I know I have talked a little bit about this subject in the past, but I am always impressed when I see it in action and so I am again going to talk about it in a little more detail today. It is amazing to me how many people believe that success is limited, and that if someone else succeeds that somehow makes it less likely that they will succeed. Because of this thinking often we see people sabotage each other trying to increase their chances, or simply not helping each other when they could, preferring to watch others struggle thinking we are somehow getting ahead in the meantime.
This weekend I had the opportunity to watch quite the opposite. My sons participated in a bouldering competition on Saturday afternoon in Fairbanks. Bouldering is climbing without ropes, no more than 15 feet high, with large mats underneath to catch you when you fall, because you will fall, even if you complete the route. My boys have become quite good rock climbers and participated for the first time in the most competitive division available – the men’s advanced division. This is the only division that has a finals round, the rest just total points and hand out awards based on those points.
Prior to the finals however, there are 10 routes in this particular competition with a 2-hour timeframe to complete and/or attempt all 10. There are points for different positions on the route, this is determined by the gym. They all start at 5 points a few holds from the beginning, some have several points in between, in 5-point increments, this particular competition just had the 5 points in the middle and 10 if you completed the route. There is a lot of excitement in the air as the competition begins and people start climbing all over the gym. There is no particular order, but it becomes apparent fairly quickly which routes are the easier ones and which are the harder ones. The climbers mark their scores on an honor system which is way different than any other sport I’ve watched.
Sitting back and watching however, there is a unity in the air. Everyone knows they are competing to make it to the finals, but that doesn’t prevent anyone from helping or cheering on their competitors. You are not allowed to give advice to a climber when they’re on the wall, but before or after a climb you can discuss, and there is never a shortage of discussion. More experienced climbers take time to visit with new climbers, giving advice and suggestions how to hold holds, where to put your feet, and lots of technique options. Climbers who are obviously going to make it to finals and compete with each other will stop and talk about different routes, different techniques, and ultimately, when they’re on the walls, they cheer each other on. I watched this as one of my sons climbed to the last hold of one of the hardest routes in the gym, and as he was about to the last hold the entire gym stopped to watch, and yell and cheer. It was amazing to see all these people, previously strangers, unified in their desire for someone else to succeed. I saw that happen over and over again with climbers all around the gym. All the climbers experienced the highs and lows of each other together. Again, amazing to experience.
Success is not a limited commodity. Any and every one of us has the opportunity to succeed based upon our work and effort put forward to do so. We may not all succeed in the same ways, but we often aren’t looking for the same things. Some want money and things while others want minimal possessions and more experiences, and then there’s everyone else in between as well. But we can all cheer each other on all along the way, knowing that by supporting each other we don’t reduce or limit our ability to succeed, but we increase ours and everyone else’s chances of success as well. I am grateful for the rock-climbing community that my boys are a part of and what they have taught me about success as well as how to support each other in all situations.