5 Insights from the Dawn Treaders (A rock climbing parable of progress)


Two days ago a remarkable feat of courage and endurance was accomplished when Caldwell and Jorgeson scaled the last few inches of The Dawn Wall, the sheerest face of El Capitan in Yosemite National park.  It is arguably one of the most dangerous and testing smooth granite rock faces in the world.  Although not the first to succeed at this climb they were the first to do so using only safety harnesses.

In other words the only equipment that lent them any assistance was their stiff shoes.  The rest was down to muscle power and fingernails. Now my only experience of climbing was of a portable climbing wall at a community gala.  I was stretched out, stuck fast and straining every limb within minutes.

I’m happy to claim to have more perseverance in my life generally. Though this often means it is harder to know when, is “enough”. So I am fascinated by the equilibrium we all disturb when we swing in life from pain to payoff and back again.

How and when are we supposed to know what to stick at and to set down?

And once we have invested all our planning and focussing upon a unique goal and set out toward it in earnest, we feel this dilemma at a cellular level like nothing could have ever prepared us. Except perhaps, climbing El Capitan.

Since I saw the news report, five insights about persistence have clung to me like those rugged climbers on their rock-face.

1. Some rules cannot be broken 

There is a point at which testing for its own sake becomes foolhardy. These guys were testing their ability to use mental and physical agility to conquer a smooth rock. What would be the point in testing the impossibility of surviving a catastrophic fall.

2. Always factor in rest and healing

Excruciatingly shredded fingertips need special treatment if you continue to hang all your bodyweight upon them. The climbers simply had to wait for their tenderness to ease.

Overcoming overwhelming odds requires patience and a pace nature intended.

3. You can always reposition from where you left off 

Sometimes they lost their grip. The climb could be resumed after a slip or a sleep. They did not return to base every time this happened and thankfully for them, as in life, if we take stock; all progress is incremental.

4. Work with the prevailing conditions

We must study, interpret and leverage all that we find going for us! Even where we least expect it

Climbing during the night hours meant that the conditions were cooler, hand sweating lower and friction enhancing grip improved.

5. Adversity is relative.  Make the right comparisons

Periodically the couple slept in a suspended aluminium frame tent; screaming high altitude winds buffeting and chilling them.  Do you think they were preoccupied with the vulnerability of a mountain face as a campsite?  No! I am sure exquisite relief flooded their aching bodies by day 18 as they sank into the cramped sleeping quarters on that rock!  What will grow your ability to accommodate or even embrace certain discomfort this year?

The higher you climb, the further you might fall, perhaps the tenser the desire to finish.

Check these five points and continue to focus on staying with the challenge you face now rather than the last or the next one, the last or the next breakthrough.

As long as you stay harnessed, get back, cling on or rest again, which will it be?

If you enjoyed these thoughts I would be thrilled to have you join my book Launch party online on 29th Jan 2015

Here’s the link for your ticket registration http://ow.ly/GW1kO

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