Think-Play-Send: How Climbers Solve Problems

” Years of personal climbing experience, countless climber surveys, and psychological research all point to mental strength as the most influential factor in whether a climber succeeds or not. Your body might be strong and willing, but if you don’t have an equally strong and willing mind, your body has nothing to guide it. The good news is that you can train your brain just like you train your body.”

Change how we approach a problem by first isolating the things we can improve on, and then making it a good habit to practice it. (Problems refer to the path that a climber takes in order to complete the climb.) In our path to mastering a skill, (in my case, rock climbing) we normally don’t take time to assess our weaknesses and things what we need to improve on. We often forget it’s journey. That’s when I realize, climbing, like any skilled behavior, is learned.

Solution: Be patient with ourselves and with how we approach problems. Thanks to Climbing.com, rewrite the mental scripts of climbing into these 3 simple steps: Think, Play, and Send.

Think

This phase is all about the beta: “analyze your climbing for areas where you can improve. Self-examine and gather input from others to figure out the skills to focus on and develop that will improve your climbing.” Most climbers are very fixed on doing a problem 10 times, changing a foot hold or trying a drop knee, continually failing and burning their physical strength. This step encourages us to spend more time analyzing our actions and reflecting on our climb.

However, most of us don’t like to hear that we have things to improve on. Sometimes, our fear of being challenged  propels us to get defensive, letting our egos negatively affects how we climb. We have to let go of our own egos, ask for help and simply listen. Climbing is a humbling experience. Climbing at great heights requires us to manage our egos.

Play

Before Alex Honnold approached the base of El Capitan for his free-solo attempt, or any route, he recreated a beta map in his head and could visualize every single sequence. Doing so, he was able to rehearse each move over and over.

Visualization is part of practice and play. When approaching a problem, climbers tend to visualize the overall image first. Once the human brain can perceive patterns, we allow our brains to react speedily without much thought. These actions are automatic, efficient and quick. This also prevents human errors from entering the equation. They require little conscious effort, allowing us to conserve valuable resources: attention, consciousness, and working memory, which are intimately linked and very limited.

“One of our greatest adaptations as humans is the ability to learn, to practice, and to turn intensive tasks that would usually take up the entirety of our working memory into automatic, scripted tasks.” The objective of play will not be about performance, but the repetition of movements or thoughts that will rewire our brain and make climbing a sequence automatic.. This method of repetitious practice is called over learning. Doing so, we are able to reliably produce it under pressure, and experience less anxiety. No judgement here is allowed when we are playing, just ask kids.

Send it!

That’s one of the things I love about rock climbing. Despite toying with our fears, we are able to shut our brains off. Constant practice and repetition replaces having to think through each move. Our bodies automatically perform the moves without any active thinking. Finally, we put the skills to the challenge. We solidify new habits that we created by applying it to the real world. Queue feelings of emotion and excitement.

By continuing the Think-Play-Send process with other weak spots in climbing, or in life, we are able to improve our performance and really be less forgiving of ourselves and have more fun along the way.

Step One: Believe in Yourself

That’s what I’ve been working on right now. After a successful first week transitioning to Austin (finding an amazing apartment, landing couple of interviews, exploring the trail and going to great tech meetups), I found myself going into a job interview for the same job that I had prior. Long story short, it made me very discouraged as I considered a job with a higher pay but lower spirits.  I was reasoning to myself that “I can finally afford that woven chair that would look good in the patio.

But I realize, I wasn’t listening in my goals and desires nor did I believe in myself.

What does it even mean to believe in yourself?! Right after the interview, I called my friend/mentor to calibrate my spirits. A simple reminder than I am inspiring and I am worth it is enough. But to be reminded that I belong in the same room as much as everyone else is necessary. I can be part of the conversation! I don’t have to be a fly on the wall. I may be just a beginner, outsider, minority, or whatever, but those are just labels created to put me down. I believe in myself.

Self-doubt has a way of rippling outwards, perpetuating the closed-loop of more doubt. That paralyzing and greedy inner voice will do what ever it takes to devour confidence and leave no room for logic nor reason. ending the happiness that we worked so hard to realize and achieve.

When we fall outside of our comfort zone or strive to do something great, we fall out of invincibility. We stop believing in our worth.

I’ve been learning how to tame this beast called self-doubt. It starts by being present. Take time to pay attention and listen to how we feel and how we react to things. With a little understanding, self-knowledge and confidence, we start to understand the root causes of our insecurities and take the necessary and active steps to address our fear.

As a consultant in my old job, I learned that there are always ways to do something better. Everything has an opportunity for growth, even in ourselves. Especially in ourselves.

Unemployment aka this darn thing I once called gainful sabbatical, in all it’s beauty, has its ups and downs. I’m learning how to be patient with myself, really listening to the reasons why I quit my job. Yes, that means not returning back to my old job. Give myself some time to breathe. Realize that everything in life comes because our believe that they are possible. I’ve come this far. We’ve all come this far!

So make that necessary trip in front of the mirror and repeat after me: I believe in myself and I am a strong independent woman who belongs in spaces and conversation that I put myself in as much as anyone else. I believe in myself, therefore I make things possible.

Max Out Minimalism

When the Montreal-based clothing brand Frank and Oak rebranded to replace it’s serifs with sans-serifs logo last year, their creative director writes, “it’s a design approach that confidently stays out of the way when it needs to.” Oh boy, has the world been too burdensome?

You’ve probably seen them all over Instagram or online retail shops. The minimalist branding filled with an abundance of white space, sans-serif and and the friendly soothing doodles in brands like Glossier, Outdoor Voices and allbirds. Being a millennial myself that recently just moved in Austin, TX yesterday, I see this everywhere and even more so now. The grocer shopping at Whole foods with a canvas reusable bag, doing exactly what athleisure means; the small coffee shop near the chaotic boulevard filled with white walls, wood finishing, the absence of any geometric corners and sources single-origins beans from small farms in Burundi; the embodiment of succulents and cacti for self-expression; fast food giants like Cousin Subs and Panera rebranding to reduce any bold, serif fonts and loud colors for sobering clean lines, geometric shapes and primary colors. More brands are rising with minimalist marketing approaches and straightforward customer service, trying to counter any noise that has been established by large corporate identities in decades prior.

After all, we are a fidget spinning, woke feministing, anxious internetting generation trying to find some any pockets of calm and playful humor away from the bullshit of our lives and the clutter of our busy schedules. And I think there’s an opportunity that we can take from all this minimalist branding: it makes me want to scream!

We are drawn to these brands that have taken extra measures to strip away the layers and are good for the environment and the soul. But in end of the day, we are inherent consumers who need to constantly feed our egos. We are human, after all. Sometimes, we need a reminder that other people, cultures and causes exist, we can’t be too sensitized and avoid our problems. That’s why I love the grunge of New York City. When all this minimalist trends, like most trends, begin to die down, it is because of our impulses to express ourselves: to be bold and be loud and be human. 

What’s your cabin in the woods?

Today is the first day of what I am calling “gainful unemployment” until I find a better name to call it. I brewed a bigger batch of coffee, finished packing for my move to Austin in 3 days, and consumed 5 episodes of a new podcast about modern art called “A Piece of Work”. It was a Monday unlike any other Mondays.

I am taking some time to unwind. Giving myself the space and time that I had been clawing for. No more building anxiety from having to fit in learning how to code after work hours, no longer committing myself to a suffocating work that I couldn’t find motivation in. I am learning to do the things that I want to do. I can be ideal in this little cushion that I have given myself.

“I can be creative again,” I told myself. I can take my time. Learning how to feel feelings, take on projects, explore the newness of a new city, feel its energy, be inspired by exciting people, sit in silence, just read all day, create, learn, sweat, sleep and repeat.

Climb that mountain, but keep going!

There’s a lot of be learned from Alex Honnold’s successful free-soloing attempt of Yosemite’s El Capitan in 4 hours. This guy really sees the world differently and certainly has no fear.

In his interview with Nat Geo, he described most of the things during his climb as “ultra-chill”, “super chill” or just overall chill. “I didn’t feel that stressed because in a way I had already committed to autopilot and just put everything aside,” he noted on the base of El Cap. His strategy was to treat it like “a super normal day”. He was not phased by how much of a big deal it was. He didn’t even tell his mom (because “She’s really bad at differentiating between free climbing and free soloing.”)

The biggest thing I took away from following his journey was his humility.He had been working on this dream for 4 years, training and familiarizing himself with every pitch and every hold. Although knowing him, everything he’s done so far probably contributed to his accomplishment.  Summiting El Cap was not the end and certainly was not a reason to retire for rock climbing. 

During his climb, he was already thinking about his next goal (sport climbing 9a) and the importance of the US staying in the Paris Accord. He focused on things that was beyond his current limits, as though his current goal is a stepping stone to the next. And it is. You’ve got to keep going. Remind yourself of the bigger issues out there. Focus on achieving the best version of yourself. One day at a time, you can work to anything you set your mind to. See where life takes you on the other side of fear. And maybe, try not to die along the way.

For now, I’m just happy his next project involves ropes. Thanks for being a true inspiration, Alex Honnold. 

“The whole pursuit of this dream has allowed me to live my best life, that makes me hopefully the best version of me. Just because I’ve achieved a dream doesn’t mean that I just give up on the best version of me. I want to be the guy that trains and stays fit and motivated. Just because you finish a big route doesn’t mean that you just quit.”

Are Coding Bootcamps Worth It?

$14K. That’s the price of the coding bootcamp that I was accepted to. That’s the price of quitting my current job as a consultant, applying for more loans to add to the current student loans I have in order to successfully pivot away from my career in healthcare finance and finally follow my creative passion in web development.  I never typically prescribe myself into traditional pathways to success. I was always limited by my means and learned how to thrive within my restrictions. However, I was able to reason to myself that $14K was the price of liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As the dust of decision making starts to settle in, I am submitted by how far I’ve come (I got accepted to a coding bootcamp) and how many times I have been declined of loan application and payment programs. These are not news to me. I’m used to this by now, I tell myself.

I’ve never doubted the decision to go to a coding bootcamp, but the financial realities of paying for it has set me back to reality. Is it really all worth it?

We have two ears and one mouth

I tend to be cut and dry when it comes to learning certain things. I can say I’m a pretty good listener but being an effective listener was another. It didn’t help to have a very logic/analytic brain that I’m quick to problem-solving and not thoroughly aware of the fact that I opine unwantedly and completely be blind to the emotions.

With the help of an actual lynda.com Effective Listening course, I was able to dissect the conversation I had with my partner last night and realize the true focus of the problem. Yes, we had an argument and I took an online course to be better listener. It helps! There are appropriate ways to respond to a speaker and demonstrate how to listen effectively.

Knowing what my strengths and weaknesses were in comes to listening allowed me to focus on the true intention and purpose of listening and start creating good habits.

  • Always and primarily paraphrase the content and emotion of what the speaker has been talking about. Being able to offer a quick summary is the easiest way to show that you have been actively listening. Don’t focus too much on the details, and ask frustrating questions. Don’t make it about yourself. The speaker has been vulnerable enough to come to us. Don’t be quick to criticize and provide advice without being asked. We are always trying to learn something from what the speaker has to say.
  • It’s important to clarify your role as a listener at the beginning of the conversation. Asking the speaker “Do you just want to vent?” or “Are you asking for my advice?” can help us be the listener the speaker needs us to be. We have to be aware of our mental filters, before we start prioritizing what we need to know and start criticizing them about the things that don’t fully align with our thinking.
  • Mirroring is the best way to empathize. By  listening and paraphrasing what we listen to in the similar tone, body language, we start to fully understand the speaker. By sitting in the same posture as they are, we can relate to the emotional state of the speaker.
  • Silence is golden. The quieter you become, the more you can hear. When we sit there in silence, we are to say “I am here with you 100%”.
  • Practice, practice, practice by deliberately practicing we can be effective listeners. Or else, it’ll be really emotionally straining. GUH. Like me rn.

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