To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before!
It takes courage to chart your own path. There are always very legitimate sounding reasons – perhaps excuses – not to take risks - as you make your important life choices. You probably won’t be criticized for choosing to take the ‘easy way out.’ In fact, you may well find general support. It has been said that the opposite of courage in our society today is not cowardice – but conformity. In other words, choosing to stick to the path followed by others. Not risking failure. Not risking the criticism and second guessing of your peers. In sum, not mustering up the courage to chart your own path.
There’s a well-known poem written by poet Robert Frost that exemplifies the theme of this week’s Sunshine Report called “The Road Not Taken.” In the poem, Frost depicts the dilemma of a traveler caught between two roads, one of which he must travel down. One of the roads is well traveled, clear for anyone to use, the other covered with grass, hardly used if ever. As the poem concludes, it reads “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
I was introduced this week to the story of a man named Alex Honnold, known in the world of climbing as the best climber of his generation, and perhaps ever. His talents and accomplishments have been featured in books, magazines, and even an Oscar winning film called ‘Free Solo,’ which captures Alex as he becomes the first person to ascend Yosemite National Park’s famed 3,000 foot El Capitan rock formation without the assistance of ropes, carabiners, or protective equipment. It’s a jaw dropping feat, made even more compelling by the fact that he completed the normally 1-2 day climb in only 4 hours. It’s considered by many to be one of the greatest athletic achievements ever.
For those of us who may be a little averse to heights, or even if you aren’t, you may be asking yourself why someone would take such an incredible risk? Is it for the reward, for the glory? Perhaps a little, but as Alex put it for himself, choosing the ‘road less traveled’ is more about pushing oneself to explore and discover what you’re capable of, even when the outcomes are unknown. As John F. Kennedy said in his famed speech that would be the catalyst for putting the first man on the moon, “We choose these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” And because they are hard, we learn from everything along the way. In preparation for his free solo, Alex trained extensively for almost two years, facing setbacks along the way. But when it came time to finally make the climb, he was prepared for whatever he would face and would, as we know now, ultimately succeed.
Each of us has the ability to choose paths that are less traveled, or similar to Alex, some that haven’t been traveled at all. The risks may be high, but so too are the rewards. The important thing to remember is that we have the choice. And more importantly, when we adequately prepare ourselves to understand the risks we take, even if we fail or face setbacks, we’re more resilient because we didn’t choose the easy route, we took the road less traveled, ready and able to find solutions that ultimately allow us to reach higher and achieve more. And that, as Robert Frost’s poem went, can ‘make all the difference!’
‘The Snowstorm’ and ‘The Sandwiches’
During the opening session of the New Hampshire Legislature last week some strange and great things happened. The first was that the Legislature finished a day earlier than expected. For those who are not familiar with the New Hampshire State House, it is a volunteer Legislature with 400 members. So, imagine how it must operate and I can assure you, as a former member, it is not known for its quick pace – and rarely, if ever, do things ‘end early.’ But a pending snowstorm tends to help move things along, yes even for politicians.
But there existed a problem of sorts. Having planned on meeting on the final day, the Speaker’s Office had already ordered and paid for the lunches for the members, all 380 of whom planned on being in attendance. So, instead of wasting the food they did some good with it! As a collaborative idea between some members and the staff, Speaker Sherm Packard’s office contacted the Manchester Fire Department and looked for a place to send the food. The Fire Department suggested ‘Families in Transition,’ a local homeless shelter, which gladly accepted the meals.
This is a wonderful example of a collective good will. They could have easily not thought about the food and let it go to waste but instead they took a proactive approach and did some good for the local community. While politics may at times seem as divisive as ever, and possibly getting worse, there are times like this when human goodness does prevail! Thank you, Sherm and all of the thoughtful people (selfless ‘volunteers’) who serve New Hampshire as our Legislators! Goodness has prevailed!
Cornish, New Hampshire
Though it’s a little town in the Connecticut River Valley, Cornish, New Hampshire, home to about 1600 people, contains history of a national scale. Cornish is the home to Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park (the only National Park in New Hampshire). In 1885, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, a well-known American sculptor, moved to Cornish for the summertime at the invitation of his lawyer Charles Beaman, who owned property there. Beaman’s goal was to get artists out of stuffy New York City and move them into the countryside to encourage their artistic expression. Thus, was the beginning of the Cornish Colony. Many artists came up from New York to this tiny little corner of New Hampshire to live in a harmonious community of expression. Known as “Little New York,” the colonists built their homes with a view of Mount Ascutney, a beautiful peak located across the Connecticut River in Vermont. With their homes all facing Mount Ascutney, they revered the mountain as a sort of the center of their universe.
The artists who came included poets, sculptors, painters, architects, writers, and actors, such as Percy Mackay, Stanford White, John Singer Sergeant, Barry Faulkner, Maxfield Parrish, Ethel Barrymore, and many others. Even the American novelist Winston S. Churchill (no relation to the famed English Prime Minister of the same name) purchased land in Cornish to be a part of this thriving community of expression. His time in New Hampshire inspired several of his novels, including the book “Coniston” – a semi-fictional novel from the Progressive Era that depicted the intrigues of New Hampshire politics, pitting the railroad and other commercial interests versus the progressive reformers.
After Saint-Gaudens died in 1907, the colony faded away. Nevertheless, Saint-Gardens’ widow Augusta held the property in a trust from 1919 until it was given to the National Park Service in 1965. The legacy of the Cornish Colony lives on in museums around the nation, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Carnegie Institute of Art in Pittsburgh, PA, and even Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Positive Profile of the Week: Jeff Cozzens
This week we are delighted to highlight an accomplished and energetic entrepreneur, my friend Jeff Cozzens of Littleton, New Hampshire.
It's no easy feat to start a business and especially a tough challenge while also raising a young family. And it’s also difficult to leave one career and start a new one. However, this is exactly what Littleton resident and Schilling Beer Company owner Jeff Cozzens has done - and has done so with gusto!
As you might know I have a great love for Littleton, NH. Not only have we featured this amazing town and its rebirth in several of our previous Sunshine Reports, but it is also where my father grew up and is home to many of our relatives. In addition, I especially love Littleton because the people in this 6,000-person community are forever resilient, determined, and community driven. It’s truly the people who make the difference and a key part of this community’s success is Jeff Cozzens.
Jeff came from a successful career in the intelligence community where he spent more than a decade working in such areas as counter-intelligence and anti-terrorism. In 2013, however, Jeff decided it was best to start a new path, one that would give him the ability to spend more time with his family and pursue his passion, becoming a small business owner. In that year, Jeff and his family started Shilling Beer Company.
Today, Jeff and his family run the brewery which is located right behind Main Street in Littleton overlooking the Ammonoosuc River. The company has quickly become one of the region's largest employers and a must-visit for both tourists and locals alike. Jeff’s perseverance and determination to see his business grow and succeed is why his fellow beer makers selected him to serve as President of the NH Brewers Association and why Governor Sununu selected him to serve as member of the State’s Community College Board of Trustees.
Jeff’s commitment to community and family are proof that we can not only follow our dreams, but we can alos see them become our reality. Cheers to you my friend! We thank and raise a toast to Jeff Cozzens and his positive ‘can do’ spirit!
Quotes of the Week: The Courage to Choose
“In any given moment, we have two options: To step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” – Muhammad Ali
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney
“Fortune favors the bold.” – Virgil
“Countless possibilities exist in any situation. You must maintain a positive outlook to see the miraculous possibilities.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita, Think Great: Be Great!