Imagine yourself standing at the bottom of a vast wall of rock. Your goal? Reach the top. Great climbers have learned that it takes more than skill and strength to consistently accomplish a goal. We all face challenges in our lives, even if they are metaphorical walls instead of rock walls. When it’s time to overcome these challenges, I believe we can learn a lot from people who spend their time climbing seemingly impossible walls.
Rock climbing, like anything worth achieving, requires a hunger for success and some insider knowledge. I would like to share 3 pieces of climber knowledge that I’ve learned over the years. I believe that these climbing-inspired lessons can help you succeed in almost any area of life.
Focus on the Process
“If you focus on the process of climbing, you’ll end up on the summit.” This is one of many impactful quotes by Yvon Choinard, the founder of Patagonia Clothing, and the author of Let My People Go Surfing.
The most skilled climbers are rarely the ones most determined to get to the top of a route. Instead, they’re the climbers most determined to perfect their climbing ability. They are the guys and girls visualizing each move sequence, and spending countless hours training their body and mind to master those moves. To these world class climbers, reaching the summit is just an added bonus after consistently reaching the next hold.
The lesson here extends well beyond climbing and deep into our daily lives. You’ll be more successful at anything if you focus on the process. Want to lose weight? Focus on perfecting your diet and exercise routine. Want to be wealthy? Become an expert at budgeting, saving, and maximizing your investments.
Whatever you want to accomplish; the key is to move beyond creating a goal. Examine that goal to determine what actions, or process, will get you there. Then, dedicate yourself to the process each and every day.
Manage Your Risks
All climbers know that they could potentially fall. The only way to completely avoid falling is to avoid climbing. Instead, we choose to move forward by accepting that risk and protecting ourselves from it. We use ropes, anchors, and belayers to catch us if we fall. Facing the risk head-on instead of avoiding it allows us to accomplish incredible feats. It might seem crazy to some, but we have learned to manage the risks we take in order to be victorious.
If you avoid all risk, you’ll never achieve anything. If you learn to manage risks, however, you’ll be empowered to do things that others won’t even attempt. You will realize goals that you may never have dreamed possible.
Visualize a recent graduate who wishes she could travel abroad for a year after college. She could easily allow herself to be overwhelmed with the risks.
“How am I going to pay for this trip? Will I be able to afford my student loans?” As if finances were not a big enough worry. She may be concerned about delaying entry to the workforce for a year.
What should she do? Manage her risks. If this student assesses what the trip will cost and how much she’ll need to cover student loan payments while she’s away, she can save money or fund-raise in order to make these payments. She can also plan to leverage her trip as professional development by arranging meetings with foreign experts in her field or picking up freelance work.
Ultimately, this kind of trip is common among successful people. I believe that’s because real life experience with managing risk helps create well-rounded, successful individuals.
Surround Yourself with Inspiring People
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with,” Jim Rohn famously said.
Rohn wasn’t a climber, but the truth of his statement is apparent in the climbing world. Great climbers always seem to be found in the company of great climbers. This is not a coincidence and it’s not just a matter of similar interests. The real reason is that spending time with people who inspire you almost always leads to your own improvement.
When I first started climbing I was the only climber I knew in the area. Consequently, I spent most of my climbing career teaching friends and family to climb for the first time–and I loved it. There is huge value and fulfillment in introducing others to something you’re passionate about. But, my own skill progression suffered. After a short time, I hit a wall and didn’t improve much at all. I stopped climbing, almost completely, for several years.
All of that changed when I started climbing with people who were better than me. Encouraged by my new mentors, my passion reignited and I started climbing regularly. By climbing with inspirational people, my skills improved more quickly in one year than they had in 10 years prior. I still love to share my sport with beginners and I am now more qualified than ever before.
If you want to be the best at anything, make it a point to literally be among the best. Whether it’s a sport, art, business, or lifestyle accomplishment, people who have worked hard to be successful in any given area often take great pride in mentoring others. You may be surprised at their willingness to teach and spend time with you. You just need to identify “the best” and ask for their help.
A lot of the principles that make great climbers are the same principles that make people great at anything. If you focus on the process, take managed risks, and surround yourself with inspiring people, you will be well on your way to becoming one of those people. ~ JA
About the Author
Josh Armstrong is the owner/operator of Coopers Rock Climbing Guides (CRCG). He has over 16 years of experience teaching others to climb. Through CRCG, he offers guided rock climbing and climbing instruction in Coopers Rock State Forest, WV. Learn more at CoopersRockClimbingGuides.com