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"Stuck On A Knot" With Scott Brandon

Episode #60
English Level: advanced
Accent: United States (Ohio)

Scott Brandon - Into the Story Podcast - EP 60 Cover art photo b&w

About Scott Brandon's story

When Scott goes exploring in a dark cave and gets stuck hanging on a rope with no light, he has to use his imagination to find a way out.

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Quote of the episode

"How do you move from 'not' to 'do'".

Transcript

[00:00:19] Bree: Hi everyone, it’s your host, Bree! I have a question for you: are you an imaginative person? Do you use your imagination? Are you creative? What about innovative? If you’re like most people, you have an idea about imagination, creativity, and innovation, but you might not know exactly what they mean or how they’re different. Scott Brandon wrote the book ‘Imagination First’ which talks about how imagination is our ability to think of things that don’t exist. When we use our imagination to do something, well, that’s creativity. And when a creative idea makes things better, that’s innovation.

[00:01:10] But it all begins with imagination. And when we make it a habit, it can change not only our work, but also our lives.

[00:01:20] Today, we’re going Into the Story of Scott Brandon. He’s going to take us back to a time when he and his friends became determined to explore the mysterious, untouched places on our planet—caves.

[00:01:36] Scott: What did these places look like? How can that, how can we have such sheer beauty that’s almost unexplored, that is actually available, but you have to learn how to get to it.

[00:01:49] Bree: When he goes exploring deep down in a cave and finds himself hanging on a rope, in total darkness, he realizes he’s in trouble, and he has to use his imagination to find a solution.

[00:02:06] Please make sure to click the follow button on your podcast app so that you never miss a new episode of the show. And as always, it’s free.

[00:02:14] Now it’s time to look at five words and expressions that Scott uses in today’s story. The first is a very important concept and a word that you’re going to be hearing a lot, caving, also known as spelunking. So this is exploring caves as a hobby or an adventure activity. And the people who do this are called cavers or spelunkers.

[00:02:46] For example, the spelunker went deep into the cave and found fascinating rock formations or caving is an exciting activity for people who love to discover the hidden wonders of the world. Caving or spelunking.

[00:03:05] Next to get drenched. D R E N C H E D. To get drenched means to become completely wet.

[00:03:19] For example, I got drenched yesterday in the sudden thunderstorm. Or the kids got their pants drenched when they were playing in the waves at the beach. To get drenched.

[00:03:34] Next we have the two words, slack versus taut. So slack refers to a loose or relaxed rope. While taut, spelled T A U T, describes a tight or stretched rope. For example, before repelling, climbers make sure that the rope is taut with no slack in it. Or he adjusted the slack in the rope to make it easier to climb. Slack versus taut.

[00:04:13] Next is the expression to not say something lightly. So if I say, I don’t say this lightly, it means that I am emphasizing that what I’m saying is very serious and sincere. For example, I don’t say this lightly, but I believe we need to make some changes to improve the situation. Or she didn’t say it lightly when she apologized for her mistake. To not say something lightly.

[00:04:46] And lastly, tangled—to be tangled or untangled. So to be tangled means to be twisted and tied together in a messy or confused way, while untangled means to separate or straighten out. For example, the wires were tangled, making it difficult to connect the devices. Or I had to patiently untangle the knots and my necklace before putting it on. To be tangled or untangled.

[00:05:27] Today’s episode has lots of great vocabulary, so I recommend that you go over it to intothestorypodcast.com to get the full vocabulary list. You will also find the transcript and a listening comprehension quiz. Okay. It’s that time. Let’s get into the story.

[00:05:51] Scott: So I was working as a landscaper, and one day a colleague brought a magazine to work and, uh, opened it up. And it was the best caves in the country, in fact, around the world to explore. And we’re all looking at it,

[00:06:11] there are four of us that were looking at this, this expose, this coverage of these caves, and we immediately had this moment filled with immense curiosity, immense enthusiasm: we’re going to go do that. We’re going to, overnight, magically become four kids who had never been on, you know, the side of a mountain or climbed into a cave, to avid cavers.

[00:06:42] But it wasn’t…it wasn’t about proving myself, though, of course, that was probably part of it. It was very much about what did these places look like? How can that, how can we have such sheer beauty that’s almost unexplored? That is actually available, but you have to learn how to get to it.

[00:07:05] Bree: This is called technical caving. They’ll be going into tunnels that are so small there is just enough room for a human to crawl through. They’ll also need to repel over cliffs. So Scott and his friends get all of the equipment, and they start to learn how to climb.

[00:07:30] Scott: We started to do rock face climbing, in, Southern Ohio.

[00:07:38] We, then decided, well, maybe the next way to do this is to try to go up and down buildings. So we started to go over three and four-story buildings just to explore what it’s like to go rappel down and ascend up. And we read all about stalactites and stalagmites and all the things you might see in a cave.

[00:08:04] What are the conditions like in a cave, because, you know, it is total darkness, they’re fairly chilly, clearly muddy, and, there are bats and other creatures, sometimes thousands of bats, um, that you’ll walk into a room and see. So we had to prepare the best we could for all the things that we thought we were going to experience. And then we went and did a cave.

[00:08:34] Bree: Scott and his friends have decided that it’s time to go into a real cave. They go to West Virginia, a state in the Eastern U.S. known for its forests and natural beauty. They went into a cave in the Monongahela National Forest. And Scott loved it. They went back to this cave a couple of times. And then one day he’s talking to his neighbor.

[00:09:01] Scott: So, my neighbor at the time, who I thought I had a good relationship with—I thought we were, you know, buddies—asked me if I would take him caving. He had never been before.

[00:09:18] He had done a lot of rock climbing. He was very much an outdoorsman. Much, much more than I was. And I said I would.

[00:09:27] Bree: Scott is going to take his neighbor, Steve, to that first cave that he ever did, in Monongahela National Forest.

[00:09:35] So we drive, we drive from where we were, it was about a two and a half hour drive, and, uh, we get to this forest, and it’s just a big open field with some rocks jutting out of the ground in various places, and you almost wouldn’t see the cave unless you knew it was there.

[00:10:00] Scott: But I knew it was there, obviously, and the caves that were worth going into were not what you would call the commercial caves, the ones that you’re guided through, because that’s not what we were trying to do. We’re trying to do technical exploration and so he and I, were looking for the entrance, you know, I showed it to him. Uh, we geared up.

[00:10:26] Bree: Scott and Steve put on all of their gear. They have special belts with clips and devices for going up and down the ropes. They had to use a rope to go down 55 meters into the cave, but Scott’s usual, long, 60-meter rope was no longer in use. So he had to tie two 30-meter ropes together, with a strong knot in the middle, to make it long enough.

[00:10:55] Scott: So, to get back to the part of the cave that is the non-commercial side or the non-public side he and I started walking through the mouth of the cave, through a lot of the rocks that were there, um, and there’s big massive boulders, and then there’s places where there’s small tunnels.

[00:11:18] And you can tell in a cave the public, non-public side of it because you see some trash, you see debris, you see batteries, you see all those things on the public side.

[00:11:31] Um, so you’re keenly aware that that’s going into a cave, but it’s not spelunking. Spelunking is the exploration that goes a deeper level than that. And I was looking kind of almost as a self exploration. Where does this take me? What’s this offer me? What does this teach me that I can’t see right in front of me? So the cave almost became a life metaphor for exploration and change and challenge.

[00:12:08] And so I’m leading him around this, this kind of public area, and you start to hear the sound of water, a waterfall. And the sound of like rushing water underground, it’s a little disorienting. Once again, keep in mind, you don’t see but for a few feet in front of you.

[00:12:32] Bree: They have arrived at the waterfall. Now they’re going to have to repel 55 meters down into the dark hole below.

[00:12:44] Scott: So I, I started to then say to Steve, um, I’ll go first, I’ve done this before. I’ll go first. You stay on top. And he argued with me. He wanted to go first. And I remember in the moment thinking, but you’ve never done this, I can’t let you do that.

[00:13:03] Because you’ve got to climb over a 200-foot cliff, you know, and, rappelling down in, free fall almost, and it’s, with a waterfall right next to you that’s spraying you with water as you go down this rope, so you’re getting drenched from the mist of the water, and you can pretty much not see very far.

[00:13:30] So, uh, you know, it’s an experience that you wouldn’t want someone who has never done it before to lead the way.

[00:13:41] Bree: Scott begins to lower himself down into the dark hole.

[00:13:46] Scott: The first step over from standing on the ground to walking over a cliff to going from horizontal to vertical and trusting this rope is tied in, and it’s going to protect you, is in itself one of the most stimulating and terrifying moments you could ever have,

[00:14:06] Bree: Scott has that feeling of vertigo all through his body, as he lowers himself down into the dark hole. He’s using only a carbide light to see. Which is a lamp that uses a gas to make light. As he goes down, he reaches the knot where the two ropes are tied together. Scott practiced this before. He knew that he would reach the knot. Unclip his carabiners and then reattach them under the knot.

[00:14:38] Scott: Now, we had tried this under four-story buildings. The problem was that we had never tried it at this depth. So What I didn’t calculate was that I was going to hit that knot and my weight was going to have pulled the rope so far because the rope has some give in it.

[00:15:03] Bree: Scott repelled down to the knot as he had done before. However, this time he has become stuck because of the tension on the rope. He can’t go up or down. And the more he tries to solve this problem, the more stuck and in trouble he’s getting.

[00:15:22] Scott: Added to it, this kind of rope slowly twirls, so you’re starting to try to do all this as you’re moving around on this rope. And the added benefit on top of that was the water, the mist of the water from the waterfall shut my light down. So I’m hanging over a cliff a hundred feet or more, twirling wet and can’t see total darkness. I can hear, but I was also so far away from my friend that he couldn’t hear me and I couldn’t hear him, especially with the water roaring. So he didn’t really know what I was doing, and I couldn’t signal to him what was going on.

[00:16:18] The only bit of information he had was there was no slack in the rope. And the reason that’s important is once the body gets off it, the weight’s off it, there’s slack in the rope. But if not, the rope’s taut, the rope’s, you know, stretched. So I thought, all right, I just have to go back to what created this? What, you know, why was I stuck? And I knew that I, for thought I knew I had all the equipment and, skill set to be able to get beyond it. Bree, what kept happening was there was a part of me that kept also going, why are you here? Why did you allow this to happen?

[00:17:06] Three hours later, I’m still twirling on that rope

[00:17:15] Bree: Scott’s hands are aching because he’s been holding on tightly. And trying to prevent his muscles from cramping. He understands that he’s in big trouble.

[00:17:27] Scott: So I came to the conclusion, I don’t say this lightly, that I was not going to make it, that this was going to not end well.

[00:17:40] Bree: Scott realizes that he’s going to have to cut part of his equipment, the webbing, which is what secures his body to his gear. And by doing this, he might make himself fall. He also knew that he was getting very cold, he might even get hypothermia, in which case he’d go unconscious and fall. So he knew he had to act fast.

[00:18:07] Scott: I made peace that I might fall, that this probably was not going to end well, but it was my only option. I really had no other choice at that moment. So I had this moment I can still feel it viscerally, um, where I cut the webbing and what I expected was I was going to fall backwards and then the bottom carabiners and ascenders would lose their grip because they’re not meant to work that way.

[00:18:41] Um, the tension would come off them and I would literally just fall down, that was what I had assumed would happen. Instead, what happened, somehow the webbing circled around my neck, and I’m starting to get hung, and I only had one recourse, there was only one thing I could do, which was grab the rope above me, try to muscle, pull my way up, hold on to that.

[00:19:18] While I was using my other hand to get beyond knot. It worked. Clearly I’m here. I got over the knot, went down the other 80 feet. I got to the bottom. I was trembling and crying and, uh, distraught for probably about 10 minutes, and there’s only one more problem to deal with: I have to go back up.

[00:19:54] So I spent, I don’t know, maybe an hour, hour and a half, you know, down there, just tying everything back up, getting some energy.

[00:20:02] So I did climb back up. I was able to figure out a way to do it where it was some minor adjustments. It took me what seemed like forever and a day to get up because I was still exhausted.

[00:20:14] I get up to the top and my friend, Steve, looked at me and said, his first words were that wouldn’t have happened if I had gone first.

[00:20:27] And in that moment, because it was like, you know, like living two lifetimes in somebody else’s second, that when I heard him say it, I felt so depleted and defeated and angry.

[00:20:43] But then we packed up, we didn’t say a word for the rest of the trip.

[00:20:50] Bree: This story took place in 1975. And after that, Scott continued to explore caves. But he never returned to the cave in this story.

[00:21:02] Scott: You know, life is filled with mistakes and confusions and moments when we don’t know what’s going to happen next. But we’re putting ourselves out there a little bit. We’re taking a risk. It could be the kind of risk I was taking. It could be an emotional risk. It could be a professional business type risk. My life’s journey has been, has not fluid. It’s been filled with moments of challenge and confusion and change. The teacher in my life has been learned from a problem being solved, learned from a moment being untangled, learned from how to figure out how to make it over a knot, literally and figuratively.

[00:21:50] Bree: Getting over a knot—how do we get past a problem? We need to use our imagination to understand the problem. And then we use our creativity to find solutions. And perhaps, if we’re lucky, we can innovate. This is the lesson that Scott went on to use during his career, as the executive director at the Lincoln center Institute in New York.

[00:22:21] Scott believes that we can all do things that develop our imagination and creativity. And if we do so then it will lead to innovation in business, education, and culture. For more information about Scott. Check out the link in the show notes.

[00:22:39] Okay folks, this is the last episode of season five of Into the Story. I’m already hard at work recording more stories for season six, which will be coming out this summer 2024.

[00:22:55] In the meantime, If you would like to join our community and hear me go further into the psychology side of each episode. And also speak more personally about the lessons I learned from our storytellers, then you can join our newsletter. Just visit into this story podcast.com and click subscribe. And it’s totally free. 

[00:23:23] Okay, that is all for today. Until the next season. I hope that you have a good time, or at least a good story to tell. 

[00:00:19] Bree: Hi everyone, it’s your host, Bree! I have a question for you: are you an imaginative person? Do you use your imagination? Are you creative? What about innovative? If you’re like most people, you have an idea about imagination, creativity, and innovation, but you might not know exactly what they mean or how they’re different. Scott Brandon wrote the book ‘Imagination First’ which talks about how imagination is our ability to think of things that don’t exist. When we use our imagination to do something, well, that’s creativity. And when a creative idea makes things better, that’s innovation.

[00:01:10] But it all begins with imagination. And when we make it a habit, it can change not only our work, but also our lives.

[00:01:20] Today, we’re going Into the Story of Scott Brandon. He’s going to take us back to a time when he and his friends became determined to explore the mysterious, untouched places on our planet—caves.

[00:01:36] Scott: What did these places look like? How can that, how can we have such sheer beauty that’s almost unexplored, that is actually available, but you have to learn how to get to it.

[00:01:49] Bree: When he goes exploring deep down in a cave and finds himself hanging on a rope, in total darkness, he realizes he’s in trouble, and he has to use his imagination to find a solution.

[00:02:06] Please make sure to click the follow button on your podcast app so that you never miss a new episode of the show. And as always, it’s free.

[00:02:14] Now it’s time to look at five words and expressions that Scott uses in today’s story. The first is a very important concept and a word that you’re going to be hearing a lot, caving, also known as spelunking. So this is exploring caves as a hobby or an adventure activity. And the people who do this are called cavers or spelunkers.

[00:02:46] For example, the spelunker went deep into the cave and found fascinating rock formations or caving is an exciting activity for people who love to discover the hidden wonders of the world. Caving or spelunking.

[00:03:05] Next to get drenched. D R E N C H E D. To get drenched means to become completely wet.

[00:03:19] For example, I got drenched yesterday in the sudden thunderstorm. Or the kids got their pants drenched when they were playing in the waves at the beach. To get drenched.

[00:03:34] Next we have the two words, slack versus taut. So slack refers to a loose or relaxed rope. While taut, spelled T A U T, describes a tight or stretched rope. For example, before repelling, climbers make sure that the rope is taut with no slack in it. Or he adjusted the slack in the rope to make it easier to climb. Slack versus taut.

[00:04:13] Next is the expression to not say something lightly. So if I say, I don’t say this lightly, it means that I am emphasizing that what I’m saying is very serious and sincere. For example, I don’t say this lightly, but I believe we need to make some changes to improve the situation. Or she didn’t say it lightly when she apologized for her mistake. To not say something lightly.

[00:04:46] And lastly, tangled—to be tangled or untangled. So to be tangled means to be twisted and tied together in a messy or confused way, while untangled means to separate or straighten out. For example, the wires were tangled, making it difficult to connect the devices. Or I had to patiently untangle the knots and my necklace before putting it on. To be tangled or untangled.

[00:05:27] Today’s episode has lots of great vocabulary, so I recommend that you go over it to intothestorypodcast.com to get the full vocabulary list. You will also find the transcript and a listening comprehension quiz. Okay. It’s that time. Let’s get into the story.

[00:05:51] Scott: So I was working as a landscaper, and one day a colleague brought a magazine to work and, uh, opened it up. And it was the best caves in the country, in fact, around the world to explore. And we’re all looking at it,

[00:06:11] there are four of us that were looking at this, this expose, this coverage of these caves, and we immediately had this moment filled with immense curiosity, immense enthusiasm: we’re going to go do that. We’re going to, overnight, magically become four kids who had never been on, you know, the side of a mountain or climbed into a cave, to avid cavers.

[00:06:42] But it wasn’t…it wasn’t about proving myself, though, of course, that was probably part of it. It was very much about what did these places look like? How can that, how can we have such sheer beauty that’s almost unexplored? That is actually available, but you have to learn how to get to it.

[00:07:05] Bree: This is called technical caving. They’ll be going into tunnels that are so small there is just enough room for a human to crawl through. They’ll also need to repel over cliffs. So Scott and his friends get all of the equipment, and they start to learn how to climb.

[00:07:30] Scott: We started to do rock face climbing, in, Southern Ohio.

[00:07:38] We, then decided, well, maybe the next way to do this is to try to go up and down buildings. So we started to go over three and four-story buildings just to explore what it’s like to go rappel down and ascend up. And we read all about stalactites and stalagmites and all the things you might see in a cave.

[00:08:04] What are the conditions like in a cave, because, you know, it is total darkness, they’re fairly chilly, clearly muddy, and, there are bats and other creatures, sometimes thousands of bats, um, that you’ll walk into a room and see. So we had to prepare the best we could for all the things that we thought we were going to experience. And then we went and did a cave.

[00:08:34] Bree: Scott and his friends have decided that it’s time to go into a real cave. They go to West Virginia, a state in the Eastern U.S. known for its forests and natural beauty. They went into a cave in the Monongahela National Forest. And Scott loved it. They went back to this cave a couple of times. And then one day he’s talking to his neighbor.

[00:09:01] Scott: So, my neighbor at the time, who I thought I had a good relationship with—I thought we were, you know, buddies—asked me if I would take him caving. He had never been before.

[00:09:18] He had done a lot of rock climbing. He was very much an outdoorsman. Much, much more than I was. And I said I would.

[00:09:27] Bree: Scott is going to take his neighbor, Steve, to that first cave that he ever did, in Monongahela National Forest.

[00:09:35] So we drive, we drive from where we were, it was about a two and a half hour drive, and, uh, we get to this forest, and it’s just a big open field with some rocks jutting out of the ground in various places, and you almost wouldn’t see the cave unless you knew it was there.

[00:10:00] Scott: But I knew it was there, obviously, and the caves that were worth going into were not what you would call the commercial caves, the ones that you’re guided through, because that’s not what we were trying to do. We’re trying to do technical exploration and so he and I, were looking for the entrance, you know, I showed it to him. Uh, we geared up.

[00:10:26] Bree: Scott and Steve put on all of their gear. They have special belts with clips and devices for going up and down the ropes. They had to use a rope to go down 55 meters into the cave, but Scott’s usual, long, 60-meter rope was no longer in use. So he had to tie two 30-meter ropes together, with a strong knot in the middle, to make it long enough.

[00:10:55] Scott: So, to get back to the part of the cave that is the non-commercial side or the non-public side he and I started walking through the mouth of the cave, through a lot of the rocks that were there, um, and there’s big massive boulders, and then there’s places where there’s small tunnels.

[00:11:18] And you can tell in a cave the public, non-public side of it because you see some trash, you see debris, you see batteries, you see all those things on the public side.

[00:11:31] Um, so you’re keenly aware that that’s going into a cave, but it’s not spelunking. Spelunking is the exploration that goes a deeper level than that. And I was looking kind of almost as a self exploration. Where does this take me? What’s this offer me? What does this teach me that I can’t see right in front of me? So the cave almost became a life metaphor for exploration and change and challenge.

[00:12:08] And so I’m leading him around this, this kind of public area, and you start to hear the sound of water, a waterfall. And the sound of like rushing water underground, it’s a little disorienting. Once again, keep in mind, you don’t see but for a few feet in front of you.

[00:12:32] Bree: They have arrived at the waterfall. Now they’re going to have to repel 55 meters down into the dark hole below.

[00:12:44] Scott: So I, I started to then say to Steve, um, I’ll go first, I’ve done this before. I’ll go first. You stay on top. And he argued with me. He wanted to go first. And I remember in the moment thinking, but you’ve never done this, I can’t let you do that.

[00:13:03] Because you’ve got to climb over a 200-foot cliff, you know, and, rappelling down in, free fall almost, and it’s, with a waterfall right next to you that’s spraying you with water as you go down this rope, so you’re getting drenched from the mist of the water, and you can pretty much not see very far.

[00:13:30] So, uh, you know, it’s an experience that you wouldn’t want someone who has never done it before to lead the way.

[00:13:41] Bree: Scott begins to lower himself down into the dark hole.

[00:13:46] Scott: The first step over from standing on the ground to walking over a cliff to going from horizontal to vertical and trusting this rope is tied in, and it’s going to protect you, is in itself one of the most stimulating and terrifying moments you could ever have,

[00:14:06] Bree: Scott has that feeling of vertigo all through his body, as he lowers himself down into the dark hole. He’s using only a carbide light to see. Which is a lamp that uses a gas to make light. As he goes down, he reaches the knot where the two ropes are tied together. Scott practiced this before. He knew that he would reach the knot. Unclip his carabiners and then reattach them under the knot.

[00:14:38] Scott: Now, we had tried this under four-story buildings. The problem was that we had never tried it at this depth. So What I didn’t calculate was that I was going to hit that knot and my weight was going to have pulled the rope so far because the rope has some give in it.

[00:15:03] Bree: Scott repelled down to the knot as he had done before. However, this time he has become stuck because of the tension on the rope. He can’t go up or down. And the more he tries to solve this problem, the more stuck and in trouble he’s getting.

[00:15:22] Scott: Added to it, this kind of rope slowly twirls, so you’re starting to try to do all this as you’re moving around on this rope. And the added benefit on top of that was the water, the mist of the water from the waterfall shut my light down. So I’m hanging over a cliff a hundred feet or more, twirling wet and can’t see total darkness. I can hear, but I was also so far away from my friend that he couldn’t hear me and I couldn’t hear him, especially with the water roaring. So he didn’t really know what I was doing, and I couldn’t signal to him what was going on.

[00:16:18] The only bit of information he had was there was no slack in the rope. And the reason that’s important is once the body gets off it, the weight’s off it, there’s slack in the rope. But if not, the rope’s taut, the rope’s, you know, stretched. So I thought, all right, I just have to go back to what created this? What, you know, why was I stuck? And I knew that I, for thought I knew I had all the equipment and, skill set to be able to get beyond it. Bree, what kept happening was there was a part of me that kept also going, why are you here? Why did you allow this to happen?

[00:17:06] Three hours later, I’m still twirling on that rope

[00:17:15] Bree: Scott’s hands are aching because he’s been holding on tightly. And trying to prevent his muscles from cramping. He understands that he’s in big trouble.

[00:17:27] Scott: So I came to the conclusion, I don’t say this lightly, that I was not going to make it, that this was going to not end well.

[00:17:40] Bree: Scott realizes that he’s going to have to cut part of his equipment, the webbing, which is what secures his body to his gear. And by doing this, he might make himself fall. He also knew that he was getting very cold, he might even get hypothermia, in which case he’d go unconscious and fall. So he knew he had to act fast.

[00:18:07] Scott: I made peace that I might fall, that this probably was not going to end well, but it was my only option. I really had no other choice at that moment. So I had this moment I can still feel it viscerally, um, where I cut the webbing and what I expected was I was going to fall backwards and then the bottom carabiners and ascenders would lose their grip because they’re not meant to work that way.

[00:18:41] Um, the tension would come off them and I would literally just fall down, that was what I had assumed would happen. Instead, what happened, somehow the webbing circled around my neck, and I’m starting to get hung, and I only had one recourse, there was only one thing I could do, which was grab the rope above me, try to muscle, pull my way up, hold on to that.

[00:19:18] While I was using my other hand to get beyond knot. It worked. Clearly I’m here. I got over the knot, went down the other 80 feet. I got to the bottom. I was trembling and crying and, uh, distraught for probably about 10 minutes, and there’s only one more problem to deal with: I have to go back up.

[00:19:54] So I spent, I don’t know, maybe an hour, hour and a half, you know, down there, just tying everything back up, getting some energy.

[00:20:02] So I did climb back up. I was able to figure out a way to do it where it was some minor adjustments. It took me what seemed like forever and a day to get up because I was still exhausted.

[00:20:14] I get up to the top and my friend, Steve, looked at me and said, his first words were that wouldn’t have happened if I had gone first.

[00:20:27] And in that moment, because it was like, you know, like living two lifetimes in somebody else’s second, that when I heard him say it, I felt so depleted and defeated and angry.

[00:20:43] But then we packed up, we didn’t say a word for the rest of the trip.

[00:20:50] Bree: This story took place in 1975. And after that, Scott continued to explore caves. But he never returned to the cave in this story.

[00:21:02] Scott: You know, life is filled with mistakes and confusions and moments when we don’t know what’s going to happen next. But we’re putting ourselves out there a little bit. We’re taking a risk. It could be the kind of risk I was taking. It could be an emotional risk. It could be a professional business type risk. My life’s journey has been, has not fluid. It’s been filled with moments of challenge and confusion and change. The teacher in my life has been learned from a problem being solved, learned from a moment being untangled, learned from how to figure out how to make it over a knot, literally and figuratively.

[00:21:50] Bree: Getting over a knot—how do we get past a problem? We need to use our imagination to understand the problem. And then we use our creativity to find solutions. And perhaps, if we’re lucky, we can innovate. This is the lesson that Scott went on to use during his career, as the executive director at the Lincoln center Institute in New York.

[00:22:21] Scott believes that we can all do things that develop our imagination and creativity. And if we do so then it will lead to innovation in business, education, and culture. For more information about Scott. Check out the link in the show notes.

[00:22:39] Okay folks, this is the last episode of season five of Into the Story. I’m already hard at work recording more stories for season six, which will be coming out this summer 2024.

[00:22:55] In the meantime, If you would like to join our community and hear me go further into the psychology side of each episode. And also speak more personally about the lessons I learned from our storytellers, then you can join our newsletter. Just visit into this story podcast.com and click subscribe. And it’s totally free. 

[00:23:23] Okay, that is all for today. Until the next season. I hope that you have a good time, or at least a good story to tell. 

Episode's vocabulary List

*vocabulary featured in podcast

LANDSCAPER: Someone who designs or takes care of gardens and outdoor areas, making them look beautiful and organized. They plant flowers, trim bushes, and arrange plants to create appealing outdoor spaces.
Examples: “The landscaper planted colorful flowers in the park, making it a more inviting place for visitors.” or “We hired a landscaper to design our backyard and create a peaceful retreat.”


*CAVING / SPELUNKING (CAVER/SPELUNKER): Exploring caves as a hobby or adventure activity. A caver or spelunker is a person who enjoys exploring caves, often equipped with helmets, lights, and other safety gear.
Examples: “The spelunker ventured deep into the cave, marveling at the fascinating rock formations.” or “Caving is an exciting activity for spelunkers who love to discover the hidden wonders of underground caves.”


AVID: Someone who is very enthusiastic or passionate about a particular activity or interest. Avid individuals often spend a lot of time and effort pursuing their passion.
Examples: “She’s an avid reader, devouring books of all genres whenever she gets the chance.” or “He’s an avid cyclist, spending his weekends exploring new trails and routes.”


SHEER (SHEER BEAUTY): Used to describe something that is extremely steep, almost vertical, or without any covering. It can also indicate complete or total, emphasizing the extent or intensity of something.
Examples: “The sheer beauty of the sunset took our breath away.” “The waterfall cascaded down the sheer rock face, creating a mesmerizing display of sheer beauty.”

REPEL DOWN / ASCEND UP: To descend or climb using ropes and specialized equipment. Repelling down involves descending from a higher point to a lower one, while ascending up means climbing from a lower point to a higher one.
Examples: “They repelled down the cliff using ropes and harnesses, carefully controlling their descent to reach the bottom safely.” or “After exploring the cave, they had to ascend up the steep incline using ascenders to return to the surface.”


CARABINERS / ASCENDERS: Tools used in climbing and caving to secure ropes and facilitate movement. Carabiners are metal loops with a spring-loaded gate used to connect ropes and equipment, while ascenders are devices that grip the rope to allow climbers to ascend upward.
Examples: “She attached her harness to the safety line using a sturdy carabiner before beginning her climb.” or “The cavers relied on ascenders to ascend the vertical shafts of the cave.”


TO BE BUDDIES: To be close friends or companions who share a strong bond and enjoy spending time together.
Examples: “They’ve been buddies since they were kids, sharing everything from toys to secrets.” or “She and her dog are best buddies, going on adventures and exploring together.”


OUTDOORSMAN: Someone who enjoys outdoor activities like camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting. An outdoorsman is often skilled in various outdoor pursuits and feels at home in nature.
Examples: “He’s an experienced outdoorsman who loves spending time in the wilderness, camping under the stars and fishing in remote lakes.” or “The outdoorsman’s knowledge of survival skills and outdoor techniques makes him well-prepared for any adventure.”


JUTTING OUT: Sticking out or extending beyond the usual line or surface, often used to describe protrusions or projections.
Examples: “The rocky ledge jutted out from the cliff, providing a precarious foothold for climbers.” or “The tree branches jutting out over the trail created a natural canopy, providing shade for hikers.”


TO GEAR UP: To prepare or equip oneself with the necessary gear or equipment for a particular activity or adventure.
Examples: “They geared up with helmets, harnesses, and climbing ropes before embarking on their mountain climbing expedition.” or “She geared up for the camping trip, packing tents, sleeping bags, and cooking supplies.”


BOULDERS: Large rocks or stones found in nature, often used as obstacles or challenges in outdoor activities like hiking and rock climbing.
Examples: “The trail was littered with massive boulders, requiring careful navigation and balance.” or “They scrambled over the boulders, using them as stepping stones to cross the river.”


FREE FALL: To fall without any restraint or support, experiencing the sensation of weightlessness as gravity pulls you downward.
Examples: “During skydiving, you experience a thrilling moment of free fall before the parachute opens and slows your descent.” or “The adrenaline junkie loved the feeling of free fall as he bungee jumped off the bridge.”


*TO GET DRENCHED: To become completely wet, often due to exposure to rain, water, or other liquids.
Examples: “We got drenched in the sudden downpour, running for cover as the rain poured down.” or “The kids got drenched playing in the sprinklers, laughing and splashing in the water.”


TO BUCKLE: To fasten or secure something, usually by connecting two ends of a strap or belt with a buckle.
Examples: “Before starting the hike, she buckled her backpack securely to her waist.” or “He buckled his helmet tightly under his chin to ensure it wouldn’t fall off during the bike ride.”

 

TWIRLS: To spin or rotate quickly, often used to describe graceful or rapid movements.
Examples: “The ballerina twirled across the stage in a whirl of colorful fabric, captivating the audience with her graceful movements.” or “The autumn leaves twirled in the breeze, dancing in the air before floating to the ground.”


ROARING (ROARING WATER): Making a deep, loud, continuous sound, often used to describe fast-moving water or strong winds that produce a powerful noise.
Examples: “The roaring waterfall echoed through the canyon, its thunderous sound reverberating off the sheer rock walls.” or “The storm brought roaring winds that shook the trees and rattled the windows.”


*SLACK VS TAUT (ROPE): Slack refers to loose or relaxed rope, while taut describes a tight or stretched rope, often used in outdoor activities like climbing and caving.
Examples: “Before climbing, make sure the rope is taut and secure, with no slack that could cause it to sag or fail.” or “He adjusted the slack in the rope to make it easier to climb, ensuring that it was neither too loose nor too tight.”


CRAMP / CRAMPING (MUSCLE): A sudden, painful contraction of a muscle or muscles, often caused by overexertion, dehydration, or inadequate stretching.
Examples: “She got a cramp in her leg while swimming, causing her to stop and stretch to relieve the pain.” or “The athlete experienced cramping in his muscles during the marathon, slowing his pace and affecting his performance.”

 

*TO NOT SAY SOMETHING LIGHTLY (“I DON’T SAY THIS LIGHTLY”): To emphasize that what you’re saying is serious or sincere, indicating that it’s not something you’re saying casually or without careful consideration.
Examples: “I don’t say this lightly, but I believe we need to make some changes to improve our situation.” or “She didn’t say it lightly when she apologized for her mistake, expressing genuine remorse and regret.”

 

TO MAKE PEACE (WITH SOMETHING): To resolve or accept a conflict or disagreement, often involving forgiveness or reconciliation.
Examples: “After years of feuding, they finally made peace with each other, putting their differences aside and starting anew.” or “She had to make peace with the fact that she didn’t get the job she wanted, focusing instead on other opportunities.”

VISCERAL: Describing something that is deeply felt or experienced in a powerful and instinctive way, often referring to strong emotions or reactions.
Examples: “The movie’s visceral impact left the audience stunned and speechless, evoking raw emotions and intense reactions.” or “He had a visceral reaction to the news, feeling a surge of fear and adrenaline coursing through his body.”

TO BE HUNG: To be suspended or attached in a high position, often referring to objects or decorations.
Examples: “The painting was hung on the wall, adding color and character to the room.” or “The chandelier was hung from the ceiling, casting a warm glow throughout the space.”

 

RECOURSE: The option or ability to seek help, assistance, or relief from a difficult situation, often through legal or official channels.
Examples: “When faced with discrimination, she sought recourse by filing a complaint with the human resources department.” or “Victims of fraud may have legal recourse to recover their losses and seek justice.”

 

TO BE TREMBLING: To shake involuntarily, usually as a result of fear, excitement, or cold.
Examples: “She was trembling with excitement as she waited for the results to be announced.” or “He was trembling from the cold, his teeth chattering as he wrapped himself in a blanket.”

TO BE DISTRAUGHT: To be extremely upset, worried, or troubled, often to the point of being unable to think or act calmly.
Examples: “She was distraught when she realized she had lost her wallet, frantically searching everywhere for it.” or “He was distraught over the news of his friend’s illness, feeling helpless and overwhelmed.”

 

TO MISCALCULATE / TO MAKE A MISCALCULATION: To make a mistake in estimating or assessing something, resulting in an incorrect prediction, decision, or action.
Examples: “He miscalculated the distance and fell short of reaching the other side of the gap.” or “The company made a miscalculation in its budget projections, leading to financial difficulties.”

 

TO HAVE NO CLUE: To not know or understand something, indicating a lack of knowledge or awareness.
Examples: “When asked about the new policy, he had no clue what they were talking about.” or “I have no clue how to fix the car; I’ll need to ask for help.”

 

TO SCREW UP: To make a serious mistake or blunder, often resulting in negative consequences.
Examples: “He screwed up the presentation by forgetting his lines and stumbling over his words.” or “She knew she had screwed up when she saw the disappointed look on her boss’s face.”

 

DEPLETED: Used to describe something that has been greatly reduced in quantity or strength, often due to excessive use or consumption.
Examples: “After the long hike, their energy was depleted, and they struggled to make it back to camp.” or “The forest was depleted of its resources, leaving little for future generations to enjoy.”

 

TO PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE: To make an effort to be noticed or to participate actively in social or professional activities, often involving taking risks or stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
Examples: “She put herself out there by joining clubs and organizations to meet new people and expand her network.” or “He decided to put himself out there and apply for the job, even though he was nervous about the interview.”


*TANGLED / UNTANGLED: Tangled means twisted together in a messy or confused way, while untangled means separated or straightened out.
Examples: “The wires were tangled, making it difficult to connect the devices.” or “She patiently untangled the knots in the necklace, restoring it to its original condition.”

*vocabulary featured in podcast

LANDSCAPER: Someone who designs or takes care of gardens and outdoor areas, making them look beautiful and organized. They plant flowers, trim bushes, and arrange plants to create appealing outdoor spaces.
Examples: “The landscaper planted colorful flowers in the park, making it a more inviting place for visitors.” or “We hired a landscaper to design our backyard and create a peaceful retreat.”


*CAVING / SPELUNKING (CAVER/SPELUNKER): Exploring caves as a hobby or adventure activity. A caver or spelunker is a person who enjoys exploring caves, often equipped with helmets, lights, and other safety gear.
Examples: “The spelunker ventured deep into the cave, marveling at the fascinating rock formations.” or “Caving is an exciting activity for spelunkers who love to discover the hidden wonders of underground caves.”


AVID: Someone who is very enthusiastic or passionate about a particular activity or interest. Avid individuals often spend a lot of time and effort pursuing their passion.
Examples: “She’s an avid reader, devouring books of all genres whenever she gets the chance.” or “He’s an avid cyclist, spending his weekends exploring new trails and routes.”


SHEER (SHEER BEAUTY): Used to describe something that is extremely steep, almost vertical, or without any covering. It can also indicate complete or total, emphasizing the extent or intensity of something.
Examples: “The sheer beauty of the sunset took our breath away.” “The waterfall cascaded down the sheer rock face, creating a mesmerizing display of sheer beauty.”

REPEL DOWN / ASCEND UP: To descend or climb using ropes and specialized equipment. Repelling down involves descending from a higher point to a lower one, while ascending up means climbing from a lower point to a higher one.
Examples: “They repelled down the cliff using ropes and harnesses, carefully controlling their descent to reach the bottom safely.” or “After exploring the cave, they had to ascend up the steep incline using ascenders to return to the surface.”


CARABINERS / ASCENDERS: Tools used in climbing and caving to secure ropes and facilitate movement. Carabiners are metal loops with a spring-loaded gate used to connect ropes and equipment, while ascenders are devices that grip the rope to allow climbers to ascend upward.
Examples: “She attached her harness to the safety line using a sturdy carabiner before beginning her climb.” or “The cavers relied on ascenders to ascend the vertical shafts of the cave.”


TO BE BUDDIES: To be close friends or companions who share a strong bond and enjoy spending time together.
Examples: “They’ve been buddies since they were kids, sharing everything from toys to secrets.” or “She and her dog are best buddies, going on adventures and exploring together.”


OUTDOORSMAN: Someone who enjoys outdoor activities like camping, hiking, fishing, and hunting. An outdoorsman is often skilled in various outdoor pursuits and feels at home in nature.
Examples: “He’s an experienced outdoorsman who loves spending time in the wilderness, camping under the stars and fishing in remote lakes.” or “The outdoorsman’s knowledge of survival skills and outdoor techniques makes him well-prepared for any adventure.”


JUTTING OUT: Sticking out or extending beyond the usual line or surface, often used to describe protrusions or projections.
Examples: “The rocky ledge jutted out from the cliff, providing a precarious foothold for climbers.” or “The tree branches jutting out over the trail created a natural canopy, providing shade for hikers.”


TO GEAR UP: To prepare or equip oneself with the necessary gear or equipment for a particular activity or adventure.
Examples: “They geared up with helmets, harnesses, and climbing ropes before embarking on their mountain climbing expedition.” or “She geared up for the camping trip, packing tents, sleeping bags, and cooking supplies.”


BOULDERS: Large rocks or stones found in nature, often used as obstacles or challenges in outdoor activities like hiking and rock climbing.
Examples: “The trail was littered with massive boulders, requiring careful navigation and balance.” or “They scrambled over the boulders, using them as stepping stones to cross the river.”


FREE FALL: To fall without any restraint or support, experiencing the sensation of weightlessness as gravity pulls you downward.
Examples: “During skydiving, you experience a thrilling moment of free fall before the parachute opens and slows your descent.” or “The adrenaline junkie loved the feeling of free fall as he bungee jumped off the bridge.”


*TO GET DRENCHED: To become completely wet, often due to exposure to rain, water, or other liquids.
Examples: “We got drenched in the sudden downpour, running for cover as the rain poured down.” or “The kids got drenched playing in the sprinklers, laughing and splashing in the water.”


TO BUCKLE: To fasten or secure something, usually by connecting two ends of a strap or belt with a buckle.
Examples: “Before starting the hike, she buckled her backpack securely to her waist.” or “He buckled his helmet tightly under his chin to ensure it wouldn’t fall off during the bike ride.”

 

TWIRLS: To spin or rotate quickly, often used to describe graceful or rapid movements.
Examples: “The ballerina twirled across the stage in a whirl of colorful fabric, captivating the audience with her graceful movements.” or “The autumn leaves twirled in the breeze, dancing in the air before floating to the ground.”


ROARING (ROARING WATER): Making a deep, loud, continuous sound, often used to describe fast-moving water or strong winds that produce a powerful noise.
Examples: “The roaring waterfall echoed through the canyon, its thunderous sound reverberating off the sheer rock walls.” or “The storm brought roaring winds that shook the trees and rattled the windows.”


*SLACK VS TAUT (ROPE): Slack refers to loose or relaxed rope, while taut describes a tight or stretched rope, often used in outdoor activities like climbing and caving.
Examples: “Before climbing, make sure the rope is taut and secure, with no slack that could cause it to sag or fail.” or “He adjusted the slack in the rope to make it easier to climb, ensuring that it was neither too loose nor too tight.”


CRAMP / CRAMPING (MUSCLE): A sudden, painful contraction of a muscle or muscles, often caused by overexertion, dehydration, or inadequate stretching.
Examples: “She got a cramp in her leg while swimming, causing her to stop and stretch to relieve the pain.” or “The athlete experienced cramping in his muscles during the marathon, slowing his pace and affecting his performance.”

 

*TO NOT SAY SOMETHING LIGHTLY (“I DON’T SAY THIS LIGHTLY”): To emphasize that what you’re saying is serious or sincere, indicating that it’s not something you’re saying casually or without careful consideration.
Examples: “I don’t say this lightly, but I believe we need to make some changes to improve our situation.” or “She didn’t say it lightly when she apologized for her mistake, expressing genuine remorse and regret.”

 

TO MAKE PEACE (WITH SOMETHING): To resolve or accept a conflict or disagreement, often involving forgiveness or reconciliation.
Examples: “After years of feuding, they finally made peace with each other, putting their differences aside and starting anew.” or “She had to make peace with the fact that she didn’t get the job she wanted, focusing instead on other opportunities.”

VISCERAL: Describing something that is deeply felt or experienced in a powerful and instinctive way, often referring to strong emotions or reactions.
Examples: “The movie’s visceral impact left the audience stunned and speechless, evoking raw emotions and intense reactions.” or “He had a visceral reaction to the news, feeling a surge of fear and adrenaline coursing through his body.”

TO BE HUNG: To be suspended or attached in a high position, often referring to objects or decorations.
Examples: “The painting was hung on the wall, adding color and character to the room.” or “The chandelier was hung from the ceiling, casting a warm glow throughout the space.”

 

RECOURSE: The option or ability to seek help, assistance, or relief from a difficult situation, often through legal or official channels.
Examples: “When faced with discrimination, she sought recourse by filing a complaint with the human resources department.” or “Victims of fraud may have legal recourse to recover their losses and seek justice.”

 

TO BE TREMBLING: To shake involuntarily, usually as a result of fear, excitement, or cold.
Examples: “She was trembling with excitement as she waited for the results to be announced.” or “He was trembling from the cold, his teeth chattering as he wrapped himself in a blanket.”

TO BE DISTRAUGHT: To be extremely upset, worried, or troubled, often to the point of being unable to think or act calmly.
Examples: “She was distraught when she realized she had lost her wallet, frantically searching everywhere for it.” or “He was distraught over the news of his friend’s illness, feeling helpless and overwhelmed.”

 

TO MISCALCULATE / TO MAKE A MISCALCULATION: To make a mistake in estimating or assessing something, resulting in an incorrect prediction, decision, or action.
Examples: “He miscalculated the distance and fell short of reaching the other side of the gap.” or “The company made a miscalculation in its budget projections, leading to financial difficulties.”

 

TO HAVE NO CLUE: To not know or understand something, indicating a lack of knowledge or awareness.
Examples: “When asked about the new policy, he had no clue what they were talking about.” or “I have no clue how to fix the car; I’ll need to ask for help.”

 

TO SCREW UP: To make a serious mistake or blunder, often resulting in negative consequences.
Examples: “He screwed up the presentation by forgetting his lines and stumbling over his words.” or “She knew she had screwed up when she saw the disappointed look on her boss’s face.”

 

DEPLETED: Used to describe something that has been greatly reduced in quantity or strength, often due to excessive use or consumption.
Examples: “After the long hike, their energy was depleted, and they struggled to make it back to camp.” or “The forest was depleted of its resources, leaving little for future generations to enjoy.”

 

TO PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE: To make an effort to be noticed or to participate actively in social or professional activities, often involving taking risks or stepping out of one’s comfort zone.
Examples: “She put herself out there by joining clubs and organizations to meet new people and expand her network.” or “He decided to put himself out there and apply for the job, even though he was nervous about the interview.”


*TANGLED / UNTANGLED: Tangled means twisted together in a messy or confused way, while untangled means separated or straightened out.
Examples: “The wires were tangled, making it difficult to connect the devices.” or “She patiently untangled the knots in the necklace, restoring it to its original condition.”

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More about Scott Brandon

Scott Brandon photo - Into the Story Podcast - The #1 podcast to learn English with TRUE stories told by people fromo all over the world.

Scott Brandon 

Scott Brandon is a writer and advisor who specializes in imagination, creativity, and innovation in business, culture, and education. He spent twenty years as the head of the Lincoln Center Institute in New York and now leads Litróf Consulting.

For more thoughts and inspiration from Scott Brandon, follow him on LinkedIn.

Scott’s company, Litróf Consulting, helps advance the interests of people, business, and the environment. Change for good.

Read his book: “Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility“. 

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