On the Rocks

I spent last weekend in Boulder, Colorado rock climbing for the first time in years. It was a reinvigorating weekend with a dear friend who had first introduced me to the sport.

I reflected on why I love rock climbing so much and how many parallels I find to entrepreneurship. So many of us are climbing steep, unpredictable and unforgiving walls – and the more innovative and groundbreaking the concept, the steeper those walls are.

Looking up at the wall of rock in front of me, I became breathless and a little weak in the knees. I felt it would take a minor miracle to scale to the top. However, as I made my first move onto the rock, I concentrated on the next move: the next spot to put my right hand, followed by my left hand, followed by my right foot, followed by my left foot. I focused on what was in front of me, literally one step at a time, and found opportunity for the next move, even in the unlikeliest places…

The smallest ledge can provide stability as a foothold. Sometimes a small ledge provided more stability than a larger one that had unseen crumbling rock. Sometimes that small ledge took a few seconds to gain stability on. But there was always some support to find, and finding one motivated me to find the next one.

Trusting in my instinct – and then going for it with action – were the only ways I was going to get to the anchor at the top. Yes, there were some moves that took longer than others as I contemplated where that next step would position me. However, without a decision I’d be stuck on the rocks, and at some point, just making a move and seeing where it placed me made more sense than staying put. Also, the longer I stayed in one place, the more tired my muscles got from holding that one position.

The times I felt I couldn’t go up further were those when I was fatigued or got distracted. When I’m climbing, distraction for me takes the form of rounding an edge and seeing other horizons. At those times, I am almost immobilized by the sheer magnitude of where I am and what I’m attempting, a tiny speck literally scaling a steep wall. Fear starts to grip me.

At those times, I take a deep breath, focus in front of me and look for that next small step.


Posted: April 7th 2015
  • Jeremy

    Thanks or the post, it ties directly to what I doing as an Entrepreneur. The walls are steep. Only trust in instinct and action will allow me to reach the top. One move the wrong way can slip me into peril… Wait, why am I climbing this mountain by myself? I need a mentor (climb instructor) to be in this life threatening situation with me! Wow, I’ve been climbing this wall by myself this whole time… Thanks again! Very insightful.
    JGL gosmrt at geemaildotcom

  • Zack Parker

    Awesome post Jalek. I listened to your interview on This Week In Startups and I was intrigued to check out your site and learn more. Your blog reminds me a lot of a comparison I’ve made with my previous companies, which was comparing entrepreneurship to traveling. There are key lessons you can learn by traveling more, but regardless of your experience you will fall on your face over and over again. It’s difficult and you have to celebrate the small victories (like a bus arriving on time). That’s why it’s addicting though because there is always room for improvement. I can see the same challenges with rock climbing as you progress.

    Thanks for sharing.

    (Sent from South America while working and traveling)

  • Alana Tung

    I love that you climb! I’ve been climbing for the past year and am always looking for buddies. I love how thoughtful climbing can be, a true combination of balance, strength, strategy and a health dose of courage. Would love to climb with you at BKB one of these mornings!

  • Poetic…and brave! Beautiful analogy.