I started walking at nine months. There was not a gate or door that could hold me. My mom bought every childproof lock she could find, but evidently “childproof” did not mean “Brandon-proof.” She had doorknobs that even she couldn’t open, but I always managed to get through them. She would lock me into my high chair, but if she stepped into the bathroom for even a moment, I’d be gone when she returned. 

By 18 months I discovered the joys of climbing. I found I could climb up, over, and into pretty much anything. This ability, combined with my easy friendship with locks and predilection for drinking anything I could get my hands on, added up to quite a few visits to the emergency room to have my little toddler-sized stomach pumped. Among the beverages I sampled during those early years were kerosene, bleach, and Avon honeysuckle after-bath splash. I’m not saying this is a method I would endorse or recommend, but I am convinced that this is why I have always been able to hold my liquor and have never had a problem with addiction. By the time I was three, the hospital emergency room staff and my mom knew each other on a first-name basis.

When my mom was pregnant with my sister, my dad built an enclosure with a swing and what he thought was a Brandon-proof gate. (There’s that term again: “Brandon-proof.” Hadn’t they learned?) My mom still doesn’t know how I got out since she was sitting right there reading a book — but she looked up and I was gone. I had crawled under a barbed-wire fence, scooted down a steep hill, and was out of sight. 

My mother was wild with fear. Seven months pregnant, she knew there was no way she could get under that barbed-wire fence, and she didn’t have any wire cutters. The night before, she and my father had seen a pack of coyotes prowling around, and now all she could think of was how her tiny son would make a tasty little coyote meal. The only reason she spotted me was because I was wearing a red sweatshirt. Somehow she managed to coax me back up the hill and under the fence so she could grab me. She was crying hysterically and at the same time wanted to beat me.

From my earliest years, I always had a penchant for danger and physical extremes. This made my poor mother’s life a living hell. She likes to say that when I was little, she was the victim of parental abuse. She once called Social Services on herself when I had driven her to the edge with my behavior. She explained to the poor lady on the phone that her two-year-old son was driving her so crazy, she was about to hurt him. The social worker spent a week at our house observing. But I behaved like an angel for those seven days, and she left thinking my mom must be crazy. 

It didn’t take long for my parents to figure out that while they couldn’t control my wild energy, they could channel it. Once they saw how madly in love I was with skiing, they knew they’d stumbled on the parenting strategy that would serve us all well for years to come. If they could get me involved in every sports activity possible, maybe it would keep me out of trouble. And it did — at least for a while.

By age five I was on a ski team. By age seven I had piled wrestling, football, baseball, swimming, and tracking onto my athletic schedule. Later, as an adult, I found that I had a love of extreme sports. The steeper the ski slope, the larger the wave, the higher the cliff, the more difficult the jump from the plane or helicopter. The more danger and adrenaline is involved, the more I want to try to conquer it. In my 30s, I would channel that same impulse into a drive to conquer huge goals in the entrepreneurial world. At the age of five, my Mount Everest was a 2,500-foot hill called North Star Mountain.

My earliest memories are of the crisp cold in my face and the sibilant schusss of the snow under my skis as I flew down the face of North Star. Every day, during the long months of the ski season, my mom would pick me up from kindergarten and drive us straight out to the slopes. We had a season pass, and we used up every penny of it.