Cycling to work through London. 8 miles each way and plenty to take in. Cyclists leaving the train station starting from cold. Balancing the desire for a brisk tempo to generate some warmth with eyes and brain that adjust slowly to the early morning darkness..
Traffic is sparse and good tempered at 7am – no-one is late yet.
Wandering along the river at the weekend we saw a small boy take a spill on his bike.
It was enough of a fall to draw a sharp intake of breath from both my wife and me but no real damage was done.
The boy instinctively dusted off his hands and winced at the bits of gravel embedded in the palms of his hands.
His Dad, walking behind us shouted, “That’s alright. Just dust yourself off. It won’t hurt as much if you ride on the grass.”
My mum insisted my brother and I learn how to fall when we were little, “Tuck your elbow in and land on your hip and shoulder”. Good advice for adventurous boys.
Over the years, I’ve introduced a handful of people to rock climbing; encouraging them as they take their first nervous steps up from the safety of the ground into the unknown.
The pattern of a first climb is pretty common: grip tightly to the holds, head up using mostly arm not leg strength, get to the top, clutch onto the largest object at the top, look down nervously, eventually release death-grip on the wall to be lowered down, grip the rope tightly on descent, kiss the floor with relief/sense of achievement, stare with wonder at forearms which appear to be pumped and burning, realise that you arms are now too tired to climb again for a long time.
Until you reach the top of the climb and release your weight onto the rope, you haven’t tested the system. You have no real trust in it. No experience of how it feels to sit in the harness, deliberately or otherwise, until you are in an exposed position.
So why not learn to fall when the stakes aren’t as high?
That’s how I teach. On terra firma I tie the person into their harness, show them the basics of my belay device, take up the slack in the rope, then I just fall down into my harness next to them. “I trust the system”, I’m saying. “You can too.”
I’ve laboured the analogy; forgive me.
My point is that being comfortable and familiar with falling allows us to ride and climb better. We’ve reduced the cost of failure.
This doesn’t just apply to the great outdoors. Learning to fall in our personal and work lives gives us the confidence to push our experimentation & creativity further.
I used to be afraid of heights. Then a friend of a friend invited me rock climbing. Why not? That was ten years ago. I’m no longer afraid of heights. I’ve learnt a lot about climbing and also a lot about myself in that time. Many of these lessons apply to life as well:
It’s another rainy windy day in El Chalten, Argentinian Patagonia. The crowd-pulling peaks of Cerro Torre and Fitzroy are hidden by thick cloud. Hikers and climbers pass by the hostel window looking drenched and miserable. Our legs welcome a rest day but cabin fever soon sets in…
What to do? Laundry, journal, trip planning, playing card options all now exhausted. Internet access is patchy as usual, prompting a reflection on our (over?) reliance on internet connections. Continue reading Travelling and the internet
It’s easy to over-complicate decisions in business and in life.
Too much information. Too many choices. Too many stakeholder voices. No clear winner.
How to strip away all the noise? How to create time and space for sense-making so that the end decision is sound?
A trip to the great outdoors always helps me get things in perspective. I’m not really sure why… Maybe because being surrounded by the forces of nature reminds me of how short life is. Being at sea or up a mountain is humbling because I am at the mercy of mother nature.
The great outdoors energises me and helps me see things more simply, more intuitively.
I probably knew the right decision from the start but now the choice is obvious.
I’m interested; how do you create time and space to get things in perspective? Does location play a part?
PS – If you haven’t already heard Steve Jobs’ speech at Stanford then I highly recommend it; “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” (VIDEO from 9:00 minutes)