If you have been following the news the last couple of months than you probably heard about the couple of guys who climbed the New Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. If not, then click here, here, or here. As a climber, I have been following the Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson story for over five years. I have watched as they have come closer to success each year. I found it very interesting that this particular story resonated with the general public so much. Climbers have been doing really hard and crazy things for a long time now. I have been wondering why people were so drawn to this story.
My theory is that people were actually connecting with Tommy and Kevin. I think people want to see themselves in that story, dedicated to an impossible goal that takes years of focus and training to achieve. I think we want that spirit that says, “Nothing can hold me down and I am capable of accomplishing anything!”
A coworker and I were discussing the story in my office a couple of weeks ago. He happens to be a climber as well and we got to talking about our climbing goals. I made the offhand comment that I wish I had the time to dedicate to training so I could have been up there with those guys climbing the Dawn Wall. My coworker just started laughing at me. He told me that there was no conceivable world where I could have climbed that route.
I have gotten myself up a few hard routes in my ten years of climbing, but none come even close to what those guys did. I don’t have a climbers build. I am short, stocky and have never had a six pack in my life (and probably never will). I look more like a boxer than a climber.
I have never let what some may consider physical limitations influence what I believe I can climb. Even though my coworker is probably right and I don’t have the physical gifting to climb the Dawn Wall, I don’t care. I think he is dead wrong. I believe that even though I spend more time behind a desk than on a rock these days, I could train and work hard enough to get up that wall.
That is the point. It is so much more important to believe that you can achieve your dreams through hard work than to believe what others say your limits are. Even if all the evidence suggests otherwise.
My Dad taught me this lesson when I was a kid. He always told me and my brothers that anything was within our reach. All we had to do was be willing to work for it. He knew this to be true from personal experience.
When my Dad was a kid he always wanted to be a Dentist. The only problem was that he did not have the best grades in High School and people around him were quick to point out his academic shortcomings. In fact, one of his high school teachers told him that, “Hell was more likely to freeze over than for him to fulfill his dream”. Those who were supposed to be his mentors and encouragers made statements like, “Just give up on academics and consider going into a vocation such as auto mechanics”.
My Dad did in fact accomplish his dream. If you ask him how he did it he will tell you that determination and hard work has always made success within his reach.
Don’t ever put limitations on yourself or on others. Don’t put limitations on your team members, or your company, or your product. Encourage those around you to attempt the impossible. Remind them that effort trumps ability every day of the week.
Just look at Tommy Caldwell. Among a host of other life challenges he has endured, he lost his index finger in a construction accident in 2001. I’m sure there were people who said he would never be a pro climber again. He did not listen to them though. He worked hard and stuck to his dream. Then he climbed the Dawn Wall, the hardest big wall on the planet. The power of hard work and determination.
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