Saturday, March 9, 2013

Straight to the Top and Beyond, by John Amatt

John Amatt inspires with his autobiography, Straight to the Top and Beyond: Nine Keys for Meeting the Challenge of Changing Times. After successfully organizing and executing the logistics of the 1982 Canadian Everest expedition, Amatt turned to inspirational public speaking to help others achieve their greatest challenges, in addition to leading some subsequent adventures. He had a varied background before Everest, climbing amongst the British legends of Brown and Bonington (including leading the first ascent of Norway's Troll Wall), before heading off to teach physical education in Canada and eventually making it to the Rockies to found the Banff Mountain Film Festival. In his story, he discusses how he has changed over the years, developing from a shy boy with plenty of potential to a leader and a well-known public speaker. The book is divided into two parts, with Amatt's biography taking two-thirds of the space, and an explanation of his ADVENTURE ethic (an acronym of keys to life happiness, success, and fulfillment) and some further inspiration filling the remaining third. For inspirational and self-help texts tied to Everest, this is the most effective I've come across so far. Of course, Amatt's had a lot of practice inspiring others before getting around to this book, whereas most others write their inspirational Everest books fresh off the mountain (or even before they bother to climb it...I won't name any names.)

The Everest material serves as a nice supplement to the standard sources on the 1982 Canadian expedition, Burgess & Palmer's Everest Canada and Bruce Patterson's Canadians on Everest. Amatt provides his prospective, unique both for his organizational role and his serving as the media mouthpiece in Kathmandu for the men still on the mountain after the breakup of the climbing team due to four deaths. He discusses his difficulties raising money and his need, like Bonington's Southwest Face climb, to find one large sponsor (subsequently Air Canada) to cover the majority of the climb's cost. Due to the confused and false reports on their climb after tragedy strikes, Amatt realizes that both the team and their sponsors need accurate and constant information for the media to counter the bad news from uninformed critics. He turns a messy situation into eventual positive publicity after two Canadians reach the summit, and he uses the success of the expedition to pay the party's debts through team members' speaking engagements throughout the country, leading to his career in inspirational speaking.

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