Aron Lee Ralston is an incredibly persistent man, says Michael Brick in The New York Times. The young outdoorsman made international headlines in 2003 when, while hiking in Blue John Canyon in Utah, his right hand was trapped and crushed by an 800-pound boulder. He sawed off the mashed hand with a multi­tool, wrapped a tourniquet around the stump, and rappelled one-handed down to the base of the canyon.

“It was a blessing in a way,” says Ralston, now 33. “It made me think about the way I was living.” For years before what he calls his “incident,” Ralston had been almost daring the fates to kill him, and had nearly drowned and been buried in an avalanche. Before his Utah misadventure, he hadn’t even told anyone where he was going. Ralston still challenges the wilderness; he’s organizing an African safari and a Grand Canyon white-water rafting expedition. “I went right back into the mode of being about what you do,” he says.

With his missing hand serving as a reminder of the past, though, he has stopped taking foolish chances. “I still do like adventures. But it’s different. It’s not coming from an esteem-building, need-fulfillment place, like my life won’t amount to something if I’m not the first person to make some major accomplishment. It’s not about what you do; it’s about who you are.”