Peter Lyons

Rejecting the Idea of Rejecting Ideas

February 19, 2011

Man, quitting one's job frees up a lot of cognitive resources. I've started to find spare interest and energy coming out of the woodwork. More on that later. One of the things I've noticed is that with an open calendar and full ability to choose new projects in front of me, I've gone into a very experimental mode. I think due to the time constraints of working 50 hours or more a week, my natural tendency when considering new possibilities, projects, activities is to do a cost/benefit analysis, try to predict the outcome with little or no actual data, and then reject things outright a priori. Then I feel smart and efficient in my ability to use my powers of analysis to avoid silly distractions.

This has changed significantly now. I am now taken with the notion to try things, even if they seem suspect or unlikely to pan out. My gut is now saying "try it for real and then react appropriately" as opposed to nullifying things beforehand. So I'm out there on craigslist looking for musicians with whom to collaborate and I'll go out and jam with anyone remotely in the ballpark. I bought an Android phone with no contract and figured if I didn't like it, no worries. Most interestingly, this week at the climbing gym the instructor Chris Wall (I'm a big fan) mentioned to me that I should try his 7am Thursday climbing & fitness class called "The Rapture". Here's how my internal monologue went. Oh man, that is supposedly harder than the level 2 class I already take which nearly kills me. It's at 7am and a 20 minute drive away. It's going to be full of elite climbers way stronger than me. Nah, no way I'm doing it. (End of internal monologue). So this new instinct kicked in and said this: You trust Chris. He knows what he's doing. Give it a try. If it sucks, you pack up and leave, no harm, no foul. (End of internal monologue). So that's what I did.

So there I was yesterday at 7am in the climbing gym, doing get-ups carrying a Bulgarian Bag, then swinging it around my head, then doing burpees (yes, you can watch that video. She's wearing clothes technically. It's not porn, really), then immediately proceeding to climb 2 laps up the wall. You do all the exercises with your climbing harness already on and clipped in so you don't get any rest in between the exercises and the climbing. So the workout was tough but not beyond what I'm used to, but here's the kicker. I was the only student who showed up. So I got a 90 minute personal coaching session with Chris Wall, which would normally cost over $100, for free. So that was pretty sweet. I used the opportunity to ask about my seeming inability to make forward progress on my climbing. We worked on recovering on the wall without falling, and I made a good breakthrough.

What I discovered with Chris shouting me through my "I can't" place was that the wall (performance limit, not the structure I'm climbing) that I hit and give up is just two inches away from hanging on, successfully shaking out my arms and resting, and continuing to climb. Chris helped me get past it when I had already started to see in my mind my forearms redlining and started my internal countdown to falling of the wall...10..9..8..7. This is the spot where normally I just give up, admit that my arms are exhausted and unable to hang on, and fall. But if I can concentrate for just the tiniest sliver longer, keep my composure, hang on, relax, and rest effectively, I can keep going. So on my final lap of the morning with Chris shouting rapid fire instructions and encouragement, I rested on the wall, alternately hanging off each arm while shaking out the other, and then managed to climb another ten moves or so and hit the top of the route. It was really great. I thought when I started I wouldn't even make the first good rest hold. Now the work for me is to remember to do this in my normal climbing.

So that's one example of keeping an open mind and being willing to invest small amounts of effort and time into activities of unknown benefit having an unexpectedly positive outcome. I think I'll try to more explicitly adopt this attitude for a while and see what happens.