_ When I was twenty, I lived in a mountain town for the first time. My two best friends and I lived in one bedroom in employee housing, our gear and air mattresses crammed into one small room, and we couldn’t have been happier. I was a snowboard instructor, they worked in rentals, and life was perfect. I didn’t have a car, so my dog and I would hitch hike over two hours to attend college in my hometown every Tuesday and Thursday, and then catch rides from friends back up to the mountains. I snowboarded five days a week, graduated college a year early to shred more, and finally achieved my goal of ditching the Weekend Warrior status and moving into straight-up Ski Bum territory.
During this first winter as a ski bum, I developed a theory called The Stoke Factor, and it became my mantra. It first started when I realized the most important skill to have when teaching other people to snowboard is spreading the enthusiasm, or getting them to want to learn something new. It didn’t matter how good I was at explaining the progression of a toeside turn if the shredee didn’t give a shit about learning to turn. It had to look fun, I had to make it fun, and then, suddenly, it became fun. I had to effectively spread the stoke. Nothing could get accomplished if the Stoke Factor wasn’t high. This is how I began to approach life. I continually tried new things—in my art, friendships, relationships, jobs—and if the Stoke Factor in an area of my life was low, I could figure out how to give it a boost and make it right.
Snowboarding overtook my life, and I had the goggle tan to prove it. I moved to the most remote mountain town I could think of, took an avalanche class, and started splitboarding. Backcountry snowboarding resonated with my core. With a friend or two, I would start hiking up a mountain in the dark, which meant I got to snowboard down as the sun rose, and in these quiet mornings, I understood how to thoroughly appreciate everything about my life from the sun on my face to the people I held close to me to the fact that I was alive and snowboarding. I joked that the biggest problem I had every morning was if I needed to wear gloves or mittens. Only I wasn’t joking.
My Stoke Factor was through the roof. Whether I was riding the lift, lapping the park, or soaking up mellow splitboard sessions, I always remembered that nothing in my life was ever that bad, and my Stoke Factor stayed high. If the Stoke was too low, even unsalvageable, it was time to try something that did evoke genuine passion—to move on and focus on what’s good. Soon after dialing this philosophy, I started a graphic design business, and I still get to snowboard as much as I want. The funny thing is, everything, even graphic design, is all about Spreading the Stoke. In design, my goal is to make other people psyched on a business--to recognize, remember, and consciously choose the business with a great logo, website, or media. A great logo is basically the same thing as a high Stoke Factor.
Snowboarding taught me how to approach life itself. I wake up, charge as hard as I can, and get up when I fall, even if I break something. Same deal with life. After all, everything’s just gloves or mittens.
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