Life is a great teacher, and we are the students. Every moment, activity, and conversation is an opportunity to learn something new. Surely, we all know that much of learning takes place outside of the traditional classroom, and some of life’s most important lessons are not found in a textbook or a study guide.
Rock climbing has been one such fount of wisdom for me. In fact, the longer I reflect upon the matter, the more I see that climbing has lessons that everyone would benefit from learning. I present to you, “what rock climbing has taught me about life”, where I’ll show you the ropes on what I’ve learned while on the ropes.
Long before getting onto the rock wall it is important to look at where you are going. Usually the goal is to reach the top, but how will you go about doing that? There are often many routes you can take to get to the top, and each has its own difficult parts as well as strategies. Sure, you could just put your harness on and start climbing away, but that inevitably leads to moments where you waste energy wondering “what do I do next?”. Instead, planning your route and the moves you will take is the best way to prepare for success. Sometimes it is as detailed as saying “Ok, first I will put my right hand here, and then grab that with my left hand, and move my left foot up…” and so on.
In life you will have many goals, or at least you should. Success is usually not stumbled upon, but rather defined as a target or ambition that you want to complete. Define that goal, and then backtrack from there, and ask “How will I get from my current position to that goal?” Take your time and plan out your route to success, including those small steps that you will take along the way. When the time comes, you will have your plan and be able to execute each sequence, one by one. You may “fall off” and need to rethink your plan, but this is the process that breeds success, both on the rock wall, and out in the world.
Practice Rest Moves
Muscles are bulging and straining as you pull yourself through a hard move and into the “halfway” mark of a long climb. You feel the fatigue growing as your reach a place where you can lock yourself into an immobile position and rest your aching tendons. You shake your fingers and arms, and reapply chalk before moving on to finish the route. It’s common practice in climbing, even a necessity sometimes, to reach a point where you are able to stop and give your body a moment’s respite before continuing. It is amazing how much better those muscles feel after a short break. The idea of practicing “rest moves” is wholly applicable to life, and with mighty results.
Today’s world is busier than ever, with the mentality of constant motion and hectic activity ruling supreme. It’s no small wonder that most people look dog-tired despite the extra large coffee in their hands. While it is great to apply intense focus and energy for a project or short season of life, living every day at a breakneck speed can lead to burnout and stress. Fight this by inserting “rest moves” into your life. Take a weekend to do “nothing” or learn to say “no” once in a while. Life is a long path, and some moments will be for clenching your teeth and pulling hard, while others will be for “shaking out”, celebrating progress and preparing for another big push.
Better with Others
With the rare exception of daring rope-less “free solo” adventures, rock climbing is a sport done with others. While you are scampering up the granite face, your safety is largely in the hands of your partner down below, ready to catch you with the rope, should you fall. Even in the rock climbing discipline of “bouldering”, (climbing smaller but more difficult routes without rope for protection, just foam mats to fall onto) people tend to climb together. As one climbs, others make sure they fall feet first onto a mat. Beyond physically protecting each other, climbers encourage each other and share knowledge.
A big part of being out on the rock is being with like-minded people as well. Life today has become increasingly more and more individualistic. You may be connected to others by social media, but there is still heavy emphasis is on the “I” and “Me” in society. The truth is that people are meant to be together, and are better off this way. Sometimes they physically help provide and protect each other, while other times they support and encourage in intangible but invaluable ways. Of course, there are times to be alone, but we humans are social creatures and are wired for “togetherness”. Find like-minded people and do life with them, and when you find yourself on top of your own personal “mountain”, you will have a whole party to celebrate with.
Learn from the Master
Youtube is awesome. Looking to see how to tune the carburetors on your 1980 Honda xc500 motorbike, or how to make carrot pasta? In seconds you can have hundreds of videos at your finger –tips, and soon your motorcycle will be running just as well as that carrot pasta dish tastes. (It tastes great, I can attest) In this world of information overload via the internet it is pleasantly easy to learn it all or how to do almost anything without the need of a formal teacher. Rock climbing may be one of the exceptions. Yes, there are mountains of tutorials out there, but when your safety is on the line, it is best to learn in person from someone experienced.
For ages, the sport has been passed on via the master-apprentice relationship, a handing down of knowledge and help. Really, it is the best way to learn how to climb, as you have years of knowledge as well as a mountain guide who knows the local routes all right there at your disposal. One day, it will be your turn to pass the torch of knowledge on to someone else, and the padawan will become the master.
Life can be full of opportunities to learn from someone else who has gone before you. Likewise, you may be just the person that someone needs to learn from. Seek out a mentor and be a mentor too. Continue reading the articles on The Adventure Gypsies to grow in your knowledge and pass it on to the community around you!