What we can learn from El Capitan


I’d like to think I’m a moderate risk taker – I’m one for taking some good calculated chances here and there.   I’m NOT one for even thinking of attempting a free solo climb of El Capitan like Alex Honnold (check out this documentary if you want to bite all your nails off and sit on the edge of your seat with one hand over your eyes and the other hand gripping the arm rest).

TEASER:  During the movie you’ll see Alex is VERY calculating and an extreme deep thinker.  He practiced and practiced that assent using ropes over and over again.  He would write down what finger was on what rock, the time of the day, the temperatures – every minute detail.  He had to be able to make that climb with his eyes closed.  There was absolutely no room for error – one misplaced big toe and he would die.

Alex didn’t let the fear of failure – the fear of dying – stop him from attempting the assent.  I won’t tell you how it ended, if he made it or not… you’ll have to watch it and see.  I can tell you that by watching him you saw the confidence he had that fateful day – and other days when he started and quit, you saw doubt. I don’t know Alex personally but if I were a betting man, I would say that Alex Honnold has a very keen intuitive sense and has learned to trust his gut.  In his thinking he would just know when the time was right – the day he attempted what no one else ever had.

So, what separates people like Alex from the rest of us mortals?  Those who take risk to the ultimate edge.  I think we all have our tolerance limits when it comes to risk – so there isn’t any easy answer. If you want to accomplish ANYTHING in life – you must be willing to fail.  Know that it may not turn out how you planned – most risk isn’t life threatening, but some – as in Alex’s climb – is.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for most of my business life.  I’ve made a lot of decisions quickly, based on intuition and gut, and sometimes with  minimal information. While some of those decisions did not work out, none were devastating or life threatening, and some were downright brilliant. In every case I always considered the absolute worst-case outcome/risk, even before blindly jumping into something.  I never wanted the prospect of failure to paralyze me.

In the end perhaps I have a little bit of Alex in me.  Maybe… just maybe, I’ll do a bit of rock climbing.  El Capitan – I’ll admire from afar, she’s all yours Alex.