What does boxing have to do with climbing? A lot, actually. Or at least I think so.
I try to explain while weaving together a couple of stories in a new Dirtbag Diaries episode, The Pugilist (free download from the site, also free on iTunes). As I’ve written before, I love podcasts, and regularly download them onto my mp3 player and listen when I’m driving, or when I’m out for a gimp (I have a hard time just sitting at my desk and listening). Essentially, this episode is about fear. Being scared comes behind only failure and margaritas on my list of specialties. But I’m not alone. Everybody gets scared, and I don’t believe any climber – or any fighter – who claims they don’t. You should be scared. Fear comes in different forms – sometimes it’s more anxiety, like fear of failure without real consequences; other times it’s legitimate fear because the consequences are very real. We need fear, it’s important because it keeps us alive, keeps us alert, and, I believe, dealing with it challenges us and helps us grow.
The Pugilist is the most I’ve ever written or told, publicly anyway, about my past life as a boxer. I started boxing in high school and continued in college; it was huge to me then, everything, the way climbing is to me now. College boxing isn’t a big deal, though. It’s the same style as in the Olympics, but nobody in college boxing is good enough for the Olympics – for the most part, the top amateur boxers aren’t college kids. One thing that remains universal, though, much as with climbers at different levels, is the need to deal with fear and intimidation. I swear, the “ring walk” must be the most intimidating moment in all of sports. In many ways it feels similar to walking to the base of a huge alpine climb.
Sometimes little things help you deal when you’re teetering between a lack of motivation or debilitating fear – maybe breathing exercises, self-talk, humor, or, my specialty, just turning off my brain (seems I overdo it daily, though).
So, here’s the big spray part. I got this awesome email the other day, from a guy named Eric whom I’ve never met. He had a climbing trip planned to Mt. Kenya, leaving in a week. Didn’t look like it was gonna happen: “My partner was wavering, filled with fear. Today he sent me your podcast for the Pugilist. He is in.”
Hell yeah! Wow, how awesome. I’ve long thought inspiration is one of the coolest things around, and I get it from soooo many sources. It’s nice to return the favor on occasion. Now, granted, I know – before I get too full of myself, it might be pathetic and sad when a short gimpy guy can provide inspiration, but what the hell, I’ll take it.
This post reminds me of a guy who walked into a Catholic confession booth.
“Father, forgive me.” – have I told this one already? Not sure. Anyway:
“Yes, my son, what have you done?”
“Well, there were these two beautiful blonde sisters, and I slept with them. Both. At the same time.”
“You have sinned. Say 20 Hail Marys.”
“No way,” the guy replies, “I’m Jewish.”
“Well what are you telling me for?” the priest says.
“Oh, I’m tellin’ everyone!”