Lander Wyoming“To bring about real change we must disturb the balance, our status quo.” –Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Paul Sweatman

    I agree with the statement; I feel it is rather appropriate to both climbing and life in general. One of the first things I noticed while reading about Jason is that based on the description given, he was very focused on safety, not the other way around.
    I enjoy playing strategy games. One of the things I’m constantly telling myself is “if it isn’t working, do something different”. Two hard parts are evident here. The first is knowing it isn’t working… pretty easy when you’re climbing actually but not so easy in other things. The second is figuring out what to change and how to change it.

  2. Arno

    Paul, thanks for your post. Yes, knowing that what you are doing isn’t working is very obvious in climbing, but we all tend to get frustrated when it isn’t working and constantly look to “bend the situation” to what we think should be occurring instead of the opposite.

    Second, so, how do you figure out what and how to change your approach? What can you do?

  3. Samantha de la Vega

    In response to your question of how to figure out what to do and change approach, I think you said it in your initial comments: engage little by little. Instead of judging from the ground up – looking at the whole picture – which is often to big to grasp/solve, take small steps to engage the moves. This results in a change of view/perspective, and gives us new information, which often opens up other solutions.

  4. Paul Sweatman

    There’s a good question! What I attempt to do (notice that word attempt) is to pull out of the situation (get out of the box to use a colloquialism) and look at it a different way… change my perspective on the problem as it were. I think what happens much of the time is that I do try “to bend the situation”. When climbing, I can usually muscle my way through a problem which is not a great solution because it wears you down.
    An example of this is a lead climb I did this weekend – I’d give the section I was working on a whirl, see it wasn’t working, back off (or fall off) and study the situation, and try again. I was tired to start; by the time I finished that route I was done for the day. I will do the route again soon and try to apply my “lessons learned” to improve my climbing – but I need to get better at adapting as I climb.

  5. Roberto Reinoso

    One thing apart from safety that Jason took care before he did that climb, is the fact that he is understanding his world. As the article says, the thing is to change the way you see your world nor trying to valuate others. For me this is important because the clue to step up in front of a new path is, first of all, understand what you have phsysically, mentally and of course have clear what your aims are.Then step by step making your own way to express that to the world, and making others see you complete, trully, strong.
    For me, have been difficult to understand my world, my “battle field”, but now I’ve been improving my skills in climbing and realting with others, because I ‘ve understand my reasons to be as I am, and accept others and situations as they are because life draw faith lines like that.
    Just one question, how could I really silent my deep internal voice? that’s only a fact that been bothering me.
    Thank you

    1. Arno

      Hi Roberto, thank you for your comments. Concerning silencing your deep inner voice, I would suggest not silencing it. Rather, redirect attention from thinking to doing. Essentially, and I do this many times during the day, redirect attention to your senses and breathing. Simply pay attention to what you can see, hear, feel and the breath. Over time the inner voice will quiet, but it won’t be completely silent. Arno

  6. Steve Minchin

    I was interested to read your comment, Arno, that “knowing that what you are doing isn’t working is very obvious in climbing” – when I read the quote I was thinking of situations where the status quo is working, but it’s not working as well as a different approach could. My example would be that I tend to climb very statically and am reluctant to move dynamically even when I know the hold I’m moving to is a jug. I might have a sequence that works but it’s more physically strenuous than it needs to be – the pay off for me being that it’s less mentally strenuous. This means that the status quo is working well enough, I’m not falling, and I feel secure, but if I watch someone else’s sequence on the same route I may realise that my sequence could be improved.

    I find that I need to force myself to move dynamically, which begins by forcing myself to look at individual moves I’d otherwise do statically and recognise if they can be better done dynamically. So I guess the status quo for me is in two parts – the way I think about climbing, plus the way I actually climb – and both need to be disturbed.

    One tactic I’ve found which seems to work quite well when I’m stumped on a sequence is to try a series of left field, different ideas – maybe try to throw a toe hook in up there, or figure out a dodgy knee bar. This will definitely stop me from trying the same old approach, and even if it doesn’t quite work immediately it’ll often give me an idea that will.


    1. Arno

      G’day Steve, I like your comments about the status quo working and it blinding us to do things differently. Excellent point. I think if we are vigilant to look for new ways to modify what we do then we’ll be more open even when what we do is “working.” Watching with a curious mind when other climbers do the same route is an excellent way to do this. Knowing our tendencies and balancing them is another. We’ll touch on that in future blogs (in Prep chapter of EL).
      You say you need to disturb the status quo for thinking about climbing and actually climbing. I made a comment to what Paul Sweatman wrote: physically do things with your body to cause your mind to think differently. One suggestion was to look left/right, turn sideways. In addition you can climb in a way that interrupts your mind. Example: “confusion training” in physical exercise. Don’t do the same physical exercises otherwise you train muscles into rigid “comfort zones.” By mixing how you train you keep muscles more responsive and train them at a more extended level. Same for mental training: confuse the mind to broaden its adaptability to stress.

  7. Ruby Arens

    So, the important question remains: What can we do to change our approach. The few times I came out of a route and succeeded anyhow later on had to do with mindset.

    My husband and I always climb together and we mostly do safe trad routes. So it occurs that I take the lead first and chicken out (partly because I hope Sander will send it and I can just follow in my comfort zone). If Sander tries as secondly and gets stuck as well. I may feel I want to have a second go.

    Oftentimes it looks easier from the ground, so when I see Sander struggling I think he’s being silly and I can do better. Coming from this point of view I usually fail again.

    But sometimes I get convinced: I KNOW I can climb it and I know it may be awkward, but I like the challenge and will come out of it feeling great! And in that case I go for it, love the experience, and send it.

    What changed? My mindset. I get connected again with why I climb: flowing movements, overcoming fear. I know, it’s still not a handbook on “how to change your approach”… but this is what I’ve noticed.

    1. Arno

      Hello Ruby, Tell Sander I said hello. Can you be more specific about what you actually do with your mind or body to create this change? Arno

  8. Ryan Holm

    I respect Jason Kehl as a climber. He inspires me to climb harder. His “status Quo” has evolved into a “more evolved” status Quo as in not standard. Highballs are becoming more common in bouldering and almost turning into free soloing. (example Progression Buttermilks highball/Evilution) Do you believe Jason enjoys the excitement of maybe having some sort of consequence if the boulder problem is not executed? Does this drive him to try harder. I understand what it means to be inspired by a truly estonishing line even though I do not currently climb as hard. Has Jason’s Status Quo become his own Status Quo, therefore, giving him a status Quo that is “higher” than everyone else. I am not trying to be narrow minded or clever. Trying to ask just part of the whole question of this quote.

    1. Arno

      Hi Ryan, you bring up an interesting point about how changing our status quo actually morphs into a new status quo. I think this occurs always. What is different today becomes common tomorrow; what is stressful today becomes comfortable tomorrow. It’s a cycle. I think the main point is to keep looking for ways to modify even if only at subtle levels. Arno

  9. Coleman Ruiz

    I see “disturbing the balance” or the “status quo” as even more important in life than in climbing. A static river, or sitting water, gathers impurities and becomes stinky, static muscles atrophy, a static mind becomes stale — a dynamic, investigative, questioning approach to life is what keep us fresh and forces new ideas and experiences. Our minds, if not exercised properly, will never be able to adapt to the challenges of life, much less climbing. Enjoy the journey!

    1. Arno

      Yes Coleman. Definitely agree. We need to be vigilant and engage life mentally, physically otherwise we become stinky in many ways. Arno

  10. arno

    One thing you can do is physically look around. Look to the left/right. Physically shift your body left/right to help your brain “see” other options like lay-backing or side-pulling. The mind always wants to “get through” a situation. It wants the end and will cause you to muscle through to get the stress over with. So, always redirect attention to “processing through it.” Slow yourself down to allow breathing and relaxing to occur as you climb.

  11. Julian

    Hi Arno. With regard to your comment in response to Ryan, I have found this to be very true. I have just come back from a couple of months cycling through Europe and now the hills at home I consistently thought were long and steep are suddenly just a hill. While Im fitter now than I was, I think this change is also a result “disturbing my status quo” and challenging my ideas of what I though I was capable of. Similarly, I have read somewhere (more in relation to mountain biking than climbing, though the idea is easily transferable) that to improve, surround yourself with people who challenge your ideas of what ‘far’ and ‘fast’ are. Cheers, Julian.

  12. Ruby Arens

    To create the change from being negatively to positively motivated: I try not to be judgmental or in want of revenge. I try to let the love flow, easy as that 🙂 …
    I didn’t try it at the time, but thinking about it now, pulling the corners of my mouth up (smiling) while looking at the route would help. (a little trick from Anthony Robbins: try having negative thoughts while smiling)

  13. Grammy

    I’m joining the conversation a little late, but really liked what Samantha said ” Instead of judging from the ground up – looking at the whole picture – which is often to big to grasp/solve, take small steps to engage the moves. This results in a change of view/perspective, and gives us new information, which often opens up other solutions”. Again it pertains to the “why” we climb and what is our focus…process based or outcome based? For me, looking at it from a process point of view has not only helped me achieve some of my climbing goals this year, but brought back the joy of climbing which seemed to be lacking due to outcome based goals that I had set for myself at the beginning of the season.

  14. Miguel Gallardo

    Hi Arno! In regard to your comment to the first post I would like to add something. For me it is a motto to “think laterally”, to find a different way to solve a problem when it is eviden that you are not arriving to any solution. However I find it one of the most dificult things to do. You are tied to your personal values, the way you understand the world and your personal shortages; and all that it’s a burden that you have to overcome to free your mind and “open” your eyes. It is not an easy task but you can achieve a kind of habit in doing it so. It’s useful not only for life but for climbing either. If it doesn’t work with that hold, why can’t you use your foot and do the movement head down?
    Search for new ways, explore inside yourself.

  15. arno

    Hello Everyone,
    The next lesson will go out Monday. I’ll be doing these bi-weekly instead of weekly. I think we need 2 weeks to get enough dialogue and discussion before moving on to the next lesson.

  16. David

    Nice picture! Red Canyon sure is a beauty! I love the rock around Lander…

  17. Dan

    I should preface this by saying that I’ve just started climbing this winter so all of my experience is indoor sport climbing and bouldering, but one basic practical technique I’ve found useful for gaining new perspective on a route is to work it backwards. I take a look at the difficult area of the route and try to see the resting points above it. Once I think that I’ve spotted the resting point, I look to see what move from what position in the tricky spot would get me there, and continue to backtrack the moves from there. Usually I try to do this from the ground, but with bouldering you can often “down climb” the problem as well. I’ve also found that (just as when working a problem forwards) I’m most likely to ignore footwork, and often need to give extra attention to that aspect of it.

    Happy Climbing!

    1. Arno

      Hi Dan, This topic is about disturbing the status quo. Your method of working backwards seems like a great way to take a different approach which can lead to seeing and thinking of the challenge differently. In short, disturbing the usual way we approach a climb–bottom to top.
      Now, disturb the balance by focusing on footwork first and then handwork.

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