What Perspective Will You Take Today?
Growing up I was deeply blessed to have a core group of friends that remain the closest people in my life today. They are all incredibly inspirational to me and deserve tremendous credit for the man that I am.
One of those friends is Read Macadam and, save for the blood, he's essentially my brother. He also happens to be a world-class professional climber and world-class professional life coach.
Read lives in Oman, in the Middle East, where he coaches, climbs and lives a Middle Eastern life that I can't fully fathom. A quick look at his Instagram account and it'd be easy (and correct) to say he's living a good life.
Despite what the appearance may be, I know that his life hasn't always been easy. In the last number of years he was dealt a hand of cards that nobody could deserve. He’s been through a lot and could easily be bitter and/or resentful. But he’s not. Not in the least. Rather, he’s one of the most positive, grab-life-by-the-horns people I know. And it’s all because of his perspective.
A couple of months ago I asked Read to write a piece that I could share with the KOOSHOO community. He promptly did and I, distracted with all the events surrounding our Kickstarter, didn’t publish it.
Then a few weeks ago he sent me a personal email with a link to a documentary movie trailer that he’s featured in. I might have a personal bias but it’s one of the most badass, deeply-motivational trailers I’ve ever seen.
So with that in mind, I wanted to share with you, dear reader, the trailer to Read’s upcoming documentary and a very poignant and thought-provoking piece he wrote about perspective.
Have you ever been immersed in something so much; a project, task, personal or professional goal, or just in your daily life, that you just feel stuck and forget to notice the wider picture? Risks are suddenly all too apparent, consequences amplified.
I have. It is a feeling that I think most people can relate to in their personal and professional life.
I had a climbing project once; a towering boulder, an inspiring sequence of hand holds just barely large enough to use, snaking their way to the top of a vibrant red washed wall in a wild Arabian canyon. The movements follow a direct and striking line right in the middle of a field of boulders that I had climbed on for years. Of course I had noticed it, yet never really ‘seen’ it, and had written off the slim sloping edges as not possible. I was so engrossed in the routine of climbing on existing routes and projects that I had been seeing only what I knew to be possible, walking right past it each time.
I brought a friend to the exact same canyon one day, someone who had never visited there before. I was captivated by his excitement for all the climbing possibilities around us. It was contagious. What I had come to experience as the mundane, was now transformed into new potential as my friend bounded between the boulders looking for new lines.
“What is this one?” he asked, pointing to the six-meter tall red pastel wall looming in front of us. That was it. We got stuck in trying to unlock the sequence of hand and foot movements that would arrive us to the top of the block. With another person, the sequence was so obvious. His fresh perspective had opened up a new and exciting opportunity that was there, right under my nose all this time.
It was obvious that the crux; the most difficult movement of this climb, was the last one. With feet skating high above the spotter’s outstretched hands, the climber must commit to a dynamic and long reach to the lip of the boulder’s summit. It is physically and psychologically difficult to execute. Time and time again, I arrived to the last hold unable to commit to the movement required. My head was full of thoughts of blowing the move and falling past the narrow terrace on which we had laid our mats meters below. With each attempt I dropped off, unable to commit. I left, frustrated and vowed to return.
During the days between climbing I saw some of the photos we had taken. It wasn’t that high, was it? What was I afraid of? Despite trying to convince myself that the consequence of blowing the final move was limited, I returned and had much the same experience, falling from height, at the last holds. On that second day, each time at the base of the climb, prior to pulling myself onto the rock, I knew I could do it, yet I couldn’t shake the fear of ‘what if’. What if I fall moving dynamically to the top of the rock? I will probably be launched backward to the rocks far below? I was hung up on the outcome. Either I do it, or I fall. I had blocked out that middle ground - just trying.
Fast forward to the next day I ventured out into the canyon. I had been rehearsing the movements in my head countless times since the last effort and I really felt like it should be achievable. I was fixated on latching that final hold and standing on top, triumphantly.
This time I decide to take a moment to step back and observe the boulder from afar, to understand the real risk and consequence of falling from the top. It could happen, but I decided it was not dangerous. I then wandered up to the top of the boulder to clean off the crux hand hold so it would not be too dusty when I arrived up there, tired and sweaty after the hard climbing below. To my surprise I spotted a very improbable sliver of rock between the final hold and the top of the rock. Perhaps I could use it as an intermediate move to position my body upward to the final holds? It was just the width and depth of a nickel’s edge so I put a small white dab of chalk on it to distinguish it from the sea of rock around. Just in case.
On my first attempt that day, when I pulled onto the rock, I was focused on the process. I had a new potential solution at the top that had changed my approach. The outcome was out of my mind now. I was simply attempting this new method and had a sense of, “let’s just see what happens here.”
I pull on. Hand here, foot there, breathe, pull up, relax. boooah! I grunt involuntarily and exhale as I bring my right hand next to my left on the final downward sloping edge. It offers me no more purchase than the very end of my fingertips and I am gripping so hard that I can sense the droplets of sweat being squeezed from my fingertips. I can feel the friction waning and I am aware how tenuous my left foot feels on the soapy and sloping rock high above my friend spotting me so, if I do fall, it’s onto the mat below and not beyond.
Strangely calm, I am not overcome by the thoughts of do or fail. There is another step in the process now. I perceive it in slow motion as I carefully and very slowly press my weight onto my left foot and extend upwards, inching my left hand towards the nickel-sized edge. Shakily gripping it with only my index and middle fingers, time suddenly speeds back to normal as if in a vortex and I am completely committed. There is only trying now. I jump and my body lurches upward. I snatch the very lip of the top of the boulder just as my feet skate free of the rock and into the air. I am weightless. I let out a holler and scramble over the lip of the boulder feeling exhilarated. I have done it.
I feel like this piece of rock offers a valuable lesson: A simple change in perspective can open up completely new and exciting opportunities, even where we have looked before.
Climbing is my passion and it has been my school of life for years. Through it, I have learned to trust my preparation, my strengths, my experience and commit to the act of trying. In the process, potential consequences become less of a barrier, and most importantly, I learned that I am always capable of more. I can climb harder more testing rocks and I seek to do so regularly. A powerful analogy.
I am amazed how often climbing reminds me that in order to succeed I must let go of the outcome and to focus instead on the process, trusting myself along the way. The most striking lines in our lives are possible. We just need to step back, or sideways or even just look at it through a different lens to see the path.
What perspective will you take today?
Read is a life coach who helps people and organisations reach outside of their comfort zones and think outside of their boxes. If you're looking to address an important goal or challenge in your life I highly recommend reaching out to him. It will change your life. His website is www.readmacadam.com and he can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.