Aron Ralston Teaches the Value of Perspective in the Face of Challenges

Posted June 3, 2018

Aron RalstonIn 2003, in a remote area of southeastern Utah, outdoorsman Aron Ralston found himself trapped in a canyon after a boulder broke free, crushing and trapping his right hand. Desperate after almost a week with no food or water, he used a multitool knife to amputate his right arm and climbed on his own to safety.

For Ralston, who reflected on his remarkable triumph over insurmountable odds during the Harken Memorial Lecture at the AAMI 2018 Conference & Expo on Sunday morning, his story is not about a guy who cut off his own arm; it’s a “story about the guy who was smiling while he cut his arm off.”

Fifteen years after this harrowing ordeal, Ralston sees a boulder as more than just a piece of rock—it represents a challenge that has the potential to transform our perspective and future choices.

“We all have boulders in our lives, though they may not always be made out of sandstone. But when these events happen, we make a choice whether we turn that into tragedy or triumph,” said Ralston, who wrote a bestselling novel about his experience and was featured in the Oscar-nominated film 127 Hours, where he was played by James Franco. “We’ve all had a moment of crisis, whether or not it was a rock, when our world turns upside down … and all of a sudden chaos is at our door.”

When confronted with a “boulder,” it’s important to “STEP,” according to Ralston, an acronym for:

  • Stop
  • Take a breath
  • Evaluate options
  • Plan

In Ralston’s case that meant attempting to amputate his arm using a small, dull knife after all of his other options failed. Once free, Ralston thanked the boulder before he left the canyon for the perspective it gave him.

“These boulders are everywhere, they continue to fall in our own lives, in our community, in our country, and all over the world,” Ralston concluded. “So, what do we do—do we push them away, resist them, and wish they weren’t there? That could be your choice. But you also have a choice to embrace them with a smile. You make that choice, and your boulders will be your blessings, too.”