I could not breathe the entire time I was watching the movie.
I was in the Imax theater where my friends’ parents and I watched Dunkirk (because Harry Styles was in the movie). Apparently Imax worthy movies require viewers to bring extra oxygen.
I mean, there we were, clinging to the edge of one of the biggest rock walls in Yosemite with no rope! How did we do that?
Oh wait, we weren’t doing it.
Alex Honnold was doing it. Climbing El Capitan, all 3,000 feet of it, without a rope. We were just watching. I still couldn’t breathe.
Do you know how INSANE that climb is? A “free solo” of a 3,000 feet wall? His successful completion (as in didn’t die) is probably one of the greatest athletic feats of our age.
A fall anywhere above 100 feet was definitely going to be fatal, and a fall from much less than that would result in permanent damage. But 3,000 feet? No big.
That’s not a good idea
Opinion about Alex’s climb is mixed in the climbing world. Turns out that world is just as gossipy and infighty as any other subgroup on the planet.
Alex, it seems (from watching the Oscar-winning “Free Solo” documentary about the climb and reading Mark Synnott’s new book “The Impossible Climb”), was pretty nonplussed.
Part of the way through his training he even got a brain scan because doctors thought his amygdala, the part of your brain involved with emotions, wasn’t firing. The prevailing view was that if one was planning to climb a 3,000 foot wall without a rope, one couldn’t possibly experience fear.
Practice makes perfect
Turns out that Alex does experience fear, but he has an incredible ability to control the fear, acknowledge it, and send it packing.
I’m writing this at my coworx space or I’d pull a quote from the book for you. The basic gist is that paralyzing fear while hanging off the cliff by your index finger and your big toe (Which he actually does. Climbers are NUTS!) is not at all helpful.
Rationally, you know that what you are doing is risky and being afraid is NOT going to help you get the job done.
So, he does two things:
- Practice dealing with emotions and controlling his response to things so that he can make good decisions in high pressure situations.
- Practice climbing with ropes so he knows the moves in the dark with his eyes closed.
By the time Alex started his climb, he had practiced every single pitch (that’s a climbing segment, referring to the length of a climbing rope), dozens of times, while wearing a rope.
He knew exactly where on the wall to put each thumb, each toe. Where he could grab hold of the wall and where he had to jam his two middle fingers to support his entire body weight while he kicked his feet up to “smear,” or press against the wall. (Because apparently top notch climbers don’t even require footholds. They can just dangle from their middle fingers and press their feet against the walls and not fall off.)
“Leap and the Net Will Appear”
If I could pick one woo-woo affirmation that I wish would die a fiery death from 3,000 feet, I wish it were that one.
That is not how things work.
Nets do not just appear.
The successful freelancers I know didn’t jump from the tops of cliffs and pray we’d hit trees on the way down. We all started at the bottom of big mountains and we practiced climbing a few feet at a time. Sometimes we messed up. (*raises hand*) We kept going and we got better.
We practiced, biting off little chunks, learning the moves as we went.
We didn’t start with ten thousand dollar course launches or fifteen hundred dollar magazine articles. Most of us didn’t start with five figure monthly retainers.
We started small and worked our way up.
So when a client asked us to handle a sticky situation or rescue a marketing program or make a difference on a risky project we felt confident we could do just that. We knew where to put our pinky fingers to hold up the projects without being paralyzed by fear.
When you put it that way
climbing a 3,000 foot wall without a rope doesn’t sound so crazy.
And isn’t that how we want to work most of the time?
Practicing isn’t the same as not growing and not learning something new. It’s about setting a goal to work toward and then doing the work to get there.
I ran my first half marathon in 2017, and even though I started out being a bag of nerves before my first running races (Just ask Kim), I was zero percent nervous that I wouldn’t finish my race as I sat on the start line in the cold and dark with my Mom waiting at the other end, a really expensive hotel room in California waiting for me to sleep in it, and a bunch of people tracking my progress on their phones back home, so a little pressure there.
I knew I’d finish my race unless I broke my leg because I had practiced and I had experience.
I know I can make my clients money with email campaigns because I practice and I have experience.
I know I can raise their conversion rates on their ecommerce sites because I practice and I have experience doing it.
Start small and build
And don’t apologize for it.
Social media makes it seem like everyone’s climbing 3,000 foot walls on sight their first time out.
They’re not and neither did Alex. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start climbing. Just bring a rope with you when you can. And if you can’t, start with a rock, not a mountain, and then keep going.
Bookmarks of the Week
Here’s a little something for everyone.
Enjoy living on the edge without actually living on the edge? Watch the documentary.
Email Success System
Monica and I are offering our email course once more before the fall. This time we have two different price points, one with support and one without. If you work in the green industry and want to learn MailChimp inside and out and want to rock your email program, you’ll want to grab it. Want to talk about learning to climb real fast? Build an online course while it’s in progress! We’re super proud of it and of our round one participants, though. They’re already at 1,500 feet, at least! 😉
The Social Network That Isn’t New At All
I mean, you’ll see why I liked this article when you read it!
I’m loving this book. It’s super quirky.
My Favorite Recipe Site
I have all of her cookbooks and everything I’ve ever made has been fantastic!
That’s all for now!
Write back and tell me how you’re starting small and what your big goal is for this year! I want to cheer you (from the ground).