I’m and avid reader. Well. To be more precise. I’m an avid listener. I listen to books and podcasts constantly. My most recent obsession is the book “The Push: A Climber’s Search for the Path” by Tommy Caldwell. And the associated documentary, “The Dawn Wall.”
I’ve watched the movie five times. And may watch it again. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The story is so incredible that if Disney had produced it, it would have been dismissed as impossible.
It’s about Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s free ascent of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. It’s arguably one of the most incredible sports achievements of the century.
The documentary follows the men as they struggle for 19, while living on the wall, to climb a seemingly smooth mountain of rock towering 3,000 vertical feet. The climb was more than 7 years in the making.
As rapt as I was with the movie, book and achievement, I found when talking with others, each person took away a different lesson from the event.
Many looked at their lives and compared it to Tommy’s and Kevin’s, and found their lives lacking in comparison.
And I became increasingly curious and concerned by how people respond to these incredible individuals and accomplishments.
Some come away thinking, “I should be doing that. Or I need to be doing something like that. I need to be doing more. I need to hit the gym more.”
Their takeaway is diminishing to their own identity. My takeaway is thinking about how I can incorporate some of what this individual has accomplished in my life while recognizing, and loving, the fact that I’m not them.
I don’t want to be like Tommy Caldwell, who spent seven years preparing to climb a rock wall. But I do want to learn from his remarkable accomplishment and enjoy and share the rapture of his accomplishment.
So, when I had hours of snow shoveling to do – I thought about Tommy. How much pain and discomfort he tolerated. Well, more than tolerated – how much pain and discomfort he sought out.
So, instead of dreading hours of shoveling snow. I popped in my Air pods, listened to a book on tape – and enjoyed my hours of shoveling.
Tommy’s accomplishments inspired me to be better within the context of my life. They didn’t make me want to be Tommy.
For me, and in the ARM context, these things are seen as extraordinary individual achievements. As opposed to the phrase, “one trick wonders,” implying that the individual is good at only one thing and nothing else. I like to call these types of exceptionally high-performing and focused individuals, “wonderful trick wonders.” They are there to inspire us. Not as a model of life to follow. They are inspirational in every aspect of our lives. They serve to remind us what the humans are capable of.
Since seeing the Dawn Wall, one of my daughters has embraced the mantra and practice of “working the problem.” Whereas before the movie, she would tend to get flustered and emotional when feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork, work and other issues. She will now call me and we will sort it out.
Climbing the wall required intense focus and determination and, ultimately, a strategy.
So does life.
So when my daughter calls flustered or upset over a challenge I will say something like:
“First, relax. You’ll get through this. Keep your emotions in check – and proportionate to the issue. Second, let’s break the issues down and work the problem.”
And we will talk through the issues. Come up with solutions for each. Craft a plan – and implement it. Just like rock climbing or bouldering – or, anything else for that matter.
That’s the takeaway from extraordinary individuals and accomplishments.
One of the key concepts within ARM is that of benchmarking: who do we compare ourselves to and when? When I’m at the club working out, or training in martial arts, I may benchmark up to an advanced belt or athlete to motivate me to keep going. Or, I may benchmark down if I get discouraged, to look at someone less fit or less technical proficient as a martial artist.
The profound value of benchmarking in this manner is that both observations are 100% true.
Benchmarking within ARM is just one of the dozens of tools you can use in the book, “The art of quality decision making.”