Jimmy Chin’s passion for exploration and photography has taken him on break-through expeditions around the world. As a fifteen-year veteran of the TNF athlete team and a photographer for publications such as National Geographic, Jimmy has worked with some of the best adventurers, climbers, snowboarders and skiers in the world on their most challenging expeditions and shoots. As a filmmaker, his recent film Meru won the Audience Award at Sundance and was shortlisted for an Oscar. Climbing, skiing and often simply surviving extreme situations alongside some of the best in the industry, Jimmy shoulders the camera equipment and documents the epic stories.
The short answer is because we have one life to live and I certainly don’t want it to be “normal.” Above average doesn’t really work for me either. I want incredible, unbelievable, outrageous. If it is perceived as mad, that’s fine, but to me, not at least trying to live an extraordinary life is, well, truly mad.
The decisions I’ve had to make to live the life I wanted to live weren’t easy. In fact, they were the hardest decisions in my life. My parents both grew up in China. They were stereotypical strict Chinese immigrant parents who grew up living in hardship and worked their entire lives to be able to make a new life and start a family in the States. I grew up in a small town in south central Minnesota where my parents worked as librarians at the local university. Life was comfortable but certainly not luxurious. My parents spent most of their money on my sister's and my education. They had high hopes of me becoming a doctor or lawyer. They talked about academics, going to top colleges, having a family, making a good life etc constantly. I abided, tried hard and did well academically through college but was bored out of my mind. I wasn’t just bored, I was having a serious existential crisis by 20. I just didn't see the point of trying to meet the traditional expectations set up by my parents or society for that matter. As much as I tried, I could find no meaning or inspiration looking down the well worn path what people considered a “normal” life. I felt a serious sense of urgency to live intensely. But how?
The second I finished college I headed out west and moved into the back of my car. Climbing and skiing were the only things that gave meaning to me. Nothing else mattered. My parents were devastated that I basically fell off the map and wasn’t pursuing a career. I stopped speaking to them for almost two years because it hurt too much to hear the disappointment in their voices. Other friends from college had gone on to law school, working in finance, or starting companies. I was living in a dank dripping cave behind Camp IV in Yosemite and intercepting half eaten pizzas at Curry Village before tourists could throw them out in the garbage. Not exactly glamorous. Early on, I struggled everyday with the choice I was making. I was filled with doubt, guilt and the burden of letting my parents down. The only thing that kept me going was the joy of climbing, the inspiration of being in the mountains, being with my new found tribe. I sought out the wild ones. The passion for this non-conventional life didn’t diminish, it grew wildly. I only wanted to attempt the absurd. The harder I had to try, the further I had to go, the more intense the expedition, the better. Gradually it became clear, this was not a short-lived rebellion, but a life long pursuit of going all out.
Along with climbing and skiing, photography and filming, became my vehicles to see the world and work with some of the most incredible athletes and creatives in the world. When I didn’t think life could get any more insane, it only accelerated with more work, more opportunities. It’s a completely chaotic lifestyle, but these days, I am still thankful every single day that I stuck it out and committed to taking the leap off the train of convention. I can’t imagine living any life that wasn’t perceived as mad….. #QuestionMadness