Beyond Beta: Five Lessons I’ve Learned on the Wall

In the rock climbing community, the term beta refers to information about a climb, which may also be called a route. Beta can include anything from a route’s rating of difficulty, style, or length, all the way to specific hand, foot, or body positions needed to successfully complete the climb.

For those who are new to climbing, it might seem that utilizing effective beta is the quickest way to improve as a climber. I certainly thought this was true when I began climbing almost two years ago. While understanding and using correct beta is of immense value, the mental rather than physical aspects of the sport are often just as, if not more, important to successful climbing.

Over the past year and a half, I have learned five valuable lessons that take me beyond beta to a deeper level of understanding of myself. Both as a climber and as a person, these lessons have helped me consider who I am and who I want to be, and I find them applicable both on and off the wall.

  1. Comparison is the enemy.

In climbing, just as in life, the people next to us are seldom equal to us in skill. On rare occasions, they might know less than we do, but far more often, we find ourselves surrounded by those who are miles more experienced. Compare yourself to others and you are sure to board a one-way flight to failure. Yet, the lesson I have learned through climbing is not that we should isolate ourselves from those who are more accomplished in an attempt to feel confident about ourselves. Indeed, I have learned quite the opposite. Dr. Daniel Rose, my professor and academic advisor, loves to remind his class, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” In both climbing and life, this saying rings true. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, never compare yourself, and be humble enough to learn from the knowledge and wisdom of others.

  1. Give encouragement and seek out encouragers.

If you read my blog “Handling Criticism: Five Lessons from the Great British Baking Show,” you probably remember me stressing that encouragement is an important ingredient for success. This fact is true of anything that we set out to accomplish, but it is especially true on the wall. Not only must we seek encouragers, but we must readily give encouragement ourselves. As in life, you’re not likely to succeed as a climber unless you intentionally surround yourself with people who desire to see you succeed.

  1. Your mind will hold you back if you let it.

When allowed, the mind can and will shackle the body. There are so many temptations, in life and in climbing, to view tasks as impossible to accomplish. For example, take the ratings of routes, which in a typical climbing gym range anywhere from 5.6 to 5.13. These ratings, while in some ways helpful, may also hold climbers back if they allow themselves to dwell too long on them. Rather than rating the difficulty of the mountains we must climb, both literally and figuratively, what if we chose to free our minds from these shackles and truly believe that anything is possible with enough faith?

  1. Fail often and always try again.

Failure is a part of life, and it is definitely a part of climbing. If you’re not failing, you’re doing something wrong. Never be afraid to push yourself to the limit. In both climbing and life, try a harder route, take the road less traveled even when there is no map. And, when failure comes your way, dedicate yourself to getting back on your feet, dusting yourself off, and trying again. I have found that my greatest achievements on the wall, the routes I am proudest of completing, have come after a long, hard struggle for success.

  1. Talk to the person next to you.

Our days are filled with so many people whom we have the opportunity to talk to, and yet, so often, we choose to remain isolated. This is especially true when climbing. In a climbing gym, there are many people crowded together in a close vicinity, each struggling toward the same goal, yet there is still such a temptation to find your route, get in the zone, and stick to yourself. Perhaps the most treasured lesson I’ve learned on the wall is that, sometimes, the greatest joy in climbing is talking to the person next to you. In climbing, just as in life, every person has a story. So the next time you’re sizing up the wall or sitting in the break room or waiting for class to start, take a leap of faith and reach out to the person next to you. You never know the joy that this simple act might bring.

It has been far more difficult than expected to put into words all the passionate thoughts and feelings I experience while climbing. However, for both climbers and those who prefer to keep their feet planted firmly on the ground, I truly hope that these five lessons encourage you to shoot for new heights both on and off the wall.

Written by Meredith (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Thank You, Dirk

basket ball rack

Attached to this post, you will see two pictures. One is of a basketball hoop in the driveway that I have literally spent thousands of hours in, and the other is of a poster that has hung in the same place in my room for roughly 12 years. Neither of these things probably mean anything to you, but if you know me, you know that they mean a great deal to me.

Dirk Nowitzki was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks on June 24, 1998, and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks that same night. This was roughly four months before I was born. Not a second of my life has gone by where Dirk has not been a forward for the NBA team that plays its games roughly 40 minutes from my hometown. I have literally not known a life without Dirk being the centerpiece of the Mavericks.

It is now April 10, 2019. I am nearing the end of my sophomore year of college, and Dirk has officially reached the end of his NBA career. I understand that getting sentimental and emotional over sports can be real weird for some people, but just allow me to explain.

I have always been an incredibly anxious person. Growing up, just talking to people became almost like a nightmare. I was constantly in my head about the most minuscule things, and the thought of initiating any sort of conversation with people, in general, can still cause me to just freeze up. I love listening to people, but having full-length conversations has generally proven to be difficult for me.

But, there’s something about basketball that completely relinquishes every anxiety that I have. Every time I step onto that driveway, or any sort of court, all my energy is focused on getting that round ball into the hoop. Fear, doubt, stress, anxiety, all of it fades into the background. Basketball has been a safe haven for me, and I have no idea what I would do without it.

dirk poster

The poster that you see here was purchased at a book fair (I think) around the year 2007. Admittedly, I don’t really have any basketball-related memories before that point in my life, except that I loved the sport and I thought Dirk looked really cool on the poster (which is just a fact). As I got a little older, I started to gravitate more and more towards him, but not simply because he was the star player on my favorite team. He was a tall, lanky white guy with messy hair. I was/am a tall, lanky white guy with messy hair. He had a more low-key personality off the court. I had/have a more low-key personality. He wasn’t really all that athletic for the majority of his career. Lord knows I have never been that great of an athlete. He was this larger-than-life figure that I looked up to, but I saw a lot of myself in him, even as a child. Naturally, I spent hours upon hours trying to perfect his moves (to the point of getting called “Baby Dirk” in middle school, perhaps my proudest moment lol).

More than that though, I got to build some level of confidence in myself because of what I could do on the court. I still was pretty bad at holding conversations, but if we walk onto the court or start talking about hoops, there was some sort of transformation inside me. I had this newfound boldness in me that I hadn’t seen anywhere else. It’s like basketball, along with sports in general, has this language that automatically brings people together. It’s so bizarre that you could have nothing in common with an individual, but the moment you two step out onto the court, you are connected. And for someone who always felt like he had trouble connecting with people because of anxiety, this was huge for me. I started to form real relationships. Ministry opportunities started to arise. Basketball has been steadily breaking down the walls of anxiety that I have, and Dirk is the main reason for that. I had somebody to look to when it came to my game, and that opened so many doors for me.

Even more than that though, Dirk has been an incredible role model off the court. We’ve entered an age in the NBA where players are constantly looking for how their organizations can serve them. It’s an era where if a player is unhappy with the service they are receiving from their team, they are encouraged to find a team that will give them what they want. While I understand where players are coming from (as organizations may strive to take advantage of their players), I think this “me-first” mentality can build a really toxic environment around your team, your organization, and even your city. I think when you look for how you can serve your team, on and off the court, you build such a tight bond with everyone around you, regardless of team success or individual accolades.

I think when you look for how you can serve your team, on and off the court, you build such a tight bond with everyone around you, regardless of team success or individual accolades.

Dirk has been an incredible example of a player with a “team-first” mindset. He has taken far too many pay cuts in an attempt to give the Mavericks more flexibility in signing bigger stars. He has done so much for the community of Dallas, including an annual celebrity baseball game that supports charity and dozens of visits to local children’s hospitals as “Uncle Dirk.” He even gave up his starting role this season so that younger players could flourish sooner.

If I’m being completely honest, I could talk about Dirk for ages, but I’m not going to do that (kinda already have lol). I will just leave with this: Thank you, Dirk. Thank you for giving me confidence where I had none. Thank you for being such an amazing role model for so many young kids like me growing up in North Texas. Thank you for beating Kobe, Kevin Durant, AND LeBron all in the same playoff run; that was sick.

Thank you for 21 incredible seasons.

Thank you, Dirk.

Written by Ryan (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

Thompson, Ryan. Thank You Dirk Post. Facebook, 10 Apr. 2019, 10:02 p.m., https://www.facebook.com/superzjryan. Accessed 12 Apr. 2019.

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