Persistence pays off, whining doesn’t
There is a saying people love to spout in a wise fashion, and it drives me crazy: “The definition of insanity is to keep trying the same thing and expect different results.”
It makes me nuts because that little voice is ingrained in the depths of my head. It leads me to question myself when persistence is required. Perhaps that is why some of the most successful people in history are remembered as being slightly mad.
Anyway, this summer I had a goal to climb three routes in Rifle Mountain Park that were progressively harder. My strategy was to climb routes A, B and C in that order, thus building up my strength and ability for the hardest one. I considered A to be slightly below my ability and C to be right at the edge. I hoped the stair-step method would build so much strength and confidence that C would end up being the easiest to master.
I succeeded on route A by the end of April (and wrote about it in this column in June). I expected A to take one week to “send” (climb without falling), and it took three weeks. It was the same story on the next route, only a little more frustrating, and I finally got around to route C in early June. After greasing off the same move all summer, I sent route C two weeks ago.
It literally took me around 50 tries to do the dang thing. I felt crazy driving an hour up to RMP at least once a week only to fall at the same spot every time. Sometimes I screamed, wondering what was wrong with me.
In the past, I’ve given up on routes like that, reasoning that it is insane to try the same thing endlessly and hope for something to change. Those few routes continue to stick in my side. I didn’t want route C to be like that. I clearly had the fitness for it and climbed it flawlessly every time except for this single move I couldn’t link from the ground.
There were days I came very close to doing it, and success seemed imminent on the next try. Then two weeks would go by with the route feeling impossible. There was no steady march to victory.
Meanwhile, that blasted, scratchy little voice in my head kept thwarting me: “The definition of insanity …”
It seemed crazy not to give up.
“If you wanted to climb something easy you would have done that, but you chose to climb this because it’s hard and it will test you and make you stronger,” said my friend Maurie Waugh, who is the unofficial mayor of the Rifle climbing scene because he’s been cranking there 20 years.
On the fateful day, the air temperature was about 15 degrees cooler than it had been for three months. The rock felt stickier, and sweat wasn’t pouring down my face. The route seemed as easy as ever on my first try but I still made a mistake. I tried twice more but was too tired to perform well. Frustration boiled over.
I took a long stroll to fix my attitude before going home. I had to let go of the outcome and accept that the process of doing something difficult includes any number of setbacks. Patience doesn’t come easily after investing so much effort, however.
I get that way with life in general. I craft a plan and get too emotional when things don’t play out. This seems to be the latest lesson I need to learn, but I couldn’t see it so clearly until I completed my summer climbing goal.
It was getting dark when I bumped into another friend who offered to belay me. I was almost too heartbroken to try the route for the fourth time that day, but I figured that was the reason I was there in the first place.
I shrugged and tied back in. I’d had a long rest, the temps were even better than before, and I seized my moment.
If you have the right address, sometimes you have to keep knocking so you’re there when the door opens. Just remember that bitching and moaning only makes the wait seem longer.
— “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Carbondale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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