Friday, July 15, 2011

Process vs. Result

Climbers who are too strongly focused simply on results (i.e., reaching a grade / climbing at a grade) are often frustrated and dissatisfied.  In my experience, they almost always stop climbing.  Why?  Because one has two choices, either change your attitude or give up the game.

Another variation of this theme are people who apply society’s superficial values to climbing:  You’re a better climber if you climb a higher sport-climbing grade, standing on top of Everest is the greatest achievement in mountain climbing because it’s the highest, climbing completions give us the best climbers, etc.

 from Dave MacLeod

Simplicity can be a bad influence when it obscures or distorts the real picture or just dumbs everything down. Even words so central to sport like “winner” and “loser” must be applied carefully. If you have been watching tennis recently they keep talking about “great champions”. But there seems to be so many great champions they need a new definition already to stand out from them. It’s not enough even to refer to them as just “champions”, never mind “players” or even “people”. Edi Stark didn’t seem to want to accept my response to her question about how it felt to have done some climbs that are out of reach of some or most others. I said it was ‘nice’ to have found such a good connection with an activity like climbing. “Nice?” she repeated back to me with a mocking sarcasm. ‘Nice’ didn’t seem to cut it. Either that or it cut me out as an awkward personality? With the exception of an overflow of enthusiasm which is a fine excuse to dispense with caution, I feel there is no need to always attach larger than life language, deeper meanings or metaphors to my experiences in climbing or elsewhere. A climb is the expression of the climber through vision for the line, preparation of the skills and movement. And it is an appreciation inherent beauty of the rock and the place as well. These things are already special in their own right. They do not need sweetening or plumping up.

Having succeeded on my own climbing vision on the Longhope route with Andy, my feeling is not of me, the climber, being at the centre of the story and I do not feel any bigger or more worthy as a result of it. Rather completing my climbing involvement on this particular cliff leaves me with a greater appreciation of the scale, permanence and impermanence of different things in nature and this has been what is awe inspiring about it. I think that climbing and mountains have a great effect on peoples lives when it helps them to appreciate their true insignificance in the world both in scale and time. Paradoxically though this actually adds to the sense of meaning in life because you simply see more clearly how you fit into the world. In the process of appreciating your insignificance, you also get closer to a true sense of your significance.

How then, do you deal with another great paradox of a major effort on a big climb; that of the feeling of invincibility that climbing can give when you are performing well and at your limit. Of course if you step back it’s obvious that the feeling cannot really be invincibility or anything approaching it. So if it’s a misinterpretation, what is the correct one? I have felt happiest in climbing when I’ve seen this feeling not as wielding personal strength or power over my climbing environment, but as aligning to it, understanding it well enough to work in harmony with it. This idea of harmony with the medium, in this case rock, is so well known that it’s a cliche. Where does the difference lie between these two subtly different interpretations of the same raw feeling. The most frustrated, isolated or bored climbers I’ve met have been those who appear to chase after brief flashes of invincibility in themselves over nature instead of seeing brief flashes of the invincibility of nature in themselves.

from Brad Warner:

Let’s say you met a veteran mountaineer with over a quarter century of climbing experience, a person who has written books on mountain climbing and routinely personally instructs others in the art of climbing. And let’s imagine what would happen if you tried to convince this guy that people who take helicopters to the tops of mountains get everything that mountain climbers get and get it a whole lot easier.

The mountain climber would certainly tell you that the breathtaking view a guy who takes a helicopter to the top of a mountain gets is not in any way, shape or form the same view that a person who climbs the mountain herself gets.

To the mountain climber, the guy in the helicopter is just a hyperactive thrill seeker who wants nothing more than to experience a pretty view without putting any effort into it. The helicopter guy thinks the goal of mountain climbing is to be on top of the mountain and that climbing is an inefficient way to accomplish this goal. He just doesn’t get it. At all.

The helicopter guy misses out on the amazing sights there are to see on the way up. He doesn’t know the thrill of mastering the mountain through his own efforts. He doesn’t know the hardships and dangers involved in making the climb. And he’ll never know the awesome wonder of descending the mountain back into familiar territory. All he’s done is given some money to a person who owns a helicopter. He probably couldn’t even find the mountain himself, let alone make it to the top. When there are no helicopters around, the poor guy is helplessly grounded.

If the helicopter guy claims that he has reached the same place as the mountain climber, the mountain climber knows in ways the helicopter guy can’t even fathom that the helicopter guy is a fool.

To a mountain climber, the goal of mountain climbing is not the moment of sitting on top enjoying the view. That’s just one small part of the experience. It may not even be the best part. To a mountain climber, every view, from every point on the mountain is significant and wonderful.

People who think that the pinnacle of the experience is that moment of being right on the tippy-top, don’t understand the experience at all. The poor attention addled things probably never will.

Focus on the process, never on the end result.  What maters is personal growth through learning about yourself and honestly dealing with what comes out.  Perceived failures are part of the process.  They should be used as a point of departure for learning, evaluating and adapting.  If you chose to wallow in self-pity and frustration than you are egotistically involved in the result you fell short of and are immaturely wasting an opportunity.