Scott Burrows

Who is Your Blessman?

After my life changing accident, I returned to college and graduated with a Finance Degree and joined Northwestern Mutual Life as a Financial Advisor. Three years later, I was invited to Northwestern Mutual’s home office in Milwaukee, WI for training. I was nervous flying over as I was the sole traveler from my branch, accompanied by other top producers around the country. On the last day, me and two others were selected to give 15-minute Mountain Top Speeches to motivate and inspire our peers before everyone returned to their office. These speeches were meant to inspire the guests, and have them leave the training believing that anything was possible.

Afterwards, one of my peers, Brad Blessman, approached me and said, “I loved your story, and what you’ve accomplished, both before and after your accident. I’m curious, have you ever snow skied before?” I said, no. In reply he said, “I live in Denver and my parents have a place in Beaver Creek, Colorado, next to Vail. I’d like to invite you to come out so I can teach you how to snow ski.” Shocked, I said, “Please tell me you are not joking, because I will take you up on your offer.” Five months later, we met in Denver. Before starting, I rented a pair of forearm crutches to help me balance while skiing, considering my physical handicap. We then went to Beaver Creek and settled into his parent’s place. The next day we went on a 15 minute drive to Vail. I rented a pair of snow skis and then Blessman took me to the ski lift. As we rode the lift up to the top of Vail, I felt scared. When we reached the peak, there was a ski run called “Swingsville,” labeled as a Green for beginners. Over the first two days I fell so much that my hips turned black and blue. But every time I fell, Blessman picked me up. He kept saying, “To snow ski you need to lean forward and break the fall line and let gravity assist you down the mountain.” Easier said than done! But I kept trying and was determined.

On the third day I started to make progress. It was then that Blessman took me to a Blue run called, “Cappuccino.” It was steeper than the Green and more intimidating than many of the slopes we had seen. On that run he said, “Scott, you need to ski the mountain as opposed to the mountain skiing you. In order to do that, you have to learn how to stop. If you do, you can ski anything.” His words rang in my head as I internalized what this meant. Gaining the ability to stop and control the slopes became my sole focus. In doing so, my skiing progressed further than I ever thought possible. On the sixth day of our snow skiing excursion, Blessman took me to the back side of Vail. Before I knew it, we were standing on a ledge almost 12,000 feet above sea level overlooking a monster crater called, The China Bowl: A Black-level run. It was steep and treacherous with moguls everywhere. I then turned to Brad and said, “Thank you for taking me back here.” On that day you could see miles upon miles in every direction, 14,000-foot peaks in the horizon, and a shade of blue in the snow that I had never noticed before. It was amazing. Then I said, “Blessman, where is the ski lift to take me back down?” He replied, “There is no ski lift to take you back down. The only way down is down.” Though a daunting task, I made it down the mountain. It was not a graceful descent by any means, and it took grit, vision, and a positive mindset. But, alas, I had conquered the mountain. I fell down over and over again, but Blessman kept picking me up until the end. At the bottom Blessman said, “Look up, those skiers at the top working their way down.” They looked like ants. It was so far up. “That’s where we started.” “Funny thing,” he said, “Most people who snow ski, and have for years, never leave their comfort zone to ski the back Bowls of Vail, but you did!” 

Snow skiing gave me back my running legs. I started skiing at 28 years old and, with the help of Blessman, have not missed a year yet. Today, I am 59 years old, and the photo attached was taken this April 2024 down a Black Diamond Run in Vail called, “South Look Ma Trail.” The girl wearing pink ski pants behind me is my wife, Kim.

If it had been up to me, I wouldn’t have taken those snowy paths 31-years ago. But it is with many thanks to Brad Blessman that I not only gained a new confidence, but also was given the support and reassurance to conquer the mountain. It was that trip that made me realize the importance of your support network. Let me ask you this, who is that person in your life, stretching you a little further to be the best that you can be? The best parent, spouse, the best at what you do within your organization, regardless of your role. Who is your Blessman? Who is helping YOU ski your mountains?

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