“Trying to get simple, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”—Scott Edwards
When Scott Edwards confesses that simplifying is complicated, he speaks a universal truth from intensely personal experience. A hardcore adventure-sports enthusiast and driven entrepreneur, Scott approached the American Dream like a solo climb—eschewing the safe route for the fast-paced, exhilarating challenge of going it alone. Heading straight out of college for the most difficult arena, entrepreneurship, Scott spent 25 years scaling the ladder of symbolic success, moving towards the high-tech, high-roller dream.
Then, one pivotal afternoon commuting home, his entrepreneurial drive came to a halt in Bay Area gridlock, and he began to question the logic in owning a 400-horsepower luxury sedan – a vehicle that had just cost him $2,000 for a problem-free routine maintenance check. Trading in the Lexus for his mother-in-law’s used Honda Accord was Edwards’s first step on the path to simplifying his life. But the process—not unlike his favorite pastime rock climbing—would be slow, fraught with challenges and require study and support.
Satisfaction Bests Success
In July 1999, to commemorate his fortieth birthday, Edwards climbed the east face of Long’s Peak, known as the Diamond, near his hometown of Boulder, Colorado. A dramatic, iconic peak that inspired him throughout his youth, the climb represented a challenge, for which Edwards had spent much of his free time preparing. On the way home from the climb, Edwards’ wife, also a successful business leader, asks him if he is ready to get back to work and back to cranking. He wasn’t. Burnt out from seven hard-driving years, being on the mountain catalyzed for Edwards the need for change.
That summer, Edwards resigned from his day-to-day responsibilities at the company he’d started, and by fall, he’d sold his Lexus and was driving his mother-in-law’s Accord back to the Bay Area. Craving more time in the outdoors, Edwards decided to detour through Boulder, Utah—a beautiful and remote part of the country he first passed through years before. Although Edwards was an accomplished mountaineer and rock climber, that night in the desert would be Edwards’ first time alone in the wilderness, and to his surprise, he experienced unfamiliar emotions of fear and loneliness. Then the magic happened. Out of nowhere, David Holladay, desert veteran and star of the History Channel’s, No Man’s Land, appeared. Holladay shared stories about exceptionally-skilled individuals he knew capable of surviving winter in the wilderness with little more than self-reliance. Edwards was hooked; meeting the people Holladay brought to life and developing his own wilderness survival skills became top of mind.
The more people he talked to, the more Edwards took note of what he calls, “a certain gleam in the eye.” They seemed to be leading simpler lives that felt rich with deep meaning and fulfillment- and in every case, the common denominator appeared to be their connection to nature. They had traded social success for soul satisfaction and he wanted to know how they did it.
Exchanging Career for a Calling
The first decision, Edwards and his wife made together. The couple returned to their hometown, Boulder, Colorado to raise their three young children closer to family, with easier access to nature. The pace and pursuit of success, however, didn’t change, and Edwards spent the next five years funding and launching his third startup. But his chance meeting with Holladay had inspired Edwards to abandon rock climbing—and all the gear that comes with it—for the far more complex simplicity of wilderness survival, and in 2004, five years after his first night alone in the desert, Edwards returned to Boulder, Utah for a two week survival course with the Boulder Outdoor Survival School.
For the next three years, Edwards traded entrepreneurship for what he imagined would be a slower-paced position that afforded more time for his hobbies, but while he served as CEO of the Colorado Mountain School and Boulder Rock Club, the long, demanding hours persisted. During this time, Edwards continued to return to Boulder (Utah) for a week or so of training every year, and he found himself increasingly questioning what else he could do to simplify his life and nourish his soul. His interest in small talk and professional sports gave way to a more compelling need to feel engaged by nature, and his stratified world of social economics yielded to a new hierarchy of colorful characters living off the beaten path.
No longer certain of the goal, or the way there, Edwards began prioritizing what felt like a calling over the comfort of continuing his career, and he started investing increasingly more time and resources into documenting his own journey and the incredible people he aspired to learn from.
Mountaineers know they face the greatest risk for accidents and injuries on the descent. Having pursued the American Dream, the descent off the commercial path has been slow, may have cost Edwards his 30-year marriage and challenged him to his core. Over the last thirteen years, Edwards has taken incremental steps—philosophical and practical—toward profound change in every area of his life. Conquering fear, he has lived with his own self-doubt and the judgment and skepticism of family, friends and society at many turns.
He may not know where he’s headed, but Edwards knows he cannot turn back. Having sold his 4,800 square-foot home and most of the stuff that filled it, Edwards believes he’s moving towards a more connected and spiritual life. The more he lets go, the more truth he receives in return: a greater connection with his core essence, his true self. Edwards points to a transcendent moment in 2007 that he calls “1,000 Horsepower of Silence”. When swimming alone in his country club’s pool on a beautiful fall afternoon, he experienced a mysterious vibration of total continuity and peace; a massive energy that enveloped him in a palpable feeling of infinite harmony. The power and color he perceived match the language used by people describing near death, or drug-induced experiences, and he innately knows that what he felt that afternoon was the presence of everything and nothing simultaneously. The memory of that perhaps once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, supplies Edwards with the validation and trust that there’s so much more to this life-and that he should continue to explore.
Are You Simple?
Or simply curious? Changes of all kinds demand courage and stamina, and we need to be exposed to alternative ways of thinking about how we live—and how we could live—in order to uncover our own truth. More of us must vulnerably share our experiences and gratitude so that others may be inspired.
Has someone inspired you? MeSimple is looking for stories of pioneering people living simpler lives that are meaningfully integrated with nature. Help build the wealth of a connected world and a let us know if you have content to share, introductions you’d like to make, or resources worth spotlighting.