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Mindset Lessons from Rock Climbing for Business and Life

by Apr 23, 2021Business, Planning, Strategy

Running your own business or practice puts you face to face with yourself and your mindsets. By this I’m including your attitudes, tendencies, preferences, entitlements, and excuses. Business is a crucible through which you find out what you are made of and really believe about yourself, others, and your relationship to the world. Sometimes we take a look inside and we don’t find what we expect or want. When that happens, we can either face that reality and lean into our own transformation, or deny what the mirror is telling us and keep pedaling our own preferred, constructed version of reality.

The great thing is that life is actually full of teachers that can give us a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us. If we let them, they can help us fully become what we were made to be. I want to share one of my teachers with you: rock climbing. Yep, rock climbing. Go with me for just a minute while I explain.

For several years now, my son and I have been rock climbing about three days per week at Aesthetic Climbing Gym in Lake Forest, CA. We primarily do bouldering where no protection is used (ie. ropes). If you’re not familiar, boulder “problems” or routes are usually lower in height yet often more physically challenging than rope climbs. They are rated by difficulty from V0 – V17. You can geek out on boulder ratings here.

Now I’m a V3-V5 gym climber, considered “intermediate” by most standards. But it wasn’t always the case. When I first began climbing, I was … a beginner. Shocker, right? But I actually was kind of shocked, and that’s an important part of the story.

You see, my privileged upbringing and natural aptitude in various areas meant that relative success usually came rather easily. I didn’t have to try very hard to excel beyond or at least keep up with my peers. Now I’m certainly thankful for all the blessings I’ve been given by God and my parents, but ironically, so much blessing may have worked against me in that I didn’t need to develop grit, perseverance, or the patience to get what I wanted.

The more competent I was, the more and more I had to defend my competence and avoid activities that jeopardized my self-concept. This is textbook definition of a fixed mindset written about Carol Deck in Mindset. In contrast to growth mindset, a fixed mindset views challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism and the success of others as a threat.

And rock climbing (like business) can be humbling, even humiliating. When I couldn’t climb V3’s or V4’s or V5’s immediately, I was actually shocked and embarrassed, and my instinct was to stop trying to preserve my ego.

The practical problem with a fixed mindset is that you can never grow because you can’t risk failure – self worth is tied up in success, looking good, proving your competence, etc. instead of making progress. See how that works?

Now I’ll make a categorical statement: A fixed mindset just doesn’t work in business, not for very long at least. That’s because being a business owner thrusts you into complexity. It’s sink or swim; grow or die. You have to “go out there and get it”, creating something new in the world that wasn’t there before. It won’t come to you. Grit, perseverance, or patience are critical business virtues.

Image credit: https://www.brainpickings.org/

What’s truly needed for success in business and in life (and it turns out in rock climbing) is a growth mindset.

In contrast to a fixed mindset, a growth mindset is concerned mostly with progress, not perfection. It embraces challenges, mistakes, and even episodic failures because they are wonderful teachers to those with the humility to be instructed by them. These (among others) are some of the ingredients for a successful mindset.

After warming up on easy stuff, which problems you choose to climb is very telling about your mental and emotional state. Am I picking easy climbs I know I can easily send so I can look good in front of others? If so, I will not progress or improve, only maintain.

Am I choosing climbs that are a bit beyond what I know I can do? That’s surely the pathway to growth, and eating a little humble pie is required as I fall time after time in pursuit of accomplishing something I’ve never been able to before.

There’s a bumper sticker slogan that has become axiomatic in my life:


“What got us here won’t get us there.”


It means that the effort, knowledge, grit, and creativity that led to our current success won’t necessarily be enough to get us to the next summit. Or put another way, “yesterday’s home runs won’t win today’s ball games.” No, we’ll need to make changes. Innovate. Reinvent. Dig deeper. Sometimes we need to get stronger; other times our problem is our “beta” (rock climbing-speak for technique).

If your current goals are more ambitious than your last ones, you can be sure achieving them will require you to become something different – better, smarter, and faster than you are today.

Lean into a growth mindset. Try something hard. Keep trying. You can do it, eventually.

To get there faster and with more joy along the journey, intentionally put yourself in community with other entrepreneurs and leaders who can inspire and challenge you.

Set your goals. Be ambitious yet realistic. Everyone stumbles. Be open and honest about your shortcomings. It’s the quickest path to growth.

Finally, considering hiring a coach – it can go a long way towards keeping your mindset in the growth zone so you can become the kind of person who can summit the next peak. And the next one.

About Kevin Kru

Ambitious entrepreneurs and leaders can find themselves stuck, unable to advance toward their goals.

My passion is to facilitate transformation for my clients by combining a regular cadence of accountability with proven processes, frameworks, and systems.

If you are a coachable entrepreneur, business owner or team leader who is wants more for and from your business, don’t waste another moment. Contact me today.

Onward and upward!

– Coach Kevin

P.S. If you’re sick of being a slave to your business and would to hire a coach to help you in accomplishing your goals click on the button below.

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