I substituted my normal gym routine for about 3.5 months with bouldering. If you’ve never heard of bouldering, it’s basically what you think of when you think about rock climbing, except without ropes, which makes for a freer experience. Essentially, you can continue to try routes that look exciting, without asking a partner to belay you, or without worrying about failing if you want to keep trying the beginning part of the route ten times over.
The skillsets required to climb well are so versatile. You need flexibility, core, back, chest and leg strength (pistol squats, anyone?). Thing is, you never know what type of strength you will need before you face a problem.
It’s also easy to tell when someone is a seasoned climber. They will move slowly, deliberately, and with an air of grace. It’s really beautiful to watch a pro climber scale a wall almost effortlessly.
And now, onto the life lessons that bouldering has bestowed upon me:
You need to work up to at least base proficiency before you can truly enjoy the process.
It’s unfair to say that you hate rock climbing or don’t like it if you’ve only had one session and the reason you can’t continue for more than an hour is that your hands are burning. If your hands are burning because they’re not sufficiently callused, you’ll never know what you would be truly capable of if your hands weren’t the limiting factor.
The same goes with people who give up almost immediately with new skills they are trying to develop. Unless you can sufficiently navigate your way around the skill, then you don’t truly know the joys of performing that skill.
For instance, if you haven’t yet grasped the fundamentals of writing, it’s difficult to get into a flow and craft your words in an artsy manner while feeling good about the process. It usually comes as a disjointed attempt and the writer gets frustrated and stops, proclaiming that “writing is boring, and too hard.”
Good climbing is more about technique than it is about pure strength.
While someone who is physically strong can move themself up a wall, so can someone who has a solid technique even without bulging muscles.
That is to say, in order to climb well, you don’t already have to have some natural aptitude for it. You can simply train up with the techniques and then eventually become proficient, if not really great, at climbing. Heel hooks, staying close to the wall, and leveraging your body are all things that you can do to offset your inability to simply do a muscle up and top out on the route.
I’ve seen burly men struggle whereas a small girl might climb quickly to the top using proper technique, not pure strength. Lesson learned: it pays to learn the tricks of the trade—this will make it that much easier for you to progress in the sport, or in anything else that’s worthy of pursuit.
Sometimes you need to push through the fear to get to the top.
There were so many times in the few short months that I climbed where I truly questioned my own strength to pull through and “top out” (climb up and over the top) on a problem (route).
Whenever I finished a difficult route because someone below was rooting me on, or because I had the intrinsic motivation to prevail on a route, I felt so ridiculously satisfied. That feeling that you can indeed conquer the world. Or, at least, hoist your own body up some rocks.
Bouldering can be really frightening. I climbed indoors, but falling can still have real consequences. There were times where I almost didn’t finish routes because I was scared. It’s important to know your body’s limits, but there is just no way you can climb without some guts. Pushing yourself just outside of where you feel comfortable is where the most growth can happen.
I then started to notice this lesson transferring itself into my regular life. The whole idea of pushing yourself through exhaustion or taking a risk when it may or may not pay off has been invaluable in my work and life. I believe in the idea of mental discipline quickly transferring to other areas of your life—this is why meditation is an oft-cited way of finding your inner discipline.
Mentorship: Other people can give you the exact advice you need to finish a route.
I love climbing because it’s okay to openly watch someone and take tips from their climbing technique. It’s a sport where it is encouraged to learn from others and compete for personal bests, not with the goal of outperforming someone else. When you ask for “beta” (advice on how to finish a problem), people will willingly offer it to you and let you know how they finished a route (or in many cases, they will even go so far as to show you).
The lesson here? Just ask for help when needed. And, seek those who are wiser than thou.
Tell yourself it’s okay if you fail, you’re just going to try one more time.
The absolute best lesson I’ve learned is that tricking myself into just starting a route typically yields in me actually completing it. I found that once I got going on a route—even if it looked ridiculous and scary—I would be determined to continue to the top as long as I was still feeling good. By simply giving myself permission to stop anytime I want, I ended up achieving way more.
In summary, I really loved my bouldering experience. It taught me so much about how I view the world, and ways I can get myself to do something difficult. Have you had any new experiences that were especially eye opening lately?
This weekend we took our Dad race car driving (well actually, my sister purchased this surprise for him and I just tagged along). The experience was cool and it reminded me that we should constantly be trying new things, even if they scare us, because those new things will stretch our comfort zones and make us stronger.
Maybe we’ll find out we like the new experience, and maybe we won’t. But you never truly know until you try.
Another added benefit of doing things outside of the norm is that you’ll feel like you’re living a longer and more memorable life. Think about it: when you spend almost every day partaking in the same routine, the days blend together and you start questioning where the weeks and months and even years are going. However, when you try new things on a regular basis, you break up the monotony and have plenty of novel memories from which to draw upon.
This is just a quick reminder to myself and anyone else out there who is reading this to eat healthy. The food you put into your body probably has the single largest effect on how long you live, and the quality of your life.
Pictured above is the oatmeal I make every weekend morning (when I have the time to sit down and make myself a proper breakfast). This batch includes old fashioned oatmeal (cooked for about 15mins on the stove), cinnamon, fresh blueberries, and apple chunks.
From the reading I’ve done, and even my own body’s reaction to food–if I eat too much I feel terrible. Limiting your caloric intake is apparently conducive to fighting off cancers, and other plagues to your body.
Sometimes I’ll do a quick salad like in the above picture. I threw in tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, blueberries, apples, avocados, and carrots. I dressed it with some lemon juice to keep the fruit from browning, and for some added taste. I find that if I go too long without eating something fresh, I’ll often feel sluggish.
I’m no saint when it comes to eating healthy food. I’ll admit, I love my chocolate and pastries are a godsend. For me, the main thing has always been to eat as much healthy fresh food as possible so that I’m satiated when the temptation for delicious sweets comes along. As you can see below, I had to literally stock up on fresh stuff at work so that I didn’t stuff my face with cookies later.
I’m pretty proud of myself on this selection of produce…today I ate the whole rainbow (red cherry tomatoes, an orange, a yellow banana, green avocado, and purple grapes). I was missing blue, so I came home and ate some blueberries and my rainbow was complete. 🙂
The most recent book I picked up was called Ikigai by Sebastian Marshall. I usually choose books if I think they’ll make me smarter, provide new insight on topics I’ve already considered, motivate me, or introduce me to new perspectives. This book did a little bit of each of those things.
The reviews that I’ve read of this book before purchasing were accurate–the book is a stream of consciousness type writing, and many of the chapters seemed like blog posts lumped together. However, that didn’t turn me off from the book. It was valuable to me even though it wasn’t well-organized and didn’t always flow logically.
It was an extension of the way I like to think. It jumped from one topic to another, but all topics were loosely connected and all fell within my realm of interest.
I’m going to be honest with you—I was lucky. It took me about two months after graduation to find a job. That’s not to say that it’s everyone’s dream, nor is it achievable in every circumstance. But alas, here are some techniques that got me there.
Make Sure You Want a Job for the Right Reasons
First and foremost you need to look deeply within yourself and make sure you’re making this choice based on sound reasoning.
Do you want one because you would like to make money, gain experience, fit in with the rest of society? Question yourself before you decide that it’s really the path you want to take. Do it for you, not to prove anything to anyone else.
There’s not really a perfect way that people secure jobs, but there are definitely things you can do to increase your chances of getting one that you want.
The most unexpected encounters with people can turn into jobs you never considered. People are very willing to help you out if you let them. As was stated in the book The Education of Millionaires, the real test of success is one’s ability to find good mentors. I found mine unexpectedly through an internship I took on during college.
Develop Skills Outside of Class
To be honest, most of the skills I’m using in my current job I gained by working on side projects. I run this blog, which proved to my employer that I’m able to coordinate a project, that I have basic HTML and CSS skills, and that I can think deeply about a topic. On top of that, because my job involves using skills that I developed in my free time, I actually enjoy what I’m working on. Crazy, ain’t it?
College isn’t necessary, but it makes the employer feel safer about hedging their bets on you. In my experience, an employer is looking for someone who can bring projects to completion, and who has the drive to continuously better themselves and the environment around them. One way to prove this is by finishing college. For one thing, the value of going to college definitely depends on how you crafted your experience while there.
Some of the smartest people out there have not completed their degree—some haven’t even tried to. That’s a risk they were willing to take. It was a risk that often times freed up a lot of mental faculty. If they had been in college, they’d have taken potentially dozens of semi-useless classes full of fluff-time and assignments and tests that don’t speak to the true skills of the student.
Don’t Undervalue Yourself
See yourself for what you’re worth. Understand that your time here on earth is precious. Why waste your mental RAM and your emotional resources working somewhere for free in hopes of maybe, possibly, securing a job after the initial grunt work is over? If you’re contributing to a company, they should pay you fairly for your time. There really isn’t an excuse to work for free unless you’re trying to prove yourself.
This also means, however, that I’d advise you not to take a crap-job unless absolutely necessary. If you’ve got a little money in the bank and no dependents, why would you whore out your mind and body to do something you don’t even care about? Use your time to work on something meaningful, contribute to society, and be at peace with yourself by growing your mind in other ways.