Climbing a Path Less Traveled
John Deas ’07 hasn’t taken a straight path since graduating. But that’s the way he likes it.
John Deas’s friends describe him as laid back. And, “to a degree,” he’ll admit, he is.
For a rock climber, it’s a quality that comes in handy. When Deas and his climbing partner and co-worker Mike Kline were ascending the 2,000 foot El Potrero Chico rock face in northern Mexico, for example, it was Deas’s calm demeanor and positivity that got them through the 18-hour day.
“It turned out to be a scorcher of a day, 85 degrees, and we’re climbing in the sun all day long. But he was just always like ‘let’s keep going, we’re going to do this,’” Kline said of Deas. “It was pretty brutal and intense but if it hadn’t been for his attitude I probably would’ve bailed on it, just been like today’s not the day.”
It’s that same attitude that has gotten Deas through countless other climbs—including in France, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia, and all around the U.S.
But Deas, who now splits his time between Texas and Colorado and owns a climbing guide business, is quick to point out that his easygoing personality doesn’t always come naturally and isn’t without a certain level of calculation.
“I think what they’re taking as me being super laid back is just the end result of trying to refocus my stress,” he said. “When I’m in the mountains and a stressful situation presents itself—stress and fear are really powerful things and if you can step back and remember to breathe, you can refocus that [fear] into a positive outcome.”
Calculated or not, Deas’s approach has not only factored into his success on the rocks, but has also allowed him the confidence to take whichever direction he decides to in life.
In the last six years, it’s helped him as a first-time business owner. In 2013, Deas bought a climbing business, now named Texas Climbing Adventures. He expanded services to include corporate events, caving tours, and guided hikes, and he’s grown the business from its roughly 450 clients in 2013 to more than 700 clients in 2018.
Deas studied TV/Film at DeSales and then worked for WFMZ Channel 69 News, Maranatha Broadcasting, and New Century Productions in Allentown for five years, before moving to Austin, Texas, in 2012 to work as a videographer for the CBS-affiliate television station there.
Soon after arriving, he joined a climbing group and met his now-friend Lucas Palomeque, who suggested he start guiding with the climbing business he worked for.
A year later, Deas would go on to purchase the company.
Deas says that even though he’s now moved out of the TV/Film industry, his time at DeSales was crucial to developing skills that he still uses today in running his business.
“A huge part of that program, beyond just the technical aspect of TV and film production, is coming up with a plan and then executing that plan. And then there is that kind of business side of it as far as figuring out all of the logistics—so what kind of team you need, what kind of budget you’re going to need for that, your shooting schedule,” said Deas, who also credits his time with the track and field team at DeSales with shaping his work habits.
“For me, as I transitioned from the TV world to running my guide service, that training and that background and that education I found to be really beneficial for the logistics of owning and running a small business.”
When asked what advice he’d give DeSales students, Deas says that they shouldn’t be scared to change directions in life and to know that it is okay if they are undecided on what path they will take after graduating.
“Some of the new grads might be totally convinced that whatever they got their degree in that that’s what they’re going to do for the rest of their life, and they may…but I think for a lot of people that path is going to wind and that path is going to change, and they may get out into that industry and take a left turn here or a right turn there. As long as they work hard, it’s okay if they’re uncertain which way their path is going to go, but they’ve got that great foundation and that great education under their belt that they’re always going to be able to pull from for the rest of their life.”
It’s advice that clearly still informs Deas’s own lifestyle. In addition to tending to his business in Austin, he now spends part of his year in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he is pursuing a side career as a paramedic out of his love for the field of medicine.“I think one of the things that’s unique about John—I think that a lot of people they get into places in life, they get into grooves, and whether they’re happy or unhappy they just kind of stay there and they never do anything,” Palomeque said of Deas. “He doesn’t want to just settle in life. He’s always looking for the next opportunity to help him grow and to do new and interesting and exciting things…He’s willing to chase his dreams.”