Audio eLesson_2015-0119

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There’s a time for rest and a time to act. When it’s time to act, we need to do it courageously. The warrior is an archetype for rallying our courage when we need to act. It’s the role we act through to meet stressful challenges. Warriors are impeccable hunters of personal power. They know power only manifest itself when we act. To be an impeccable hunter of personal power, to be courageous, requires us to understand how the mind interferes with our search for power.

I served in the Army in the late 1970s, with my first duty station in Korea. I was a newly commissioned officer, a Second Lieutenant, assigned to lead a platoon to defend the American Sector of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), which splits North and South Korea. The American Sector includes Panmunjom, where negotiations take place between the countries.

Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current North Korean leader (Kim Jong-un), began making serious threats to invade South Korea. The situation was intense during negotiations at Panmunjom and in the American Sector we patrolled. To say that I was concerned would be an understatement. I was fearful and expressed my fears to my platoon sergeant, Sergeant Rosario. His response to my fears was unexpected.

Sergeant Rosario said: “Let them come. If they do, I’ll be able to put a star on my CIB (Combat Infantryman’s Badge).” Sergeant Rosario had earned his first CIB in Vietnam, and he’d earn another one, which is awarded by adding a star to his first one, if North Korea attacked. His response demonstrates what it means to apply ourselves to challenges through the vehicle we’ve chosen. Soldiers, that embody the warrior archetype, desire to apply their skills. They want to be tested and they know they’ll only be tested by applying their skills in war. War allows them to hunt power and become powerful.

Life is not about staying in our comfort zones; it’s about engaging challenges so we can become powerful. Not powerful in the sense of having more power than others. Rather, personal power; power that gives us the ability to act. It’s through action that we are courageous.

The main thing we need to do to be courageous is not label stress as bad. Labeling stress as bad expresses the mind’s desire for comfort. We can seek comfort when it’s time to rest. But, when it’s time to act we need to welcome stress. Labeling stress as bad also labels challenges as bad, which sabotages our ability to act and learn. Without stress we don’t learn, grow, or become powerful.

The first thing we need to do is to make a conscious choice, choosing the vehicle we’ll use to seek power. This vehicle needs to be one that resonates with us. We choose it not because someone else has also chosen it; we choose it because it personally “speaks” to us. In other words, we feel intrinsically motivated to choose that particular vehicle.

Making a conscious choice means we understand it’ll be stressful and we welcome that stress. If we choose to be soldiers, then we welcome the stress of fighting, killing and being killed. Yes, we also welcome being killed. Being killed is the consequence of being a soldier. Accepting the full impact of the consequence sharpens how we use our attention. Death forces us to focus our attention on fighting well, not on saving our lives. If we choose to be climbers, then we welcome the stress of exerting effort and the consequence of falling. We don’t avoid falling; we embrace it. Learning how to fall helps us understand the consequences, diminishes fear, and helps us focus our attention on climbing. Whether soldiers or climbers, we embrace the stress and the consequence.

The second thing we need to do is to train, to develop our skills in the vehicle we’ve chosen. If we choose to be soldiers, we go through all the training the military provides. For example, we don’t just do the basic training required to become an infantryman. We take advanced training, such as Airborne School (paratrooper training), Ranger School, etc. If we choose to be climbers we don’t just learn the basics, like belaying, movement, and safety. We learn all the skills required to meet challenging climbing. We take advanced training from experts for improving our physical and mental skills.

The third thing we need to do is to apply our skills. Training and applying are different. Training doesn’t include the seriousness of the consequence; applying does. If we choose to be soldiers, then we seek out combat opportunities to apply our training. Combat includes the consequence of death. Facing death cuts through weaknesses and reveals subtle defects in our physical and mental training, and provides opportunities to become master soldiers.

If we choose to be climbers, then we seek “combat” in climbing: climbing challenges to apply our skills. These challenges might be tall mountains, big walls, or short boulder problems. Challenges need to push us to the edge of our abilities and beyond, so the consequence of falling manifests itself. Facing the consequence of falling reveals subtle weaknesses in our physical and mental training, and provides opportunities to become master climbers.

I wasn’t conscious of what I needed to accept when I chose be become a soldier: to fight, kill and be killed. My mind expressed its lack of consciousness by thinking that having a battle with North Korea was bad. It desired the comfort of peace. Sergeant Rosario helped me become conscious by responding in a different way than I expected. That different way of responding hit me hard at the time, creating a memory I’ve never forgotten. However, it’s taken time to understand what he meant. It’s taken working with the Warrior’s Way material to put his response into a helpful context.

We can embody the warrior archetype to act courageously whether our chosen vehicle is soldiers fighting or climbers climbing. Remember, life requires us to engage challenges so we can become powerful. Warriors hunt for power by embracing challenges. By consciously choosing our vehicle, developing our skills, and applying ourselves, we embody a courageous approach to challenges. If we do this, then we’ll live the life we’ve chosen…consciously.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. John A Murray

    l have enjoyed your books and lessons for a long time, they are clever and informative; but l don’t like the analogy of climbing being like soldering. lt is true that to be effective soldiers have to manage fear and maybe even relish their task. Learning fear management for leisure however is just that. lf don’t accept the situation, l can back off.

    Preparing to kill involves shutting off basic human qualities irrespective of the right or wrong of the situation, not something l could personally do. l understand the comparison, but its not applicable in my case. Preparing to box /wrestle in a contest might be a better analogy.

    As always a thought provoking text.


  2. Clay Sykes

    I just see the military linkage as a very thought provoking way for Arno to make his point. It certainly got my attention and pulled me in to read this. As I’ve got many, many more climbing days back behind me than in front of me, I tend to read/think/apply these insights into my business life much more so than climbing these days. The concepts and lessons are 100% as relevant to my business challenges, which is even further removed than climbing from any physical risk or visceral experience that would be associated with those of our honored military who step up and answer the call to duty. Thanks

  3. Tom Beck

    Challenge and battle/war are not equivalent. I have come to welcome challenge; especially in climbing. When called upon to soldier up and kill other human beings for a political or economic idea, I refused; that act took courage.

    I see climbing as dance. A friend called it performance art. For me to do it well, I often find myself at the edge and beyond my physical, mental and emotional boundaries (what I think you call comfort zones).

    In no way is climbing the same as fighting but it can be struggle. In no way is it destruction but, for me, to find that space of being in the moment I have to push past fear and uncertainty; even now, especially on the first lead of the day.

    As always thanks for your thought provoking text.

  4. Raelinn

    These responses are interesting. The material is the “Rock WARRIOR’s Way” and for me a lot in line with “The Art of War” which also teaches me valuable lessons in both climbing and in life. It is more about facing death and executing important teaching without hesitation in moments that are potentially life and death situations.

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