“I don’t know if I can reach it… I’m afraid I’m going to miss the grip and fall.”
“I’ve got you. The rope will catch you – just go for it. Trust me.“
I was roped in and climbing the side of a rock face in Taylors Falls, Minnesota. Above me, just beyond reach, there was a crack that I could use as a grip… if I could get to it. About fifty feet below me was the ground where I had begun my ascent. I was closer to the top than I was to the bottom now, and I just needed to keep going. Truth be told, I have a fear of heights. This experience was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. From where I was, gripping the side of the rock at this moment, the terrifying side was winning.
I stopped to refocus.
The rope was strong, and combined with my harness and carabiners, our equipment was solid. My buddy Jay was managing the rope for me from the ground. He was an experienced climber and would use the rope to catch me if I did fall or miss my grip. He had climbed this route before, and he knew all of the best handholds and steps for my feet. Between his expertise and our gear, I knew I was in good hands.
Jay was right. I could trust the rope. And, if I trusted the rope, I could take the risk.
In one quick moment, I stretched my body as long as I could and reached high. I felt my feet leave their base as my fingers strained toward that crack. For a brief moment, I detached from everything. In an instant, my fingers gained their grip, and I felt my body settle into a new position where I could continue my journey up and off this rock face. The whole move took a second, maybe two. I shifted from terrified to exhilarated once again.
From the bottom, Jay applauded my efforts. Inside, I applauded myself.
Climbing is an exercise in trust. First, you have to trust the integrity of your gear – specifically that rope. It’s what will catch you if you slip – and keep you from taking a nasty fall when you do. The higher you go on that rock wall, the more risk you take. The rope minimizes that risk, never eliminating it 100%, but removing much of the danger along the way.
Life is a lot like this climb. You arrive at those moments where your next grip feels out of reach. You don’t know if you can get to it. Sometimes, you can’t even see the next grip. If you can see it, you’re unsure if you can stretch your arms or legs far enough to get to it.
When I’m feeling like that, here are three ropes I’ve learned to trust that allow me to take more significant risks…
My Circle – Surrounding yourself with the right people, the ones who will help you reach your goals, partner with you, and encourage you along the way, is an excellent example of a rope in our lives. Strong relationships built on trust will help you see those handholds and take the leap – and they will be the ones who help catch you if you do fall. In climbing, the idea of free-soloing or climbing with no ropes is reserved for a select few. Free-soloing for us, as we are moving toward our goals, should be our last resort. Instead, relying on other people as our ropes should be our go-to move.
My Faith – There’s a spiritual side to risk-taking as well, a confidence that comes through a relationship with your creator. Just this morning, as I was sitting down to write, this verse popped up on my phone. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” It’s from Psalm 56:3. Risk-taking is almost always accompanied by fear. They go hand-in-hand. No matter how many other “ropes” we’ve set in place, there always comes a point in life where we need to tap into something greater than what we can see in front of us. Faith is that thing, and it helps remove some of that fear that keeps us from taking those risks.
My Self – Last, by investing in yourself, you become a rope you can count on. This looks different for all of us and can take many forms. Some of us are ravenous learners, and our mind is our rope. Knowledge is one of the things that can help us be more effective risk-takers. Others are focused on keeping ourselves physically prepared – our body is our rope. We keep ourselves strong and sharp, and our inner energy helps fuel our risks. The perfect scenario is a combination of the two, where body and mind are both strong ropes we can rely on to catch us.
I’ve surrounded myself with the right people. I have a faith that transcends beyond my own abilities. I am strong. With all of this in place, risk-taking feels a little less risky for me. It can feel this way for you as well.
Let me end with this… The risks are never eliminated, and the fear that comes with risk-taking never fades completely. It’s always that combination of exhilarating and terrifying, to different degrees at different times. Our goal is not to eliminate the risk or the fear… it’s simply to put ropes in place that build our confidence in the face of the risk and the fear. That’s where the true wins reside – in putting ropes in place that will catch us as we leap to catch that crack on the side of the rock.
I hope this blog ends up being a rope for you as well. Follow me here for weekly encouragement, insights, and help catching you if you slip while taking those risks…
You can also listen in on the Grit Meets Growth podcast that I share with Chris Cathers. It’s available here or on your favorite podcast platforms.
Make it a great day! – John