What sports do you enjoy doing? I like climbing. I began when I was 8, with my father. We used to go to the gym every Tuesday night and do top rope climbing. I climbed for 10 years, then one summer, after I did a lot of routes in the Alps, I had a fearful moment in a difficult climb. I got scared and stopped climbing lead for a long time.
When I moved to Paris I didn’t have a climbing partner so I did bouldering, and then this year I started lead climbing again. I rediscovered it, many years later. And it was an intense experience. With a whole new perspective on it, and from another place in life, I discovered how the mental acumen and insights that can be gained through lead climbing is actually a powerful tool to answer questions about life, motivation and death. During that rediscovery, a friend recommended a great book to me: the Rock Warrior’s Way. It opened my eyes to many invaluable aspects of life, and allowed me to redirect my energy in the right direction, in the search, as the book states, of impeccable personal power as ancient Warrior, Samurais (and the likes), were striving to attain.
Today, being in the flow of an artistic and entrepreneurial career as a commercial photographer and company founder, I have realized how the questions that I am faced with when climbing, if paid attention to, can also give me answers to finding motivation and power to go forward and find balance in art, innovation, or creating a company. I had read many books on the subject of creativity and personal motivation, but I started seeing things in a new light when I actually LIVED those questions through my climbing. This new perspective allowed me to derive learnings I could apply to my art, and to creation in every aspect.
But let’s pause for a second to do a visualization and feeling experiment. Picture this:
You’re out in nature, you took a climbing trip to the Yosemite National Park in the US. You’re on a long rock cliff, climbing progressively higher and higher above the ground, lead climbing. The rope is attached to you and then goes back down to the last protection point you clipped at. You’ve been climbing for some time today and you start to feel your arms are getting tired. You look for holds to reach the next protection point, but you can’t find any. As you search, you get more tired and your fingers loose strength. You start thinking you won’t make it to the next rest, and are afraid of losing your grip and falling. You reach a new hold and manage to get at height with the next protection, but you feel so tired now. You look down and see the height to the ground, were you were a few minutes earlier. As you reach for the rope to clip it, your arm and your fingers are so tense and pumped, you are sweating and you can’t even think straight. Suddenly you finally manage to clip the rope in the carabineer and yell “Take”. Your belaying partner takes the slack in the rope and now you can rest, breathing heavily, hanging up there. Now you start thinking you won’t be able to make the climb. You’re awfully stressed, hanging on your rope at 100m above the ground, staring at the valley below.
Not all situations are like that, and the purpose is not to scare you away from climbing. I want to say that climbing is an immensely enjoyable and fun experience. Very few things in life give me as much joy (I recommend you check out amazing videos from the Petzl RockTrip if you are not convinced!) But when you climb, you have to know why you do it. You have to ask yourself before you go up: “why do I climb?“. You have to know. You can’t just put yourself into a situation like the one we just visualized, and hope to take it easy, if you don’t have a stronger motivator and if you don’t know exactly WHY you are here.
When you are an artist, and adventurer, an entrepreneur, when you push a project, a vision, it’s a lot of hard work. It takes stamina, dedication, and grit. You won’t stand the distance if you don’t know, deep down, why you do it.
I believe we need to start by asking ourselves: What is my goal in life? Why do I do what I do now? Answering those questions will give you an immense strength to endure the difficult moments, the hurdles that inevitably show up on the way. The best goal I have found for myself in life is to become a great person. To learn, grow, and accomplish myself. This can then be applied into any project you undertake.
This is only a first introduction to the topic, and the above questions actually lead to many more aspects of learning. In a series of following articles I will develop how this process experienced through climbing, and the personal learning associated with it, can be applied to any great goal in life, to any challenge.
Be it in arts, photography, entrepreneurship, or any venture that takes as high a level of motivation, commitment, and certainty (or simply in making your way in your job to the place you want to be), there is amazing value in knowing how to grow, be focused, and keep your personal power geared at accomplishing your goals.
What’s your take on this? I look forward to your thoughts!
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