Dealing With Failure

One of the most valuable pieces of advice that I have received in my life is to be accepting of failure. The process that led to your failure is far more important and far more valuable than the outcome of your endeavor regardless of weather or not we have failed or succeeded.

Climbing has to be one of the most mentally taxing sports because so much of climbing is based on failure. Even at the end of a successful climbing day where you have achieved your goal, you still have produced nothing tangible. All that you might leave with is a fleeting feeling of success and self-satisfaction. Climbing is a selfish pursuit and when we fail, there is a 98% chance that it is your own fault. I still agree that conditions matter. Nevertheless, a majority of your failure to send is your own fault.

Despite being such a prominent aspect of this sport, I find it interesting that that people take their failure so seriously that it ends in a wobbler: screaming, swearing, and listing excuses. I have yet to talk to anyone who has looked back at a time when they have freaked out while climbing and not regretting acting in they way they did. It is embarrassing and uncomfortable for everyone else around you to watch. So why do it?

I am not saying that I have never freaked out over climbing. One of my first years making it to the Junior National Championships, I made it to finals and fell low on the route when my foot slipped. I was so mad that I had, in my opinion, underperformed. I cried and sulked around for the rest of the trip. When I returned home, I realized what a brat I had been. Hundreds of kids would have loved to have the opportunity even to make it into finals and be in the position that I was in. I still regret acting the way I did, however, I still learned a valuable lesson through my failure.

I understand that people deal with frustration in many different ways. However, I still find it rude to swear at the top of your lungs and spew excuses when you fail. It is your fault that you fell. Figure out what you did wrong, learn from your mistake, and try not to make that mistake again. It is stupid to get pissed off at a piece of rock.

When ever I feel myself starting to get mad try to think of why I climb in the first place: It is fun. We are constantly putting pressure on ourselves to succeed and yes, succeeding is more fun than failing, but the process of working hard for anything, not just climbing is far more valuable and important than the outcome. When working on something that is at our physical limit, progress often seems slow, or nonexistent. Working hard at something you are passionate about is not a waste of time. Every time you try a climb at your limit, you are picking up small bits of muscle memory, and putting in the necessary time that may eventually lead to success. Even if it does not seem like you are making progress, you are still exercising your patience and tenacity, both necessary for working on something at your physical or mental limit.

We are often so overwhelmed by the feeling of success that we forget the lengthy, and sometimes painful, process it took to get there. To really push your physical and mental limit, I think it is necessary to learn how to enjoy the process in its entirety.  What would success be if failure didn’t come first. Success is far sweeter after repeated failure. Failure adds to a rewarding experience.

The past week for me has been filled with failure. After many more attempts on Lucifer and plenty of one hangs, I still find myself falling in the same spot. I certainly feel physically capable of sending that climb right now, however, everything has to click and go perfectly. After another two days of failed attempts on Lucifer and other mini projects, I decided to climb at a different crag, rejuvenate my psyche, and give myself a mental break from trying the same thing.

I opted for the Gold Coast wall. I figured that the relatively short, and powerful climbs would suit my style and make for some quick sends of some of the classics and help boost my confidence.

Marc Bourdon on Black Gold, 5.13c.

Marc Bourdon on Black Gold, 5.13c.

I decided I would give Black Gold (13c) a good flash effort. After getting a good spray down from my friend Jamie Chong, I set off, only to fall on the second to last move of the route. Bummer. On my next try, I was confident that I would send. Instead, I managed to fall on the last move of the climb. Ultra bummer. I am proud to say that I did not freak out.

Feeling frustrated I decided to play around on something new. A couple tries later, I got pretty close to sending God’s Own Stone, a bouldering 14a that a bunch of children have sent.

Although I didn’t send anything, I certainly feel like I have a bit of renewed psyche and I’m motivated to finish those things off after a bit of rest. At this point in my trip I have amassed an impressive list of one-hang ascents. Maybe a half dozen routes between 13c and 14c. Although some sending would be nice, I’m still enjoying myself and the experience. Hopefully the send train will come rolling through…once the weather clears.

And them this happened...

And them this happened…










2 responses to “Dealing With Failure

  1. Thanks for writing Mike. Getting cold up here. Failed today in the Dacks. It was 10 degrees. Meaning the 6 hour round trip ended in me learning that I can’t climb in 10 degrees. Did not try to send. Did not freak out. Rooting for you GUY!

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