It's that time of year again – many kids and university students go back to school while parents come back from summer vacation and that need to "buckle down" and get serious about being better, more structured, & more successful creeps up. It's #backtoschool time; #vueltaalcole as we say here in Spain. And I suddenly start to receive more emails from potential clients interested in #puctraining & working hard for their goals. For this reason, this time of year is always exciting for me. New clients, new plans based on each one's needs, and that collective buzzing energy to go & crush all the awaiting projects.
However, it is always important to keep in mind that sometimes, to be a better climber & be more successful in life, we don't need to add more, but less.
There are a few things about being successful in climbing that are actually quite universal for being successful at any sport or task. While I do not have the magic recipe for creating this success for everyone, I do think that these are great tips for everyone in their everyday life, both climbers and non-climbers alike. Some of these things might take longer to release than others, especially depending on each individual's current situation. The most important thing to remember is that success is not measured by wealth nor is climbing success necessarily measured by number of red points or on-sights. It is something personal & goals are specific to each individual.
• Give up on the unhealthy lifestyle.
As climbers our bodies are our tools. I am NOT advocating extreme dieting nor promoting the old adage that lighter climbers climb stronger. (Correlation isn't the same as causation!) The notion that lighter climbers climbed harder simply because they were lighter used to be the common train of thought when I competed years ago, but route styles have changed, the bodies of today's top competitors have changed to better fit this style of climbing, & a healthy/conscious lifestyle fortunately now outweighs the old, unhealthy, almost anorexic pre-comp dieting that many competitors felt obligated to adhere to.
So, to be successful both in life and as a climber, give up whatever unhealthy habits form part of your lifestyle. Aim for a healthy, balanced
diet lifestyle and incorporate physical activity (climbing, training, & maybe something unexpected like running, skiing, surfing, yoga, dance, tennis, or rowing.) Again, small steps. You don't necessarily need to add more to your load – just reduce to what's necessary to be happy & healthy.
• Get rid of the notion that you already are what you always will be.
Every passing year I incorporate new activities and stimuli in my training regimen. New tricks mean new possibilities for success. A year ago I honestly had no idea I'd climb 9a again, much less 9a+ last March and on sight 8cs again. I certainly never would have guessed that a 9b was on the horizon but now I start to smell that alluring aroma, like fresh bread baking in the oven and it has just started to rise.
I like this thought: "The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways." – Robert Greene, Mastery
Your intelligence & your capacity to be a great climber are not eternally (or at least don't have to forever be) what they currently are. You can improve. You are an ever adapting creature & hard work has always taken me much further than sheer talent alone. In one of my old interviews in the Progression movie I claimed that I felt that talented climbers didn't have to work as hard as I did. I felt that unfortunately I was not a natural like many of the most popular pro-climbers… but the drive & determination to constantly improve has taught me to work for everything I've ever achieved, allowing me to fully appreciate the flavor of success after winning certain titles or ticking off certain routes – or even better, after seeing my clients work hard and achieve the same.
I guess that the famous Spanish artist Francisco Goya was right when he famously said in his later years "aún aprendo" (I'm still learning.) We are not fixed in time; we are like wet clay always being shaped by and adapting to our goals & surroundings. Invest time in personal growth. Meditate on it.
It's not over, 'till it's over.
This takes me to my next point.
• Abandon your short-term mindset.
Sometimes when you are running a race you just have to think "I'm going to keep running until I pass the next [tree] and once you've passed it say the same thing all over again. At times, when we are under stress & in performance mode, shortening our range of vision to the here and now can be helpful.
However, life isn't a marathon. There are ebs and flows, ups & downs. When you set out to be a successful climber, defined by however you envision personal success, your healthy habits and goals should be more than just something you do; they should be a lifestyle based on long-term goals.
Think about it like this, there is a difference between training to send a specific route/boulder this fall and training for climbing because it's part of your identity. Let your daily actions be the embodiment of your goals – and most importantly – of your happiness.
Oh, and while you're at it, why not go ahead and give on the idea of perfection and overnight success. Success doesn't happen in a day – at least not in something like climbing. It is the result of positive improvement achieved over time through hard work and persistence.
• Take out the trash!
Stop playing small. Stop setting limits. Quit making excuses. Remove everything from your head that is not necessary and only serves to limit you from reaching your true potential. I know; this is so much easier said than done. It is hard to remove what you've personally engrained or had engrained into your head by others for [decades.] We are often afraid – both of success and of failure – but improper management of fear often causes us to feel so pressured that we perform way below our potential. Let go of perfectionism.
"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." – Henry Ford
I recently showed the following clip in a workshop for competitors. I have included it for you about taking the trash out of your mind.
"The trash is anything keeping you from the only thing that matters…this moment, the here and now. And when you truly are in the here and now you'll be amazed at what you can do and how well you can do it." – Peaceful Warrior
Again, when we are in performance mode and actually attacking a climb, just be present. It doesn't mean you have short-sighted goals, it just means you are devoted to the task at hand.
Building on that thought,
• Stay focused and avoid distraction.
Do not get me wrong; I am not advocating for masochism nor deprivation. Everyone needs a release & a break. However, success does not go hand-in-hand with a lack of focus, overcommitment, nor with multi-tasking. This is probably my biggest hindrance to achieving my goals quickly. I enjoy the process, a lot. Sometimes the journey to sending a route is so much fun that it is almost sad when you send it and no longer feel the need to climb it anymore. Sometimes I purposefully drag out the process and when I send, I'm already focused on the next goal. This past spring I went back and forth between 4 or 5 different lines, just having fun. But I didn't actually send any of these goal lines until I stopped trying everything around me and focused on one project at a time.
I didn't forget about any of them. They were all still part of the long-term goal, but it is easy for me to get easily distracted with another beautiful line and just leave unfinished projects behind. It is not bad to climb for fun and it isn't the end of the world to leave things unfinished. Sometimes success is clipping the chains and sometimes success is simply being able to climb.
Just as important as avoiding distractions is avoiding to toxic individuals. Say no to things and people that don't support your goals. Avoid those who are jealous, self-centered, judgmental, manipulative, cruel, and disrespectful. It's hard to remain mindful and driven when there's always someone sapping you of your energy.
Instead, surround yourself by accomplished, positive people. Seek out a motivational and informative coach. Don't try to figure out everything by yourself. A more experienced person can help you know when to use each type of friend or nut on your trad climbs, how to place the crash pads to avoid sprained ankles, how to belay better, and when and how to train in a certain way in order to be in peak form at a specific moment.
While on the subject of focus let me just interject about what I'm NOT saying. I am not saying that you should beat yourself up over your performance. Just this week I was writing one of my trainees about not setting objectives for himself in terms of grades so as to not feel frustrated when he was unable to complete a climb that he wasn't in love with but just wanted to tick off to earn that grade. There is only one objective to have in mind – and that's to be able to climb. Climbing doesn't always mean sending.
One last thought – what if one day, your last day on Earth, the person you have become meets he person you could have been? You have the opportunity to become the person you want to be -Now. You have the opportunity to succeed. No more pressure. Just climb!