Two Steps Forward

This post is based on the experience I chronicled in a post called Don’t Look Down about rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park. The title of this post was originally going to be “Look Down” but I changed my mind. If you haven’t read the first post please do now.

At the end of Don’t Look Down, I say “Next time, and that’s part of managing your fear, next time, I’ll take two steps forward.” On Sunday I had the chance and I indeed took two steps forward (after a little step back but I’ll get to that). I climbed higher than ever before, put myself through more difficulty than ever before, and completed every challenge I faced. Once you understand, not accept, but understand your fears you can face them and, in my case, I could indeed look down as I posed for a photo as I rappelled from 40 feet up.

I have felt a lot of fear lately as I begin a new path toward What Next and start a business. Choosing to go with a franchise, I have some support but the risk is all mine. In climbing, the support comes in the form of my belay partner who has the rope and the break to stop me if I fall but the risk is mine. I must check my partner’s gear and make sure they know what they’re doing. I have to rely on them to check my gear as well. Ultimately the risk is all mine, however.

This is true in business and in life, the risk is all yours. There will be people you can rely on who will check your gear, and even catch you if you fall, but that doesn’t mean you can be reckless and foolish. You still need to make the correct, the safe, decisions.

Julie and I had five successful ascents on this trip but as I mentioned before I had one little step back that I eventually Upper Right Ski Slopeovercame. At one point and for what seemed like a very long time to Julie, I had a complete meltdown as I dangled over the side of the cliff over 160 feet above ground. I was attached to a bolt in the rock and our climbing instructor was below as a second break. I was in control of my own rappel but still felt completely out of control, unable to accept that the bolt would hold (even though several had gone down before me), unable to believe that my rappel line was secured correctly (even though I had used it three times already), and unable to understand how Steve, our guide, could stop me if I fell.

Knowing that there was only one way down, I stood up and began my rappel. When I was 20 feet from the bottom, Steve demonstrated how the break worked as he instructed me to let go of my rappel line and he was able to stop me using just two fingers.

The risk is there but we can find a way to manage it, to spread it out among other people and other devices. At some point we have to accept the fact that there is no other way but forward and then we need to take that step. What is an example of a time you went over the cliff but were successful in spite of your fear?

For some perspective on the image to the right here is a shot that encompasses the entirety of Intersection Rock. There are two people in that shot how small and insignificant do they look and yet, like us, they conquered the climb.

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