He was incredible. He took and essentially plugged in his individual and team goals. At the very top of that pinnacle, it’s called competitive greatness.

Competitive greatness comes from the standpoint of you need to be at your best when your best is required. Running the stairs, lifting weights, doing well in the classroom and all those individual things ultimately puts you in the place of being in the Rose Bowl, which I was able to be in a couple of times. Another thing is you have to love the process. That’s the difference for me between my success and those who don’t go to these high places because they quit. I don’t stop because it’s going to make me better and put me in the best position to win.

GAP Mark Pattison | Mindset Shift
Mindset Shift: Competitive greatness comes from the standpoint that you need to be at your best when your best is required.


I’ve got example after example, even taking that same thing in the business. I’m an Executive at Sports Illustrated. Years ago, we started a technology company and we had nothing. We were trying to go out there and pitch our technology to different companies, this and that. In 2023, we sit at number 55 biggest websites. Sports Illustrated is 1 of 300 that we have in our club family of brands. There’s a certain rhythm and way that we went through this. It’s no different than what I did when I was playing football and what I had to do to go and climb these mountains around the world, particularly Mount Everest, which I almost lost my life on.

GAPers, the attitude lesson is that many of you are in a process such as a relationship, business, success or building a home. It could be whatever. Mark’s attitude lesson from a coach was you got to love the process. You can’t get caught up or beaten down by the process. It’s an attitude. It’s the way you dedicate yourself to the way you think about the process that you’re in. No matter how bad, ugly or hard that process is, you embrace it and say, “This is what it takes to climb Mount Everest.” Any other thoughts?

I have three takeaways if you heard nothing else in that. Number one is stepping into fear. Think about going across the center against Ronnie Lott, which I did. It’s not a good outcome and it wasn’t for me, but you got to step into the fear. The second thing that a lot of people talk about doing things but then they talk themselves out of is once you step into the fear, do that thing with daily discipline. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, sunny or you’re not feeling great. You need to go every single day something towards that goal.

The third thing is you got to commit. This is the big thing where people fall off. You see this all the time in December when it comes to the close of the year. This little thing is called a New Year’s resolution. We all made the commitment that we’re going to lose 20 pounds, run the 10K or do something. By March, you bail out. I can say with certainty that the difference between what I’ve been able to do and when others don’t get to the goal that they want to reach is a function of, “I’ve done those three things, stepping into the fear, daily discipline and I don’t give up.”

Let’s talk about that. We’ve interviewed some unbelievable Afghan veterans that have been on the battlefield, almost dead. Mount Everest has claimed the lives of many. You stated, “I was close to death.” Take us through that day. I’ll listen to the story. When you woke up, were you like, “I might die today?” I want to know what you were thinking when you woke up that day and then take us through the story of what happened.

This is Mount Everest. The first thing people are surprised at, in general, is how long you were up there. Being on the mountain, you set yourself a base camp, which is 17,500 feet, which is quite tall. You’re there for essentially two months. During that time, you’re going up and down. You’re going up a little higher and coming back down. During this whole process, what you’re trying to do is build red blood cells that carry more oxygen around your body. That’s number one.

Number two is you’re waiting for the jet stream to rise. This normally happens on the backside between May 15th and May 30th. There’s never a guarantee. In our case, there is one day window because in front of that and behind that, we were caught in a cyclone. Camp 4 Mount Everest in 26,500 feet looks like an absolute war zone. It’s torn up. There’s stuff everywhere. It’s no place that anybody wants to live. It’s called a death zone.

We went to sleep on the night of the 22nd of May. This is 7:00. The idea was to wake up around 11:30 on the 22nd with the goal of leaving camp around 12:30. You’re technically on the 23rd of May. They forgot to wake up our tent. That’s a whole other story, but that’s what happened. We had about twenty minutes to get ready and that’s no way to prepare for anything. I hadn’t eaten in about three days because we were locked in a cyclone. We were eating these freeze-dried foods and it wasn’t going down and setting well with me. I didn’t have that much energy.

All of a sudden, it’s chop-chop and get out of bed. We pop out and there’s this strong windstorm going sideways from left to right with all kinds of ice particles. It went into my left eye. Within an hour, I went snow blind in my left eye. That was number one. Number two is you can’t even begin to imagine how steep it is all the way to the top of Mount Everest from the whole mountain, from Camp 4 up to the top and coming back down.

With somebody not eating in three days and having no energy, I struggled the whole time that I was there. I finally got to the top and meanwhile, as I was getting to the top, I was stepping over dead bodies. One of those dead bodies was my tentmate from Antarctica, Don Cash. We climbed a mountain down in Antarctica called Mount Vinson in 2019. He was part of that big long line that a lot of people saw in 2019. Unfortunately, he was a casualty, but it’s pretty surreal when you’re stepping over somebody that you know.

I made it to the top nine hours later and I was gassed. This is a place where a lot of people think you’ve got the cameras out, you’re fired up and giving some emotional tribute or something. I was like, “Now, I’ve got to go all the way back down.” I was up there for about 45 minutes, which is probably too long. Nonetheless, I got going. On my way down, I ran out of oxygen. It was one thing after another. I was exposed out there for a total of eighteen hours. I thought I would be out there for 10, 11 or 12. For somebody that’s not eating, I was surviving on these little hard candies, not drinking as much water as I needed. I had no energy. It was all I could do to get off that mountain.

That is an amazing story. We are here with Mark Pattison, who’s an Executive at Sports Illustrated. You can go to That is his website. For better purposes, he has a very well-produced video. Is it a 30-minute video, Mark?

Yeah. The NFL came to me and said, “We’d love to do a documentary on you.” I said, “Great.” They bring a big film crew. They weren’t allowed to go to Nepal because of the COVID that hit and shut everything down. Due to security, NFL protocols weren’t allowing anybody out of the United States, so they equipped me with GoPro and everything. I did a lot of the coverage on the mountain, which was hard at times to do to concentrate on that type of thing when you’re at your wit’s end, but now, they’ve put it all together.

The one thing about the NFL and you probably know this, and ESPN does a wonderful job as well with their 30/30s, is they’re such great storytellers. This isn’t a story about me climbing a mountain. It is, in a way, but it’s a story about overcoming a tough time, which you talked about early in the episode to your readers. My daughter has epilepsy, so I dedicated my climb to my daughter Emilia.

GAP Mark Pattison | Mindset Shift
Mindset Shift: This isn’t a story about me climbing a mountain. It is, in a way, but it’s a story about overcoming a tough time.


We set up a campaign called Emilia’s Everest. Within Emilia’s Everest, all proceeds to that go to an organization here in some valley called Higher Ground. When this movie finally came out, we said, “Let’s create an opportunity and pay it forward.” We’re showing it here at the main theater in Sun Valley. All the ticket sales go 100% to Higher Ground. We brought in the sponsor.

It’s on the website for Mark Pattison. They’re doing good. There are a couple of red bars. If you click, you can watch it, donate and buy a ticket, correct?

You can buy the ticket and the ticket goes to Higher Ground. If you were someplace outside of Sun Valley, Idaho, which I’m sure a lot of your readers are, you can livestream it. They’ll send you a link on the day. It’s like a YouTube type of link. It’s not just 30 minutes. We’ve also got a country Western star that’s coming in to sing. We’ve got some highlights coming from Higher Ground. I’m trying not to make this about me, but how can I serve and other people serve others when they’ve had a little bit of success and they can pay it forward?

Talk to us real quick about Higher Ground. What is Higher Ground? If people wanted to support Higher Ground, where would they go to find that?

You can find it on my website. I’ve got all the buttons there and one goes to them. Essentially, Higher Ground is bringing mostly military veterans over to Sun Valley. They also have offices in New York and LA. It’s interactive and empowerment therapy. It’s always great to give to these different organizations that need it. You send your money and that’s that. Maybe there are medicines, supplies or something.

In this case, they bring these veterans here to Sun Valley, take them out and have them whitewater raft, fly fish, mountain bike, snow ski and things like that. They talk about confidence being down. When you have your arms or legs or you’ve got PTSD, you lose that confidence. By doing these different sports, it’s trying to empower these different athletes so that they can have that can-do attitude.

GAPers, if you have a service member in your family, friend or chain and they could use a boost, lift or a new perspective, Higher Ground is something that you would want to put them in. Rob Jones was right before you. He ran 31 marathons in 31 days with no legs. He was an above-the-knee double amputee. He was our last guest. Rob is amazing.

What you said mirrored so much the goodness that has come out of what he’s learned and the fact that you’re at Higher Ground doing that. I’m going to put him in touch with you guys too. He will tell you that it was seeing others doing things that enabled him to become a Paralympic athlete, as well as do 31 marathons in 31 days. I got to make sure we put you two together, which is good.

Mark, you’ve been awesome. We always finish our interviews by walking you through your life. I’m sure you’re going to be fine because you’re a professional speaker. You love to do keynotes. I’ve seen plenty of videos of you. We call this knowledge through the decades. I’m going to ask you what your attitude lesson was at different ages in your life. The first place we start is birth. I know you probably don’t remember being born, but maybe when little Emilia was born, you remember the attitude lesson of new life and birth. What would you say the attitude lesson of coming out to the world is?

For me, it was wonderment. I did live in a, “Leave it to the beaver.” My parents were both school teachers. We didn’t go on any fancy trips. There weren’t cell phones, 50,000 TV channels, the internet, or these other things, so I spent all my time in a playground playing football, basketball and baseball with my buddies.

Wonderment as you come out. Both of your folks were teachers. That’s pretty cool. I always love to ask this. What about your grandparents? Did you have a special bond with anyone of your grandparents? What was their attitude? What did they do?

I was pretty tight with my grandfather on my mother’s side in particular. He owned some hotels and restaurants in Seattle. It was a big Washington booster. He exposed me to the University of Washington, taking me to all the games like basketball and football when I was a little kid. He later became a horseman. He owned a bunch of horses in the state of Washington. He named one of his Thoroughbred after me called Flanker 19. I was a wide receiver, so I was very grateful for that.

We were talking about Bob Rondeau, my brother-in-law. My sister and he won the Seattle Mile. I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s a huge race. They’re in the horse business too. It’s pretty cool. I love that. What was your grandpa’s name?

His name was Les Brainard. Your brother-in-law, Bob Rondeau, would know him.

I’m going to go ahead and bring that up to him. How cool is that? I want you to think about when you were ten years old. Let’s put you at around fourth grade. Let me know if you remember who your teacher was. We can give her a shout-out. What was your attitude lesson as a ten-year-old?

My teacher at that time was a guy named Willie Pugh. Willie Pugh had a very funny way of teaching. I was at a little private school that didn’t cost very much. Those are getting into the awkward years a little bit because you’re starting to figure out girls. Once you get into 8th and 9th grade, you’re moving into high school. That whole decade was cool. I had a great junior high school experience.

If you remember being ten, what attitude did you possess? Was there a lesson? Were you ever bullied? Was there a point when you were ten you said, “I need to change my attitude or check something?” What was the lesson there for you? Do you remember any lessons back then?

I was so obsessed with the wordplay. That dominated my mind all the time. I was a classic gym rat. Any time, I would get into the gym or on the field. It rained a lot in Seattle and I’d be out there in a t-shirt. My mom used to open the door and scream out the back window for dinner. I’d come off the playing field. I was never into drugs, alcohol and all those things. It’s just workout and picking up a game.

It has held fuel that drives, although I didn’t need it. The interesting thing and maybe this is the next thing you’re coming at, but everything was going great until I hit something. As a freshman, I was probably eighteen years old and I went to the University of Washington. I never had to work for anything, so it was the first time I had to make a choice. “What door do I want to go through, door A or door B?”

That change had a profound effect on my life because I was going nowhere. I didn’t understand the Pyramid of Success and what it took to work. I didn’t have the body to play in the league and all these things. It’s choosing what direction I want to take my life and I chose the right door. The best thing that ever happened to me is I had to go through about three years of dark times before I ever saw the light, but once the light hit, I was in a position to take that on.

GAP Mark Pattison | Mindset Shift
Mindset Shift: The best thing that ever happened to me is that I had to go through three years of dark times before I ever saw the light, but once the light hit, I was in a position to take that on.


I’m going to let you blend 10 and 20. You answered twenty for us, which is this thing of choice. Let’s go down the rabbit hole a little bit. When you say dark times, what were the dark times that you were facing? What were the challenges out there? What was your attitude? How did you get out of it? We all go through dark times. Everybody that’s reading here has been through dark times and now is an opportunity. We look at this guy. He went to the NFL and Washington. He’s climbing Mount Everest, but you know what? His life wasn’t perfect. He had some dark times and self-doubt. Share with us a little bit about what that was and how you got out of it.

As a freshman in particular, in football, I dominated for that time in that region and sport. I was better than everybody. I was the player of the state. It came very easy to me, but yet, I never worked at it other than being the gym rat. I didn’t know the fundamentals that you needed to go through. When you’re used to being the star and all of a sudden, you’re nobody, you’re looking out on the field and everybody has been the all whatever wherever they came from. It becomes the difference of, “What are you going to do about it? How are you going to separate yourself from the pack?”

This is the one interesting lesson that I’ve learned over life. By going through, doing the Pyramid of Success and the daily discipline, never giving up and always committing, there was no certainty on the other end. A plus B didn’t equal C just because I did all these things. Typically, you know the recruiting model because you played football at Ball State. If they bring in 25 different people or 8 people, the math isn’t exactly right.

Eight of the guys are starters. They’re the stars. 8 are backups and 8 are going to fade out of the program. They transfer, break their leg, get into drugs or something happens. If you do the math on all this and go over 4 or 5 years, you have a winning program. That’s the way that goes. 4 years later, I redshirted in there and 4 years later, we’re playing Michigan at home when we find ourselves down by 2 touchdowns. We come back in the fourth quarter. It’s the final 16 seconds of the game and I’m playing.

To be at my best when my best was required, I practiced and practiced fade routes in my sleep, on the playground and during practice. My number got called and I jumped up over this guy. We hauled in the touchdown and won the game. I ended up on Sports Illustrated. It was amazing. That set my course. From the coach’s standpoint, it’s like, “This guy can handle pressure,” but it took me 3.5 years or 4 years to get to that point. All the dark times I went through counted as part of the chits towards what I needed to do and be in the right place at the right time.

That was at The Big House where you did that?

That was in Husky Stadium. The next year, we went back and played Michigan in The Big House. I went for 73 yards and touched it.

The point of the story, GAPers, on that very simply, is you may be in a 3-year battle or 2 years and 2 months of that battle, but your day of reckoning is coming. If you got to stick with it, that seems to be the message. It seems to be consistent for a mountain climber and somebody of your ilk might say. Let’s go to age 30. I’d love to know if you remember turning 30. Were you married? Did you have any kids? What was going on with you at 30? What was the attitude lesson you learned at 30?

We’re transitioning out of the NFL at 29. I’m getting married around 30 and we’re starting that life. This is going back to the original comment that you made in the opening about my branding company. I did have a branding company back in the day and that went quite well for a number of years. It took me probably two years. I was disillusioned. After playing football for such a long time and then you go off the cliff, it’s like, “Now what?” That was a tough transition for me.

Going back to two years of dark times, that’s a long time to have dark times, but I got my juice. We were going again. I started this and then life started to happen. I ended up having two girls and they’re amazing. You think you’re on your way and you’re doing this and that. A number of years later, maybe we’re getting into the 40s. I don’t want to jump again and fall into that. That fall was happening during the 30s. It was that building phase and having kids.

That was going on and then 40 hits. Tell me what’s going on. What’s your attitude lesson when 40 hits you?

Forty was a lot of transition. That was entering into the place within the marriage having a lot of bumps and bruises and the words we’re going to go. We had moved to Seattle, where she and I had known everybody. She wanted to go back to California, which is where we’d moved from. We went back down there and found a lonely place. I didn’t know anybody. When you’re going through a tough time and there’s nobody to turn to and talk to, it can be pretty hollow.

I was also in that place where I don’t think I was vulnerable enough to reach out to people and say, “Things aren’t perfect. This marriage is in jeopardy.” That’s something that I had to learn the hard way. There are lots of folks out there that are compassionate. A lot of those same people were in the same position that I was in, but nobody was willing to talk about it. That was a valuable lesson for me.

The transition of starting the general spiral personally is like, “How is this all going to play out?” It’s like what we talked about early in the program of how I got here. When you answer those questions, you’re trying to figure out. There’s never a good solution because all solutions go down the bad path. “You got here because you’re an idiot. You’re a bad person.” That’s why I finally figured it out after another two years. The only way to go forward is to start thinking about what you are going to do about it. What does that roadmap look like?

Do you remember your 50th birthday? What were you doing? What’s your attitude lesson to being 50?

It’s an interesting question. I’ve never been asked this question before.

I can’t ask you about 60, so you’re going to have to come back.

I will come back, but it was probably the worst day of my life, my 50th birthday. My kids were at that age where they were fluttering up to school and getting them up early. Maybe my birthday happened on a Tuesday, Wednesday or something like that. It wasn’t like a Saturday night or a Sunday where you wake up and you have lots of times of things to do.

They fluttered out and my ex didn’t want anything to do with me. She didn’t talk to me that day. I went through pretty much the whole day with nobody saying, “Happy birthday.” This is my 50th and it was supposed to be a huge celebration and a big marker for you. I talk about this a little bit in the film. I was at such a low point of loneliness and bewilderment. I was at a pretty lost point in my life where I honestly didn’t know how much longer or if I would make it.

That’s a hard thing to say and that’s a hard place to be. That’s the place I was at. I’m here and I’ve got a great attitude. I’ve had all these wonderful things happen, but that was like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Sometimes the worst thing that you think can be out there is the biggest gift that can ever fall in your lap. That’s what I look back.

Sometimes the worst thing that you think can be out there is the biggest gift that can ever fall into your lap. Share on X

The greatest gift that my ex gave me, even though I didn’t know it at the time and she probably didn’t know it, is to leave the marriage. I had to resolve it with my kids and everything else, but it’s been the greatest blessing in my life. I would’ve never gotten into Seven Summits, podcasts, writing a book, having a movie, paying it forward and starting campaigns called Emilia’s Everest, where I’ve raised $150,000. Also, these different campaigns that we’ve done. Seeing the joy and some of these other people going through that pain and being able to relate with these folks because of what I’ve gone through has been a huge blessing that I’ve been given in my life.

GAPers, as we walk through Mark’s life from wonderment to play, to choice and choosing a direction, to building and reinventing himself, to not being perfect and being vulnerable, to bewilderment and loneliness to where he is, it’s reconciliation and growth. It’s every problem in your life. It’s not original. We all share problems, but I do know this. No matter what your problem is, if you’re willing to learn and grow through it, it will help you bridge the gap from who you are to who you want to become.

Mark has been so gracious and kind to walk through his life with us and knowledge through the decades to show us what he did, how he did it, what the stories were and what the thought process was. I hope that Mark gave you several different ways to bridge the gap in your life. Mark, we always like to end the show with this.

We’re almost 60, but what’s your message of hope for our GAPers? What is your message of encouragement? Maybe you have a final story in your keynote. Why don’t you leave us with something to think about as your episode plays that will hopefully inspire us? Please make sure that we are looking at Higher Ground for Mark to support him and get on his website as well.

This is not for sale and it’s never been for sale. It’s a book that I wrote up on Denali. We’re up there for three weeks and I was writing all these notes. I converted this in. Finding Your Summit was metaphorical. In my case, it’s climbing mountains, but a lot of people climbing a mountain might be in a relationship or a business like you were talking about before.

I wrote this thing. It’s a playbook on how you accomplish different things in your life. I’m reading this off, but it’s your step-by-step guide to unleash your potential, achieve your goals and live your purpose. The core thing that I tell people, and I used to tell my kids every single day when I drop them off at school, is this little quote, “It takes a little more to make a champion.”

It takes a little more to make a champion. Share on X

Think about it. If you want to go the extra difference, get involved in charity, climb a mountain, learn how to knit, play the guitar and do well in school, you got to go the extra distance. Taking shortcuts and all that kind of stuff never mounts to a great result. If you want to be successful in your life, whatever that means, go the extra distance to be a champion and you will have those results., you need to get that one done. That’s awesome. That’s freaking good. Get to Go Daddy on that. I like that. Jason, take a look and see. We’ll give that to him as a gift. Mark, thank you so much for sharing with us. You have been awesome. GAPers, go out and stay positive. Remember, do a little bit more. We will see you in the next episode.


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