Contemplating impossibility limits what is possible.
Why? - Because it clouds our ability to find a way out and up.
Last year I had the pleasure of hearing professional climber Matt Walker speak at an event. He has climbed all over the world, including Everest. His message on the importance of adventure learning really resonated with me. What learning is there to be had on the side of a mountain? Add in enough curiosity and the next thing I know...
...I find myself last week at the base of an 800 foot mountain appropriately named Geronimo in Red Rocks Canyon Nevada.
Other than a few climbs indoors at a climbing gym, I had never actually climbed a vertical rock face. After a day of training on some smaller climbs, learning the gear and the life depending relationship with your climbing partner, our first pitch in a five pitch climb was a straight up 150 foot vertical. One of those moments when you think, what have I gotten myself into. Five hours later, however, after five separate climbs, with a brief respite on a ledge between each, we reach the summit. Only then for me to realize that the first rappel down is 200 feet.
At this point, your adrenaline may be heightened as mine is just writing this reflection. Let me just say, there are lessons to be learned on a mountain that cannot be learned safely on the ground. Faith and confidence in your climbing partner is paramount. And while your partner is there to catch you via the rope tied to your harness, if you should fall, they cannot climb your mountain for you. I love the metaphor. That first 150 foot vertical had me a bit unnerved. Matt was the lead climber, placing safety equipment for himself on his assent. After he reached the first ledge, he disappeared from view, took up the slack and now it was my turn, to ascend and remove the safety equipment along the way, as he had me attached to him should I slip and fall.
While I have a rope tied to my harness, everything within you says falling is not an option, whether you're 50 feet or 600 feet off the ground. I must say I found it helpful not to look down, but what quickly dawned on me as I looked for the next place to place my hand and foot was that contemplating failure was of absolutely no benefit. Falling was just simply not an option and neither was staying where I was at any given moment during the climb, imagining that I might find myself stuck in a spot I could not get out of, was completely unhelpful to finding a way out of my predicament and further up the mountain. I found that even the smallest advance built confidence that I could find a way. There were moments I saw my hand patting about the rock face, shopping for a grip, but if I allowed my hand to shop around too much it looked like panic to me, so I strived to be more intentional about where to place my hand, using my eyes more, and less my sense of touch. And stepping out over a precipice 200 feet up, to rappel down, well, all I can say is confidence in the rope and the skill of your guide make all the difference.
Here is another awareness that I found fascinating. Neither Matt nor I ever used the rope to ascend. In other words, not once did we slip and fall, thus the rope was never actually used to save our lives, but what Matt confirmed, a man who, conservatively, has climbed over 18,000 times the last 22 years of professional guiding, was that without the rope our fears would prevent us from reaching the summit. As paralyzing as our fears can be with the rope, without the rope and your partner who has you should you slip, the ascent is not possible. The fear would simply be to great to progress. In this way we also learn the importance of others, that together our possibilities are much greater, and that without collaboration we can limit what is possible.
Without others we can limit our insight and understanding - which ultimately best fuel our ability to serve others.
This week, as you seek to climb your own mountains, spend no time contemplating impossibilities, but rather focus on what small advance you can make to build confidence and how working with others can achieve more than what you can achieve alone. Remember that together we're better. In partnership with others, let us overcome the obstacles before us and reach new heights in service to ourselves and others.
Make it a great week,
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