When there’s a Will there’s a way

Derek Franz
Open Space

My friend Will is among the most inspiring people I know.

He never hesitates to roll up his sleeves and learn something new.

Right now he makes his living on the East Coast through a number of enterprises. It’s hard to say exactly what his job is because he has a knack for turning personal hobbies into moneymakers, and he seems to have plenty of money.

We first met as freshman at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He was sitting behind me in a dimly lit auditorium during the first week of Geology 101. I heard him talking to someone about how he helped rescue some rock climbers.

Being new in town and a rock climber myself, I perked at the opportunity to meet a potential climbing partner. I turned around, interrupting his conversation, to introduce myself. We exchanged phone numbers but we didn’t connect again until February, but it wasn’t for climbing. We carpooled up to the ski hill for a big air competition at Copper Mountain.

He was in the skiing division and I was snowboarding. I drove us to and from the comp in my dad’s old car with a Weezer CD on repeat. He turned out to be one of the very best riders I know — one of the only people I honestly struggle to keep up with in any terrain. He invited me over to share a pony keg in his dorm room when we got back to Boulder.

It was at Will’s dorm party that I met several of my best friends in one shot. They’ve all scattered across the country since then, but we’re still in touch, and parties are still epic when they happen to materialize. At the time, I had no idea these people were going to mean so much to me later on. It all just happened.

Our sophomore year, Will moved into a condo unit across the parking lot from me. That’s when I really got to know him and his craftiness.

He built a “fun box” for us to play on with our skateboards in the parking lot. Then he turned his spare bathroom into a photo lab to develop film from his photography class. He was the first person I knew who streamed movies, video games and Internet onto a big screen through a projector that he mounted to the ceiling.

He was always reading. He had about 12 magazine subscriptions, ranging from Alpinist to the Economist. He checked out a 3,000-page book on computer programing “for fun” one year, and by the next year, the university was paying him to run an IT department. Of course he graduated at the top of his class with honors in the meantime.

That was around 2005. While he continued to advance his career in ways that mattered, I advanced my athletic abilities. I can’t say I regret the places my climbing pursuits have taken me, but I envy Will’s initiative to tackle anything that comes to mind.

He recently bought a 38-year-old skiff and completely rebuilt it, fiberglass work, bilge system and all.

“It’s ready to go for another 38 years,” he wrote on Facebook last week, posting photos to prove it.

I had no idea he knew a thing about boats, but I’m not surprised.

Meanwhile, I sometimes feel trapped, as if I have no skills or experience to offer that could advance my position in life. I think my biggest shortcoming is that, except for climbing, I often rely on outside encouragement to try new things, while Will seems to try whatever he fancies. He dedicates himself to learning in a way that never seems to fail in the long run.

How could a dedication to learning ever be a fault? It can’t.

Every once in a while, I realize I’m stuck in a bubble of familiar ways. Then I see Will’s latest project and I’m motivated to dream and reach once more.

Friends make more of a difference than we typically imagine, and we never know when or where we’ll meet them.

Take an interest in those next to you — they might take you far.

“Brotherhood is the very price and condition of man’s survival.”

— Carlos P. Ramulo

— “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Carbondale. He can be reached at

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