There is a real weird phenomenon that is ever present in climbing: the idea of caring about it. I guess you could say most athletes in most sports care about their own sport (why would you partake if you didn’t think it was fun?) but climbing is really strange as caring too much or too little really changes the game.
I recently stumbled upon an article that explained how most athletes that do their activity with a mantra of positive outcomes and enjoyment usually preform better under pressure. The opposite is also true wherein those who fear failure or don’t enjoy losing actually do worse overall compared to their own personal bests outside the competitions. I would cite the study at hand but obviously couldn’t find it so if you’re really interested maybe hit up google scholar or any other search engine.
“FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK” -guy who just fell off the proj
So you shouldn’t care. Caring is for losers. Actually, wait, hold up, no. That can’t possibly be true. How could caring, e.g. wanting to climb, make you a worse climber? Isn’t wanting something the basis for success? I would tend to agree that the best climbers that I know are also the most addicted and driven personalities that I know, and they very much do care.
In Dave MacLeod’s book, 9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes, Dave touches on something very important: if you make 4% more effort you may actually get 90% more results by the sheer fact that you are caring and trying. Basically, he poses the interesting hypothesis that pro climbers are only just 4% more driven than you or I who aren’t pros. That means being able to pry 1 more second on each try, one more burn on the boulder project and 3 more seconds on each hangboard session. His hypothesis is that these little gains result in giant leaps and bounds in performance.
Not only that, but trying (to care about sending, in other words) when something seems ‘too hard’ is very important too. One of the biggest mistakes I see time and time again is people who are obviously strong not trying hard enough. Being able to repeatedly be thrown off a project while continuing to care is so important to climbing, as it is the basis for hard projecting.
Maybe the fear of failure causes us to stop caring, I’m not sure of this, but failure and continuing to care is important!
Do you love onsight climbing and not projecting? Do you hate the idea of trying something more than once? Do you often look at climbs and say “looks too hard” ? Maybe it’s time to rethink climbing and examine if it’s worth more effort. Obviously, these aren’t the signs of someone who dislikes climbing but just flags to be aware of. Caring and failing are important tools in climbing. Not caring and never failing sets you up for slow or stalling progression.
Big egos. That’s what Dr. Dre rapped about in his seminal work 2001. It seems like climbing is very much aware of the hierarchy or pecking-order that is present in hard climbing.
However, this amount of caring will only serve to distract you and cause endless torment. Trying and failing and then being scared of failure is definately something that climbers can relate to. I still struggle with this idea, mostly at the crag or when projecting something that I have a limited number of tries on. You get the jitters of, “could it be? can i send this? No, this is too hard for me! the grade must be soft,” and you start getting physical manifestations of these thoughts. Over gripping, feet slipping, bad climbing.
Honestly, caring too much about climbing can be even worse than caring too little. I’ve often found myself stuck in spirals of torment when it comes to caring about a project too much. Being overly superstitious and wanting it to end. And in the end, I didn’t just become a better climber after sending it or feel amazing or overjoyed. I was just the same old person, ready to try something else.
There is no solace in any grade that I’ve found so far and no magic that I’ve been privy too in the harder grades above my personal best. Even if you send that hard climb, it doesn’t mean another wont be just as tough or even tougher.
There is definately a right amount of caring in climbing. Care too much, you will beat yourself up at every turn, making climbing a hell on earth. Care too little, your climbing enjoyment will fizzle into nothingness and you wont want to continue when your progress becomes stagnant. You may know where you are in the scale already, addressing it is important if you want to make this sport last.