A Real Fred Beckey: Expectation and Experience
Lately, I have found myself overwhelmed by the human pursuit of expectations and their subsequent validation. Whether it was in myself, clients, or friends every action was tied to some sort of qualifying statement such as:
“How close are you to qualifying?”
“Was that a PR?”
“What is my Wilks?”
“What was that course rated?”
The list goes on and on. When it comes to the validation of our efforts, we are quick to jump for the numbers. Our brain lights up when we accomplish a goal and our body releases that little shot of dopamine that lets us know we are “happy” and on track. So how could we not want to pursue this type of positive reinforcement?
I completely acknowledge there is a time and place for this type of motivation. Someone stronger comes along, and we cannot complete a route, or what if we simply are no longer able to perform at the crowd gathering level, then what? What are we left with when the superficial fades? What I have come to observe and believe is that those who only participate in sport of recognition eventually self-select out of the limelight and those who perform for love of the game last a lifetime.
On a personal level this evolution has consumed me over the last few months. I found myself burned out chasing a total. While I do greatly enjoy Olympic lifting, it’s not my true passion. As an athlete and person, my passion is for life. From an athletic perspective, this was not something I realized until I made the leap and woke up pursuing a completely different training lifestyle. I found myself gravitating towards multiple disciplines that allow me to experience life to the fullest, not locked away in the four walls of a gym. The more I allowed myself to detach from the concept of needing some form of external validator to qualify myself as an athlete the more I was falling in love with the process of each pursuit.
I began to adopt a Fred Beckey mentality. Fred Beckey was a climber and mountaineer who made a name for himself by through a myriad of first ascents across North America. He was a dirtbag living out of his car using the same recycled McDonald’s coffee cup for weeks at a time. Throughout his life he detached from societal expectation and embraced the authenticity of himself. For Fred Beckey, life was just about the climb. No, I did not start living out of my Subaru, but I did remove expectation from my training.
This became tangible when a small group of us had an opportunity to meet and climb with two elite level climbers. My friend and I sat on the crash pads watching the two of them jump two and from various holds with no rhyme or reason, they were climbing just for the sake of climbing. Of course, we were a touch in awe of their skill as we tried to absorb all the bits of knowledge and technique we could. We were goofing around and taunting each other to reach one move past the other. Not competitive at all. On one of the last goes he finished a color series we had been working on that wasn’t marked since none of the routes had officially been rated or named yet, and as he came down the last time, he looked to them and asked, “what would you rate that one?”, they courteously replied “why does it matter, just climb.”
Truthfully, I had always acknowledged myself as being a very present person. However, what I learned that there is a difference between being present in the moment and being present in the moment on an agenda. They had removed the need for a defined or quantifiable result and simply existed in moments. Although they both recognize a time and place for results, it’s not the primary motivator. This was the most valuable lesson of the day.
In athletics and life, we easily get tied into trying to shape and will an outcome that may or may not be meant for us. This is not to say that hard work does not pay off, it does. It does mean that the expectation of a single outcome limits the potential of the process. Once we learn to let go of expectation of validation, we can truly experience joy in the present.