What we receive in climbing or life is directly dependent on what we give. We must give first before we receive. Yet, we can fall into unconscious habits of focusing on receiving before giving. This orientation usually causes us to be frustrated or disappointed when our expectations aren’t met. Frustration and disappointment focus our attention on receiving and diminishes our effectiveness. Therefore we need to develop awareness when we become frustrated or disappointed and redirect our attention toward giving. 

For example, I taught a clinic recently where a student became frustrated because she struggled and fell on a route. She had picked a 5.11 route and created an expectation that she should be able to do it. When she struggled and fell, she became frustrated. 

In a different clinic I had a student who was very afraid of falling. He participated in the falling drills but didn’t like the feeling of falling and made little progress. He created an expectation that the clinic should eliminate his fear. Since his fear of falling wasn’t eliminated, he was disappointed. 

Both of these students had created expectations centered on receiving an end result. The frustrated student expected to receive a successful ascent. The disappointed student expected to receive a fearless mind. Focusing on the end result and what we want to receive focuses our attention on wanting something for nothing. We want the successful ascent or the fearless mind (something) for no effort (nothing). 

These students require awareness. I talked with the frustrated student and used a bar-graph to help her understand that she was unconsciously focusing on receiving. I said, “The challenge is this high; your ability is only this high; what’s missing between your ability and the challenge?” She answered saying that the route was too hard; she needed to improve and learn how to climb 5.11. That missing piece required effort on her part and when she saw the bar-graph it made sense to her. 

I also used the bar-graph with the disappointed student. I said, “Having a fearless mind is this high; your ability to fall without fear is only this high; what’s missing between your ability and having a fearless mind?” At some level he understood me but was still disappointed. He was too identified with receiving the end result of a fearless mind from taking the clinic. He needed to make a shift toward processes and giving. Only then would he be patient with his learning process and focus his attention on giving effort. 

Getting frustrated or being disappointed means we want something for nothing. Most people don’t want something for nothing once they become conscious. They understand that all progress requires effort, sometimes a lot of effort, before receiving end results.

Practice Tip: Something for Something

 All learning requires effort. You can’t receive something for giving nothing. Align yourself toward giving something for receiving something. Keep it in that order. Do the following steps to achieve this alignment:

  1. Catch yourself when you become frustrated or disappointed. 
  2. Identify what end result you expected to receive that caused the frustration or disappointment.
  3. Redirect your attention to giving effort. Ask, “What can I give; what do I need to learn?” 

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Andrea

    I recently did a retreat with a teacher from India. He kept repeating, “the only way through is through”. Arno, your lesson aligns with my understanding of what I recently learned. I was hiking down from the summit of a local mountain. It was cold and the rocky path made moving quickly difficult. I knew that complaining would only drain my power and I had to keep moving and stay present. “The only way through is through” kept repeating in my head. So, I chose consciousness and stayed with the uncomfortableness of the situation, I kept my power in the moment and eventually the terrain became dirt and I had left the colder air of the summit behind. It was rewarding to move through and I am immensely grateful for the training that prepared me for any difficult situation. Your lessons are very powerful, Arno! I welcome challenge in my life because I know there is gold on the other side.

    1. Arno

      Nice application of the training Andrea. There is gold on the other side. And, there’s gold on the path itself. This is one aspect of the training I continually work to apply better. Walking the journey for its own sake is powerful. At the same time, it’s helpful to have a goal to guide us so we know where we’re going. Continue to practice. Arno

  2. Raelinn

    1. Catch yourself when you become frustrated or disappointed.
    2. Identify what end result you expected to receive that caused the frustration or disappointment.
    3. Redirect your attention to giving effort. Ask, “What can I give; what do I need to learn?”

    I LOVE these simple, yet not simple at all, practice tips. They really are DO-able and their beautiful simplicity is that you really can catch yourself in the act and modify your own behavior! Thank you again for a beautiful lesson that has applications not only in climbing but life in general!

    1. Arno

      Welcome Raelinn. Constantly come back to “simple, not easy” to guide our learning journey. Arno

  3. Dave Pfurr

    Arno, I just wanted to share this experience: After reading your “Something for Nothing” article with coffee and breakfast, I went out fly-fishing. There is one particular pool in our local stream where I have repeatedly seen trout–have seen them rising to feed on insects–but I have never been able to get any fish in that pool to take the fly, let alone catch one of them. So fishing that pool was a particular challenge. I considered: What could I give to the effort? Just approaching that piece of water, where the trout might be hiding–without spooking them–was a big part of it. I focused on placing each step carefully on the cobbled stream bottom so as to not create vibration in the water. I controlled my advance to move slowly and stay below the fishes’ angle of vision up through the water surface. In this very deliberate way, I advanced to within casting distance, then slowly lowered myself to a kneeling position in shallow water. Then, I focused on making my best, controlled casts and reaching far enough to land my fly in a small target area I thought most-likely to hold a trout, heading into the flow and waiting for food to come along. On one such cast, the fly hit the mark–got an immediate “take”–and I reacted to set the hook. At the other end of the pool, a fish thrashed wildly–most likely, a foot-long specimen of the wild brown trout that live and breed in our local creek. I say, “most likely” because the action was brief–and then the fish escaped me. But I was glowing with a surprising degree of gratification, anyway–and I believe it came from the focus, the awareness, and effort that I invested in tricking that fish and getting that strike.

    1. Arno

      Awesome story David. It’s true right? Not just one of those fishing stories people tell. Kidding you a bit here. Doesn’t it make the whole process of what you’re doing, in this case fishing, much more interesting and exciting? Nice application. You got “something for something.” Arno

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