Climbing Baldy and Answering the Big Question, with Ty Ellenbogen
Lofty goals are great, but often leave us with the terrifying question: "What Next?" How you can free yourself from this vicious loop.
Welcome Back to Trail Talk
During these interview podcast posts, I share stories from other members of the outdoor community. Range from wild adventures, to survival skills, conservation, and current events.
Look for episodes in your mailbox Sunday mornings at 9 a.m., MST. The stories you’re used to seeing will still arrive at the usual time, Thursday mornings.
EP 04: Ty Ellenbogen, Eagle Scout and Musician
This week, we head to the Sangre De Cristo mountains of New Mexico to bask in the intimidating shadow of Baldy Mountain. Here, after months of careful planning and training, Ty completed an impressive 12-day trek.
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What he learned on that mountain changed his life, and altered his perception about his future pursuits in music.
“If you spend your whole life chasing goals, you’re gonna realize how empty you feel after you achieve it.”
The night before their final push to the summit, Ty and his crew wrestled with a gnawing, uncomfortable question: what would come next?
Achievements have their way of leaving a void behind once they come to pass. How could they not?
Some endeavor to fill the void by dotting the horizon with further goals, creating an endless chase to set your sights on. To some extent this is a necessary part of life. But in our interview, Ty addresses why this mentality will only ever bring fleeting fulfillment.
0:30 — What is Philmont, what is Baldy?
1:30 — Baldy is a metaphor for itself
3:00 — Deciding you want the goal for yourself
4:45 — Friends are great at holding you accountable
8:00 — Hitting the trail
9:20 — “The Burro Boy;” caring for your pack animal
13:30 — Stripping away what you don’t need; how do you decide?
16:30 — The beautiful simplicity of the trekking routine
19:00 — Satisfaction in exhaustion and chores
20:55 — The morning of the final approach
22:00 — Where do we go from our defining moments?
24:20 — The Summit loses meaning without context
27:00 — Demystifying the far-off mountains
29:30 — Answering the question, “What Next?”
31:20 — Giving up on chasing goals for their own sake — giving up on 14’ers
33:45 — The hardest question we’ve ever been asked
36:50 — Life-changing advice from Herb McGrail, the man who made 1,000 Eagles
38:00 — Achievements are about how much you’ve grown
39:00 — Re-evaluating our relationship with social media
41:00 — This post bombed, I got sad, but I shouldn’t’ve
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“Who is the real content creator? Is it you, who’s doing what you love? Or is it the audience that’s defining what you put out?”
A little more than a year ago, I took a long break from social media to re-evaluate my relationship with these apps and sites. I felt myself fretting on hikes and outings, needing to take good enough pictures for Instagram.
I allowed an irrational desire to impress others dictate my experiences.
Ty points out that in a similar vein, artists face a similar dilemma. Do you shoot for mass appeal and chase a fickle audience, or do what you love and hope to attract a group who truly enjoys the soul you put into your work?
This requires you think carefully about your definitions of success and achievement.
“In the end, the only one who knows whether you really earned it is you.”
To date, the best advice I’ve been given on achievement comes from Herb McGrail — though he has sadly since passed away.
The man was a brilliant engineer, a notorious stickler, and at the time: both gatekeeper and guide to the young men hoping to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
He once explained to me that the point of earning such a lofty achievement was not in the rank or honor itself. Rather, it was a deeply personal challenge designed to test one’s leadership, resolve, and ultimately push the seeker to become the best possible version of themselves.
This framing of achievement takes things beyond an award, ceremony, or summit.
“In the end,” Herb said, “The only one who knows whether you really earned it is you.”
It’s advice Ty and I encourage all of you to take.
About Our Guest
Ty Ellenbogen is a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer based in Nashville, TN.
You can follow Ty on Instagram, his website, Spotify, or wherever you stream music. He’s working to release a new single in the next month or so — but already has an impressive catalogue of music for you to listen to.
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