“Chris Jones… you are such a gift for this team. Getting into fighting shape is more of an internal task than an external one. If you commit to climbing I’m sure you will gain your goals and go well beyond V3/5.10. It’s the internal grit that leads us into the future. Your body and mind have more grit than 80% of the climbers world wide. Sometimes we need to funnel our focal point down to make gains.” –Lou Renner, March 2018
Lou Renner is a great friend and mentor of mine. He’s been all over the world and climbed some amazing summits and done other amazing things. His artwork is phenomenal! A compliment or advice from Lou is more valuable to me than gold. Thanks, Lou. I look forward to climbing with you again soon!
Let’s start with commitment. How much commitment does it take to climb at your full potential? Well, we must ask how much commitment can a person give? Individual differences and definitions aside, there is all-out commitment, and then there is commitment with reservation. Is that fair to say? I think so. Commitment with reservation is holding back just a teeny bit, “Just in case,” we tell ourselves. You’re never going to get to your full climbing potential as long as you’re holding anything back. I can tell you that right now. If you’re going to hold back, then why climb? It’s dangerous! You have to embrace that fact and maybe be a little bit crazy to do it in the first place (correct me if I’m wrong). The fact is that, if you’re a climber, you have a streak of adventure and some powerful drive within you. Climbing’s not easy! It’s hard work for your body and your mind. It’s a challenge. So you commit, at least somewhat, to this challenge of climbing. What keeps you from going all the way with it? Fear? Injury? Some other limitation? We’re talking about your full potential, here. We’re not comparing you to anyone else. To do so would be unfair to everybody. As far as commitment goes, you have to be willing to fully commit and not hold back if you’re going to reach your own full potential in climbing, no matter what that might be. It depends what your expectations are and why you climb. Figure out why you climb first. That’ll help a lot with your level of commitment and sorting out our next topic – focus.
Focus. Some of us have our focus all over the place (see me raising my hand on this one?). I’m not diagnosed with ADHD, but I’m on prescription medication for focus and concentration issues. I think it’s part of my PTSD, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, you have to have a goal – a focal point – and stick with that goal. There are many levels of goals, though, and this is an important point. There’s the goal for this climbing session right now, today. There’s a goal for the week. There should be a monthly goal of some sort, or some sort of progress goal that you have set. And then there are longer-term goals, like climbing trips you want to go on and specific problems or routes that you want to send. Ultimately, there’s the “what I want to be known for” goal of having reached your full potential doing something you love (this doesn’t just count for climbing, by the way, but that’s what we’re going to talk about here). I just articulated a whole lot of un-focus, didn’t I. Yes, I did. Goals are supposed to help us focus, but sometimes they can be overwhelming. They are important, though, because they give us a way of measuring progress, which is super important! If we can’t see that we’re making progress, we tend to lose interest and motivation. That’s what we don’t want. What we do want is increased motivation and drive. The most important goal is where you want to be at the end of today’s session. Why? Because the long-term goals happen one step at a time, one daily goal at a time. Sure, you want to know where you’re going (this is a must on some level), but you can’t possibly have that mapped out to the letter because life happens! You have a fairly good idea about today, though. Today is the day that counts, every day. We’re never guaranteed our next breath, so let’s focus on today. Today, I’m focusing on beating my personal best for most bouldering problems sent/attempted in one session. That’s my goal for today. How many is that? Thirty-one. Yes, that’s a lot of bouldering (that was accomplished while climbing with Lou Renner and Leon Kaatz last Labor Day in Bozeman during our “Bozeman Six” Challenge between the three of us to see how many boulder problems we could do between the three of us in one day – the total was 164 problems!). I know I can do at least half of my maximum number, though, because I did almost half of that number yesterday. Will that affect today’s performance? Probably. But that’s okay. It’s a focal point. Success is going to the climbing gym or the boulder or the crag and trying. So what if I don’t make that number today? I have a goal that I’m committed to, and if I don’t reach it today, I’ll reach it tomorrow, but one thing’s for sure – I’ll reach it. Now that we’ve got commitment and focus, we need grit.
Grit. That’s something you can develop, and normally a person has it to some degree or another to begin with. Grit is that fight-to-the-end, never-give-up, down-and-dirty, get-it-done-and-get-it-done-right stick-to-it-tive-ness that determination and perseverance can only begin to describe. Grit comes from within and is strong and steadfast willpower at its finest. It’s the I’m-not-giving-up factor that separates people who overcome from people who don’t. There are a lot of things to overcome in this life, but the one thing that you absolutely must overcome is giving up. Sure, there are things you should give up on because they’re not good investments, and with time, you gain wisdom about what those things are, but when I say overcome giving up, I mean you have to overcome giving up on yourself. I weigh 264 lbs and I’m 62 1/2″ tall! I’m not exactly who you’d picture as a rock climber, but I am a passionate rock climber! I’m going to continue to be a rock climber, too! I can go all day, just like anybody else. It may be harder for me, comparatively speaking, and I may not be able to climb at the grades that others can at the moment or send the route or problem that everybody else can, and certainly not as quickly, but that’s not the point! Comparing yourself to others is not the point!!! I compare myself to me. Once in a while, I lose focus, and I have terrific friends and mentors who bring my focus back to where it should be, and for the most part, I stick to my guns. Most people would say, “Oh, that’s way too hard for someone your size to be trying to do,” or, “You should lose some weight before you try that,” or, “That’s dangerous, you shouldn’t do that,” or, “What? You’re still climbing V0-V2 after almost two years of bouldering and only 5.7-5.8 after all that roped route climbing you’ve done???” People who don’t know me laugh, snicker, point, comment… Does it hurt my feelings? Sometimes. But I never give up. Who are they, anyway? They don’t know me! I have so many great climbing buddies and mentors helping me work toward my goals, and they believe in me! Most of all, though, I have the grit to keep going because I believe in me. If these people who are at elite climbing levels can see my potential, then I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and give myself and everybody else a good show – we might as well have fun while we’re at it, too!!! Grit. Get some!!! And surround yourself with other people who have a lot of grit. When the chips are down, you need someone to have your back, especially when it concerns any little doubt that could creep into the back of your mind!!! Surround yourself with the kind of people that are the type of person you want to become, and the path will be much easier and much more natural. Trust me. I’ve been around a lot of people all over the world, and I’ve seen and experienced the powerful effects of how who you hang out with influences your own behavior!!! Find others with grit, and stick together!!!