Don't Wait Until You're Dead... Susan Spann and the One Hundred Summits
Do you have one of those life dreams that you never seem to get around to? You tell yourself you'll do it later. Someday. When you have more time, more money, more skill. After the kids are grown up. After you find a different job. After you retire. After...
Well, we all know what comes after.
Which is why I'm launching a regular monthly series of interviews featuring people who are living their dreams now. I hope their stories will inspire more dreamers to take the first step toward doing the thing, whatever that might be.
Today I'm thrilled to share a story with you about my friend Susan Spann, a woman who refused to let life--or death, for that matter--get in the way of her incredible dream. Instead of telling you the story from my perspective, I'm going to let Susan tell you herself in this little interview.
Me: Susan, thanks so much for sharing your story. Can you tell us a little bit about this amazing dream of yours? When did you start dreaming, and how long did it take for you to start doing the thing?
Susan: In autumn of 2016, I spent almost a month in Japan researching my Hiro Hattori mysteries. My research took me into the Japan Alps and up several mountains. Physically, I returned to the United States that November, but my heart remained in Japan.
After twenty years as a lawyer, I was tired of living “safe” and doing “the expected” instead of following my heart and my dreams. I’ve loved mountaineering books all my life, but always felt that those adventures were something that happened in other people’s lives. In 2017, after I returned from Japan, I made the decision to give my dreams a chance. My husband and I sold our house and prepared to move to Japan so I could attempt to climb the Nihon Hyakumeizan (100 Famous Mountains of Japan) in a single year.
Me: Okay, so this in itself is amazing. I watched you do these things in a state of awe, wondering how you found the courage to make such a huge change. But life decided to throw a little more at you. Tell us about the other obstacles that got in your way.
Susan: In November 2017, about two months after we decided to move to Japan—and the day after I signed a publishing contract to write a book about my hyakumeizan climbs (currently titled 100 SUMMITS, and due for publication by Prometheus Books in spring 2020) I was diagnosed with highly aggressive breast cancer. I had to delay my departure for Japan to undergo a double mastectomy and three months of intensive chemotherapy—but I continued my mountain training even in chemo, and five days after my final tests confirmed the cancer was gone, we flew to Japan.
My oncologist described the cancer as “summit number 101” - and getting through cancer treatment was a lot like climbing a difficult mountain, in many ways. You have to take it one step at a time, and endure the pain. Fortunately, we caught my cancer early enough that I could still pursue my dream.
Me: Most people have a dream, look at the obstacles, and never get past them. And yours were as big as - well - a mountain. What is your secret for moving past everything in your way to get to where you are now?
Susan: Climbing a hundred mountains seems impossible. Fortunately, I don’t have to climb them all at once—and one mountain, maybe, I can do. I try to see life's obstacles as problems to solve one step at a time. If the goal is long-term, I start from the end and work backward until I’ve broken the problem into reasonable steps—things I can achieve—and then I start with the first one. Some obstacles are outside my control, and those I have to leave to faith. But the things that lie within my control, I break down into little bits and tackle them in order.
Me: I love the small step thing. I always work on that with my coaching clients (and with my own creative projects when I start getting fearful or overwhelmed.) Sometimes that first step is tiny, as tiny as just sending an email or opening a document on your computer or buying a set of paints. Do you have any particular motto, mantra, or affirmation you adhere to that you would like to share?
Susan: Never give up, never surrender. (Thanks, Galaxy Quest!) Also: fear is a liar. Never let it keep you from your dreams.
You need to know Susan, as you've probably figured out. And you're in luck, because I have all of her social media links where you can follow her adventure. AND I have links to her books so you can buy them and read them (they are awesome.)
And here's a link to Susan's Amazon author page, although you can find her books at other bookstores if you prefer.