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Success and failure


22 October 2017 – Success and failure are part of climbing? Right??

After a recent trip to Yosemite Valley, I came back with mixed emotions.  I had set out to try and rope solo a route on the mighty El Capitan.  Managing to get to the top of pitch 12, then an old injury came back and prevented me from climbing any further.  It was an emotional moment.  When that dark black cloud of reality hit me, and the realisation sunk in that I could go no further.  Unless I wanted further damage to my body.  Does this mean I failed??


This got me thinking about success and failure.  Why do we in a Western society measure our “success” by the outcome of an action. I.e. did we achieve our goal, or did we fail in achieving our goal.  Why do we feel that we judge ourselves so harshly.  Or feel judged by others when the completion of a goal has not been achieved.  Society doesn’t reward failure, and you won’t find many failures documented in history books. The exceptions are those failures that become stepping stones to later success.


Maybe it is our perception we need to change about how we look at achievements.  Do we have it all wrong.  Maybe I am trying to justify to myself that “failure” is a learning process.  Am I avoidant of acceptance of my failings, inadequacies, etc…?


I love climbing, mountaineering and hill walking.  With as many successful attempts at routes/mountains as “failures” (not getting to the top) under my belt.  I always teach my students that “failing” is part of climbing.  Sometimes the conditions aren’t right.  Sometimes it takes many tries to succeed on a particular route, because it may be on your mental or physical limit.  I guess this is what draws one back in.  To try and keep trying until you succeed.  But all of the unsuccessful attempts up to that point, have been learning curves to be able to bag that climb.


When we do “succeed” it can be a flood of elation, from all of our effort and input that have led to that point, yet “failure” can have the opposite effect.  What we could do is change our perspective, and concentrate on the learning process, whether we succeed or fail, and have those feelings of elation when we are learning.


Like Edmund Hillary said:

Its not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves


Here are a few tips that may help:

  1. Set your goals on learning
  2. Look at what you have achieved
  3. Don’t judge yourself negatively, but reflect upon what knowledge you have gained about yourself/route afterwards
  4. What can you improve upon next time
  5. Love what you do

Just remember, climb for yourself, and have fun doing it.

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