The last time I tried rock climbing was 20 years ago. It wasn’t pretty. Let’s just say my upper body strength could use some work.
So last weekend when I had the chance to try again, I jumped at it. This time it wasn’t an actual rock, but a 30-foot wall at the Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center with lots of plastic rock-like steps and handles.
The event included about 200 people in my networking organization, so I knew lots of them, but not everyone. Friends and family had come along, too, so many faces were totally new to me.
When it was my turn to climb the wall, there were only 3 people nearby who I would consider friends. I had some performance anxiety (you know how sexy those harnesses look on everyone!) but I set my mind to going as far as I could, no matter how much my arms shook or how unattractive my butt looked from the ground.
The first step up was the hardest actually. It takes a moment to get used to vertical movement. But I found a groove pretty quickly and thought, “I’m gonna do this!”
Until I reached the halfway point. It got way trickier. I had to move to the right to avoid going up a scary backward slant (I’m sure there’s a more technical name for that, but I didn’t trust myself to try anything that even resembled upside-down).
It was then that an unfamiliar voice shouted from the ground, “You got this, Rachel!”
Someone was watching? And thought I could do it? Okay then. This was happening.
And then the little rock-like things got smaller, and further apart, and I found myself needing to adjust. Sometimes I had to go backward to go forward. Once I found myself reaching far to the right with my left hand and I couldn’t believe I had a grip.
All the while, someone kept yelling things like “good job” and “there you go” and “nice adjustment.”
No exaggeration—that voice kept me going.
Once when I was searching for a new foothold I looked down between my body and the wall and caught a glimpse of the ground that seemed surreally far away. For a split second I felt a pang of—fear? apprehension? surprise?—but it didn’t matter because I knew there was a voice down there that believed I could make it to the top even more than I believed it. Or at least it was doing a good job pretending.
When I hit that cowbell, the anemic little “ding” wasn’t good enough for me. I grabbed it and shook it a dozen times. I had made it to the top and it felt awesome!
Back on solid ground I looked around and asked, “Who was that yelling at me?” And my friend Emad said, “You didn’t know it was me?” I really hadn’t recognized his voice. All I knew was that someone had kept me going.
It only took a few minutes for me to start thinking about how this experience parallels life and business. Constant adjustments and corrections. Occasional crises of faith. The silence of the friends you thought would encourage you. The support of people you don’t even think are watching you but support you more than you think you deserve.
CLIMB YOUR WALL. Don’t worry about how high it is or how tough it is. Just set your sights on the top and go for it. The support will come, and it may be from an unexpected place. Just appreciate it when it comes!
And while reciprocation between friends isn’t required, I thought it would be cool to show my thanks and support to my friend Emad by encouraging you to check out his music online. He’s an amazing international talent. Listen to him at www.emadalaeddin.com
Emad is making music. I’m climbing walls. What are YOU doing and how high will you go?