#16 – What can you learn from climbing on rocks?

Climbing around on rocks can teach you unexpected things about life and about yourself.


Hey, everybody! It’s Matt Hsu from Upright Health and welcome to Episode 16 of the Upright Health Podcast. Today, I’m going to be talking with about two lessons I learned while climbing on rocks. I’m going to keep this pretty short because I am short on time these days. I have been working, as you may know, very hard on the FAI Fix. That is an e-book supplemented with a ton of videos to help you troubleshoot pain, discomfort and mobility problems with your hips, so that you can get your life back again.

This is a project that I’ve been working on for quite a while and I’m very excited that it’s almost done. It’s looking like it’s going to be done by the end of March like I had planned. And I’m really excited by the prospects of being able to help so many people: (1) understand that surgery is probably not a good answer for hip pain and hip mobility problems; and (2) to help people solve that problem. So look out for that. The website is not complete but I will share that with you when it is good and ready, so keep your ears open for that.

Now, a couple weeks ago, I went with a couple friends to go run around some rocks and jump around on boulders and just climb around like a bunch of ten year olds. We had a spectacular time. We were just sprinting around, jumping up and down on rocks, climbing rocks. It wasn’t exactly bouldering; it was just sort of, from what I can tell from my research, it qualifies a class 3 kind of hiking-ish. So, we were just, no ropes or anything; nothing fancy, just good mobile shoes and our bodies climbing around on rocks.

So I was with two friends: one’s name was Henry and one’s name was Mountain. We were running around on these rocks, and the three of us have… we have pretty athletic backgrounds. We’re all relatively in shape. And we like to do fun stuff, so we would try climbing on these rocks and approach these different steep angles and try to get ourselves up and over these boulders. And we learned one really important lesson that I wanna share with you today. And it’s important because of not just, you know, bouldering but because of how it would apply to your regular life. It was a lesson I did not expect to learn, but I think it was a really important lesson to have learned.

So we kept approaching these different challenges. We’d ran into these situations where were trying to climb higher and higher on these rocks, on these boulders. And we all had different body types, and we had different strengths and weaknesses. One guy, Henry, is extremely strong. Tons of muscle on him. Just an incredible athlete. And so he had that body type. My friend, Mountain, also very strong. Very lean, very mobile. But he had a bag, kind of like a… I don’t know what you would call it, just a man bag, but a small man bag slung around one shoulder and around his chest, that kind of changed his balance point and effected what he was able to do. And then there’s me who, you know, is just incredibly, incredibly good looking. And you know, I have my own body type which you can see online when you watch my YouTube videos. And you know, we’re all a little bit different height. One of us is taller; one is shorter, a little bit leaner, a little less lean, whatever. So we all had our different backgrounds and different tolerances for risk.

And so at one point, we were climbing up these boulders and my friend Henry started going up this path to try to get up over these boulders. And I was watching him and I thought, “Oh my god, that’s crazy! That’s just too hard. Whatever you’re thinking, I’m not doing that.” And you know, I said, “Why are you going that way? Over here is the easy way.” And Mountain was like, “Yeah, that way does look pretty hard.” He was having very similar thought. Like, “Wow, the way that Henry is choosing looks really, really difficult.”

And so I went and I went up a different path and I made it up. Henry made it up. I turned and looked at Mountain and I said, “You know, I think actually every way looks difficult unless it’s your own.” And we both kind of looked at each other and then we all looked at each other and we thought, “Holy cow! That’s an important lesson to learn.” And I think it has a couple meanings, right? When we’re trying to give people advice, we’re trying to tell people how to do things. It’s very easy for us to think that the way that I did it is the way that you are going to do it. And that’s not really going to be true, right? The way I have solved my own hip problems — the specific path that I took – is probably not going to be exactly the same as the paths somebody else is going to take, right? So the interpretation of that thought, I think for me was actually pretty profound, right? And I think it can be very useful for others to think about. Just because it works for you, doesn’t mean it’s going to work exactly the same way from somebody else, right?

The other way that I was looking at this idea was that every way looks hard, except when it’s your own, if you look at that as a statement of how you choose to live your life, if you’re choosing to try to follow a plan that somebody else has out for you or do it the way somebody else thinks you should do it, it will probably look — and also feel — pretty hard. And so when you’re looking at what you’re doing for yourself, you need to think, “Well, are you really doing it the way that plays to your strengths? Are you following a path that you can really follow in an authentic way without having to feel like you’re changing who you are?” So there’s those two different ways of looking at that idea that I think, you know, the three of us were really fortunate to have come upon together. It was really a great experience.

So the next week, I went out to try my hand again at just clambering around on some rocks and boulders. And I was standing in front of a pretty vertical wall of rock. And I want to be clear; I’m not the bouldering master. This is all very new to me. The reason I’m even sharing this with you is because I think by sharing with you, it will actually encourage me to go out and learn to do this better. But in any case, I was standing there, staring at this wall and I looked at it and I thought, “Oh, that must be for rock climbers.” This was a vertical wall. There’s a little crevice here, there appeared to be no places really for somebody to just free climb. You couldn’t just grab a hold and just kind of scamper up. So I looked at it very quickly and I thought, “Okay, well, maybe if one day, I wanna try rock climbing, I’ll come back to this thing. I’ll have a harness and all that stuff and come with somebody who knows what the heck their doing and that will be much safer.”

And then I walked away and started looking out at other rocks, played around with other rocks. And then I came back and there was a guy with his wife (I believe his wife or his female climbing partner), and they were having a quick conversation. He was looking at that same wall and his wife was like, “Oh yeah, the last time you just went like here…” and she was just basically pointing at different holds and then saying, “Yeah, I think you just went up through that crevice.” And he was like, “Oh, ok. Got it.”

So he just… he had a backpack on and had some gear in his backpack but he just went straight to the wall and put one hand here and another hand there. Got his foot up onto a hold that I… you know, there was like a little foothold that I hadn’t even seen before. Put his hand here and got another crevice, started wedging himself, pushed up, pushed up, grabbed another thing, went up higher and then next thing I know, he’s already at the top of this wall. And I looked at it and I thought, “Well, that looked like something that was completely impossible to me.” This was a shear wall; you can’t go up that thing.

And what I realized then was that I had taken a quick glance at the wall and simply assumed that it was not possible to climb that wall. Because I had made that quick decision and I had made that assumption, that there was just no way to climb that without any equipment, I stopped looking for a solution to that challenge. And I realized that if I had simply approached the wall thinking there is a solution, a solution would have eventually presented itself.

Now, I ended up climbing about halfway up that wall. And I actually had some guidance from a guy who was standing down below, who had climbing experience, and he was pointing out different ways I could try to maneuver myself. I made it about halfway up the wall, and then decided that the lesson to learn had been learned. And that before I really made a concerted effort to get all the way up the wall, I should get some climbing shoes and a safety crash pad so that I would have some small amount of security and assurance that I would be able to, number one, make it all the way up and number two, make it all the way back down without hurting myself as a total rookie and inexperienced beginner. But the lesson was learned and I wanted to share the lesson with you.

The idea is to really keep your eyes open when you face a challenge. Assume that there is going to be a solution available if you are willing to look for it. That is I think something that I’ve talked about in other ways, is to really set unreasonable expectations for yourself; to believe that you are able to do things that may seem like they may not be doable with your body, in your life — whatever it is. Set high goals, assume that you can reach them and then look for the solutions, look for the bridges that are going to get you there.

So that’s the second lesson that I have learned from my very, very, very, very short exposure to you climbing around on rocks. And I hope to learn many other lessons as I climb around on more rocks. And I will, of course, share them with you. In the meantime, I hope you remember that pain sucks, life shouldn’t.


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