It was sometime in 2012 when the idea started to germinate. At the time it seemed like a distant possibility. I thought, “Can I do it?” It would take near-perfect weather, remaining injury-free, and a determination to reach a goal that seemed implausible at the time. It meant sacrifice. It meant early mornings, long drives, planning, and hundreds of miles alone on trails.

I thought there was an outside chance I could climb the rest of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks. By mid-summer it had become a bit of an obsession. I realized there were some difficult summits left with names like Capitol Peak, Little Bear, Sunlight Peak, Pyramid Peak, South Maroon, Wilson Peak and Longs Peak. By September 8th, I reached the top of my thirty-forth summit for the season just outside of Telluride – alone, worried, and relieved.

Italian climber Reinhold Messner said, “I learned through trying and sometimes failing, not always through succeeding.” I have great respect for the mountains just as I do the open oceans. I have been afraid, and still am. But fear in the absence of risk is irrational. Fear is part of a larger task; of putting ourselves into difficult situations. This is just as true with interviews, with public speaking, with relationships as it is with mountains. Risk is part of life because sometimes our best plans don’t work out like we hope.

As an author, you understand that things don’t always go as planned. So let’s take a few moments to look at what can go wrong during a media interview and what you can do about it.

  1. Getting off course. This can happen in the mountains but it happens in interviews too. A host asks you a question that has little or nothing to do with your topic. What should you do? On a trail it means retracing your steps and getting back on track. In an interview it means refocusing the topic to what you know, not going ahead and pretending you know something about a topic that is outside your area of expertise.
  2. Being unprepared. This is a common occurrence in the high country. The temperature plummets or the clouds roll in and you are caught off guard. If an interviewer is unprepared, step in and help them. Talk, and keep talking until they catch on and start asking questions that are relevant to your topic.
  3. Timing is off. Earlier morning starts are critical in the Rockies. Lightening kills people every year because they get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. As an author, don’t be late for interviews. A live show may want to keep you on longer or a live segment might be running late but always be where you are supposed to be and when you are supposed to be there, never later.
  4. Fear takes over. You may get nervous, scarred or feel anxious. This is normal. It helps keep your focus on the interview. If we give place to fear, it takes on a life of its own and we can freeze up. This happens on tough routes and it happens during interviews. What to do? Focus on what it right in front of you. Don’t look down. Don’t look ahead. If it helps to compartmentalize, do it.
  5. The Unexpected. Your child or grandchild starts yelling or the dog won’t stop barking. Maybe the engineer forgot to push record, your cell phone is bouncing off the satellite or you have to suddenly use the washroom. All of these have happened and more. You mitigate the unexpected in the mountains by anticipating the possibilities beforehand and doing what you can to eliminate the unforeseen.

The best you can do when things go awry is to relax and move on. We cannot anticipate every possibility in life or during interviews. We try to go with the flow, trust God for clarity, and move forward even when the unexpected occurs; because it will.