On rock climbing and failure: Why do we do this?

October 24, 2017

 

 

Rock climbing is hard, frustrating and often scary. It's an endless path of practice and improvement. Even when you improve, there is always something higher or harder to aspire to. Even the best climbers in the world, or should I say, especially the best climbers in the world, are continually caught in the endless struggle to excel and push limits.

 

So why climb rocks? Why not pursue any miriad of more easily perfected skills or recreation? For me, rock climbing is a challenge without bounds, but within that there are milestones and goals.

 

Setting goals is setting yourself up for failure- if you set them right. It's impossibly frustrating to set goals and fall short, but without failure you aren't pushing hard enough. 

 

 

Failure doesn't come easy. It never feels good to come up short, to miss a hold, to be stumped by a tricky sequence of moves. Especially when those around you make it look painfully easy. Failing is infinitely harder than succeeding on an easier climb- it shows weakness and lack of proficiency in a style of climbing. But it also provides an opportunity to improve and an accomplishment to achieve.  

 

Talking about opportunities and accomplishments doesn't make failure any easier. It still sucks and no matter how Zen I try to be about it, it still feels like failure. 

 

 

What makes it all pay off are the hard fought successes. These are the ones where I set a lofty goal, prepared for it, and struggled to succeed. Triumphing over something with every bit of skill and shred of determination you have is much sweeter than demolishing the under dog. 

 

And yet, like a prize fighter, you can't fight title bouts every fight. Destroying an under dog or two is a much needed part of developing confidence and feeling successful. It's a great gauge when what once seemed like a juggernaut no longer requires everything you've got.

 

 

And this why I think most people climb. To feel that balance of struggle and success, mastery and failure. It's a roller coaster to be sure, but well worth the price of admission. 

 

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