As much as it hurts, you’ve gotta fall to get higher

indoor_bouldering_utah

I was climbing yesterday. I sat at the wall and watched with envy as a guy calmly twisted his way up one of the most difficult routes. His body was almost parallel with the ground at times! It was beautiful. And I was jealous. Afterwards, I started talking to him and learned a lot, not from what he told me, but from what he did afterwards. I learned that my envy was misdirected towards what he did, and should’ve been towards what he didn’t do.

“Did you just do that black and purple route?” I asked.

“Yea,” he nodded. He had tight curly hair that covered his head and came down to form a neat beard around his face.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone complete that,” I said. “I don’t even think I’ve seen someone try it, but it’s hard to tell.”

He smiled. “It’s tough. I worked at it though. I did it so many times that now I know exactly how to do it.”

I was jealous. I was inspired, too. But I thought more about how he did it, and how I couldn’t. I didn’t think about how it was good that someone from the crew here at the wall had practiced and mastered that route. My insecurity hummed loudly in the back of my head so I didn’t really listen to what he said.

I tried another route, one that I’d been trying to get. Failure. I reached for that hold, the problem one. Slip. A short fall to the padded ground.

I sat down and let my throbbing shoulders and forearms recuperate. The guy I had been talking to was now going up another difficult route. I watched expectantly, as he reached carefully and methodically, pulling himself up. A small hold that required significant grip strength was the next one, and he reached for it. And missed. He rolled into his fall, and got back up. He said nothing and sat down. He tried again. I knew he would make it this time. But he failed. But he tried again. And failed again. And then again. Fail. And then again. Fail.

I often hear that failure makes you stronger. I hear it, but like many things people tell you that are good and right and you should do, I nod and don’t act on it. Maybe because of ego, maybe laziness. Then I have the opportunity to see someone who is skilled and how he failed. Again and again and again. And I’m reminded of how failure works:

Failure sucks. You fall. And it hurts.

And it doesn’t matter what you’ve accomplished before, because at present, you’re failing. But that’s the point. If you’re not failing, you’re sitting, watching the wall, or going over and over the same places you’ve gone before, and you’re not getting better. And you know it. But at least you’re not getting hurt. At least you’re not losing face, right?

We focus on the success. I looked at what the guy did, but what made me appreciate what he did was what he didn’t do afterwards. On the second route, he didn’t make it up to the top. He repeatedly didn’t make it. And I didn’t see him make it that day. But he kept trying.

I tried my route several more times yesterday. I never reached the top. But I will. Because if you’re paying attention, failure teaches you, and then you make it. It teaches you to put in the time. Consistently. Over and over and over. And maybe that time gets you to the top of a climbing route. Or graduating from school. Maybe it’s finishing writing a book. Maybe it’s doing a lifting regime to strengthen your body, or a meditation practice to settle your mind.

Maybe most importantly, failure teaches you that things aren’t alright, and they never will be.

There’s always going to be that new route that you’re not going to be able to do. And you learn to accept that. Or maybe you learn to accept your father’s judgments, because sometimes, people don’t change. Or maybe it’s facing up to your own faults, accepting yourself so that life stops being a competition to win, and instead it’s an opportunity to learn. To help others. To spread the love, instead of hoarding it all for yourself because you just can’t afford to let any out.

And even if you don’t make it, you know something now. You’re no longer a spectator. Because you’ve put in real, intelligent effort, and you have skills that the consumers and the critics who are only watching may have some idea about, but they don’t really know like you do. Because you decided to wade into the mess.

Congratulations. You’re no longer afraid to get dirty, afraid to fail, or too lazy to try.

You are in it now.

And this is where life gets good.

TED Talk Tuesday: Social networking isn’t so social

Sherry Turkle hits a little too close to home:

“Across the generations, I see that people can’t get enough of each other, if and only if they can have each other at a distance, in amounts they can control. I call it the Goldilocks effect: not too close, not too far, just right.”

I don’t even have a smart phone and I’m getting sucked in. The instant companion, the reassuring presence of people in my texts. They’re there, but not too close. Technology is good at providing what we want. But not what we need. Sherry describes it well:

“…I believe it’s because technology appeals to us most where we are most vulnerable. And we are vulnerable. We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy.”

Isnt it true? The prickly pear. The conversation with someone that seems like you’re peeling an artichoke to get to the goodness inside? Well, that’s ok. TV and movies has us thinking we need to have the perfect response and the right gestures, but that’s not life:

“Human relationships are rich and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And we clean them up with technology. And when we do, one of the things that can happen is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We short-change ourselves. And over time, we seem to forget this, or we seem to stop caring.”

It’s time we recognize that using our smart phone isn’t so smart sometimes. It’s time we unplug. If the cell phone is making you happy, by all means, keep it up. But if it’s not…? If it’s just calling you back to the instant connection to everyone and no one, the intimacy that feels good, but doesn’t satisfy, then it’s time to listen to Sherry:

“Technology is making a bid to redefine human connection — how we care for each other, how we care for ourselves — but it’s also giving us the opportunity to affirm our values and our direction. I’m optimistic. We have everything we need to start. We have each other. And we have the greatest chance of success if we recognize our vulnerability.”

I was confirmed at Catholic mass



I attended a Catholic mass last Tuesday and heard the Bishop of Columbus speak. He said something that has changed my view of religion in a deep and meaningful way. In fact, after he confirmed the class of young people, he confirmed my formula to power.

In conclusion to his talk, the bishop said that unless you know, love, and serve God, you cannot be happy. I found it important that he concluded by mentioning the key to personal happiness.

So God brings us happiness…but how?

I thought about this and realized that God has absolute power. We do wrong and he tells us to accept him as having this power and he will take away that sin. Fault is our feeling from doing wrong. If God takes away that fault, we can be happy and that’s the only way we can be happy.

So why are people, both Christians and others, still unhappy?

Christianity is misused. Some followers rely on others for their connection to God. Their minister, their priest, other authority figures. But Chrisitianity tells us we need a personal relationship with God.

There is another misuse: We help others before we help ourselves. We feel good about ourselves through these actions, but Christianity tells us that the crux of finding happiness isn’t through our actions, it’s through recognizing we make mistakes and are imperfect. And this knowledge, not action, is where we must start:

We must accept ourselves

Religion fails -rather, WE fail- when we jump ahead of this state of mind: We fail as Christians when we think going to a church and giving to others will make us happy. We cannot be happy unless we know ourselves. Knowing God and knowing ourselves is the same thing. The saying God is love makes sense: When we know God, we love ourselves despite being imperfect.

But God cannot accept our guilt, only we can. The Bishop did not say God knows us. He said WE must know God. That’s why when we’re unhappy, it’s not God’s fault. It’s our fault. And once we accept this fault, we accept responsibility for ourselves. We lose that ego, we lose that worry. We become free and empowered.

Once we’re free from worry, we immediately become connected to others, because we see that everyone else is imperfect, too, and we’re not separate from them. And we see that when we don’t help them, it’s like not helping ourselves.

Freedom and connection are the consequences of accepting our imperfection. And freedom is happiness.

The Bishop was correct that we cannot be happy without knowing, loving and serving this idea: Accept your imperfections.

I thank the Bishop for confirming this in me.