I am not small in stature or presence. This has offered me many critical observations throughout my storied career paths and the dream my life path has stumbled upon.
Being six foot one and about two hundred twenty pounds, bearded, and decidedly less chic in appearance – the world views me a certain way. When I decide to speak to you in person, often I watch your face show signs of fear if I don’t make the conscious effort to frame a comment with some comic relief in it. It is not my desire to make you afraid, instill fear, or otherwise detract from our interaction – because I look like I can rip your arm off and beat you to death with it. However, I am forced to become more like John Belushi or Chris Farley to get my point across and decrease your resistance to me. If I were more diminutive and less threatening physically, would your view of me change? I can only speak from observation, but up to this point in my life – I would say yes you would.
As a society, the fear I instill perpetuates a stereotype and bias I have observed and felt like expressing through my opinion here for many others who find themselves in the same situation. For example, I have observed that when a man under my size and weight makes a strong and assertive statement similar to my own – he is rallied around rather than feared. If I were to make the same statement, many you would give me distance and steer clear of me until you felt safe. This is not a criticism, just an observation and merely given to offer you an opportunity to think about this the next time you are in a similar situation with someone who appears like me.
So what does this mean? It means I have to try harder than most to build a trust and build friendships with people. Even though my photos and comments build a sense of who I am as a man for those of you who follow my exploits here and in social media – the vision of who that person is in your mind, and what I look like physically rarely meets the expectations many of you have. I try to remember this, when we eventually cross paths, but you must realize that what you know of me from this virtual plane are merely the preface to what has made me who I am.
My media which is given voice through my words are often seen as inspirational, mimicked by others, and at times are sought to help brands, businesses, and non-profits because of my perspective and expertise in message delivery. I compound that creative side with a strong understanding of how this feeds the variety of industries who I have done this work for with sound analytical and economic traceability, as well as a thorough understanding of the technical aspects of photo/video/web composition. I have not yet found a way to build this into a business model, or find a business out there, that would supply me with the income to afford not needing a regular job. Nonetheless I persist.
To that end I find myself at times answering questions like, “So how many people are involved in what you do?” “How long did it take your team to put that video together?” “Do you need help with staff?” “What’s it like being a local (or online) celebrity?” “How do you get companies to pay you for what you do?”
It’s amazing to be perceived in this way, however the truth is that I am a one man band. The things you see me shoot and describe are just me doing what I can when I can. If I had any financial backing to do it – you would likely be amazed at what I could accomplish. To that point, there are many who do try and do what I do – and some have found a way to make a living doing it. But to my earlier point, those people are often younger and physically less intimidating than I am. That part of the industries I engage have high turnover, and longevity is dependent on how long you can maintain your youthful connectivity to the social sphere.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a long time follower and he offered that, “What we really need is more visual representation of the age class who are more actively involved with our fisheries and public lands issues. Too often we are seeing visuals of 20-30 year olds who would otherwise never be able to visit amazing destinations doing just that. While the ones who are actually able to afford such trips and actively engaged in the politics associated with them, generally are of a much older demographic, and are under-represented. Not only that, but we like to party and cut loose and get goofy just like they do!”
I don’t argue this point, but I offer that it is not in the nature of most of these brands who support the films and photo essays to show an older generation in that active light. Many times it is preferred to show them as the stewards they have become by quoting/interviewing them and having them speak to a camera (or with written interview) with the wisdom their physical features accentuate. The light in which they are represented are mostly complimentary, as a “sage” of some type, and flattering.
Then they have the young ones showcase the wares which these brands offer through a base physical appeal to their products by using attractive young men and women, cutting loose and getting goofy, and having a great time. Not to say those younger men and women do not have the passion for the topics or issues, but most people are inspired to buy from what their eyes can see – these young attractive men and women showing what the outdoors means to all of us and remembering their own youth.
What I do find disturbing from this typecast is the underlying reality of those we would be that mentor/sage stereotype. Too often I have found that their amazing sense of humor, their love of just getting goofy, and the very same joy they have for the outdoors by cutting loose with good friends is shuttered. I cannot tell you how many of my generation and older are just as much fun, can be just as goofy, and are willing to try and match the energy levels of their younger counterparts.
When a young man or woman is tossing a loop out to finning rooster fish, a sipping brown trout, or swinging into a pod of steelhead holding in a pristine spring fed river wearing a Patagonia hat, they are trying to appeal to the very simple nature within us. Most of the older generation sees themselves at an earlier time in their lives in that young man or woman. They feel connected to that younger man or woman when they are engaged in that activity and they hope to share in that same stoke.
By offering the same stoke and knowing I also am perceived in some authority role, I try to bridge that gap somehow by holding friendships with both ends of the age spectrum. To learn from everyone and see within them that part of me which can connect to those ends because of this shared love we have of the outdoors. To touch, and to be touched, by the lives and places which revolve around the amazing resources we enjoy brings me more joy than can be expressed in mere words. To offer insight into the political, scientific, and internal struggles of conservation to those younger than me, and to offer insight and avenues of how to engage those younger to those older – this is what I do.
Perhaps this is where my own personal life comes back to challenge me. In being a passionate, conservation minded, engaged, and vocal advocate for our fisheries and public lands – my own physical nature and willingness to sacrifice my own well being feeds this cycle I find myself in. I am no financial whiz – I am great at the math, but have continuously de-valued my fees because I get emotionally involved with my projects and the people I decide to help. Is what I do valuable to the groups, businesses, and brands I support? Of course it is – but I also know it has a greater value to the friendships I have created which make me happy.
To that end I find myself at times in less than ideal financial situations. I give and spend more than I should, but I have never been of a mind to leave this world with anything. My hope has always been to leave this world a better place than I found it. It occurs to me that the perception of who I am continues to drive discourse and the valuation of my work, which is as varied as my friends. I choose to help others by offering who I am and what I do to fit within the means they have. As I would hope no one would ask of me more than I am willing or capable of giving, I try to do the same for them.
Being a large man means that I am not just perceived as a large physical force, but have a responsibility to have a large heart as well. Being thoughtful and mature in my manner means I should be harder deal with, but my appearance lends itself to be approachable and a willingness to get goofy with. While this approach may be easier for some with a smaller frame or are younger in age, I will continue to live my life as I see fit – for myself and my desire to share my love for all the places which feed my soul. If some would like to see how well I work within this structure and believe it can offer some benefit to your company, please reach out to me.
I have never bent to the will of the herd, have always relied on my instincts, and live each day for the moment. When I am ready to leave this place, I will look at this life I have led and dream of each face I have touched, each life I have changed, and each footstep I have taken. That will be an amazing day indeed.
My hope is when that happens, those of you I have touched will throw a party and feel the warmth of my embrace – and have not a shred of fear of me left within you. I will forever be stumbling and bumbling down this path even when I am gone, through the memories and dreams I have become part of. And I thank you for that.