Failure = Learning

There was no sugar coating it, I was getting a beat down. This normally wouldn’t surprise me, but it was on grades that I can comfortably climb at our home crags, so I was feeling a little frustrated. If this was a story, I suppose there had been some foreshadowing (that maybe I should have paid attention to) on our drive from Portland to Smith Rock. We had been reading 9 Out of 10 Climbers Make the Same Mistake, and came across a section about how fear of failure is a major issue that holds a lot of people back, and how you have to embrace failure in order to maximize your learning. Well, here I was failing like no other, so I guess I had plenty of opportunity for learning!

As we read further, the enlightened book suggested that the best climbers are those who are constantly learning from their climbs, not just focused on adding another progressively harder tick to the list. Most of us go out to “send”, and likely give little thought to the numerous factors that come together to get us to the top, aside from strength.  The irony is that strength is only one piece of a larger puzzle, and there are many others (technique, speed, tactics, etc.) that can contribute to a successful ascent.

And while trying harder climbs, failure is usually the best place for learning to occur, especially in these other areas. When you succeed, you likely did at least a couple of things right, and may or may not remember why. But when you fail, you have to learn why and figure out how to do it right, in order to eventually succeed. Hopefully, that means doing more than just “pulling harder” next try. Plus, if you truly value learning above all else, you’ll have fun every time you go climbing, not just when you get everything right and “succeed.”

I wish I could say I remembered what we had read, and casually hung on the rope, staying calm and collected as I studied the rock to understand why I was getting my ass kicked, and what I could learn from it. I did eventually get to that point, and even made some positive progress, but not after some serious frustration and WTF? moments. Once I did get my head in check, though, and focused on the learning, I enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, even though I doubt my frail ego will recover any time soon.

3 Responses to Failure = Learning

  1. Sounds like a post I wrote the last time I visited smith rock. That place can be pretty humbling. You need exact footwork, trust in small holds, and endless endurance…

    How about some more photos??

    Luke September 2, 2010 at 5:08 pm
    • Glad to hear someone else felt that way! Even Tracy, who is much better at that stuff than I, found it unsettling at first.

      I was too busy getting humbled to take any other photos, weak I know! It was a quick side trip while we were in the area for a wedding.

      BJ Sbarra September 2, 2010 at 5:14 pm
  2. We took a couple photos of you guys on shan’s phone, I will try to post them on facebook today, and you can grab them from there.

    jimmy September 2, 2010 at 5:56 pm
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