What Bouldering Taught me About Business


I’m a huge fan of bouldering. It’s challenges both body and mind, forcing you to use energy wisely and maintain control of movement and breathing. Nimbleness and wit are just as essential as strength, an addictive combination for any problem solver.

While upside down in contemplation, attempting a meager “4” my friend had just completed, I began to consider that the nature of bouldering mirrors that of business.

As a climber, you stare at the bouldering wall, eyeing your different routes in the same way you would eye different strategies or career paths. Some clearly have higher barriers to entry than others. Others provide the same level of difficulty, but in a unique format. Each provide a challenge.

Once you get to climbing, the real parallels come into play.

Business can often like you’re clinging to a wall with all your might. Obstacles like delays, customer support snafus, or dealing with difficult team members can give that same sense of “losing grip.” Serious problems, like those that affect your financial wellbeing, gives the same pit in your stomach feeling as your about to fall.

And in the same way that these obstacles operate as the grips and holds for climbers, which can be mastered, so can the challenges you find in business.

Some are easier to see ahead, grab on to, and move on from, especially at the early stages. But with more difficult routes, you find that you need to use more than just wide-palmed strength to get you through things – you also need your mind. A failure to bring synergy to strength and technique ultimately means failure, and falling from the wall. What’s more, sometimes you just can’t master a hold until you’ve failed at it a few times.

It was there, when I was upside down and falling, that bouldering helped me then understand a key lesson in business:

Success requires both a mastery of many obstacles and dedication to learning, even if it means failing at times.

In the same way you cannot expect yourself to be able to master a difficult route the first time in the gym, you cannot expect to master difficult elements of business the first time around either. It doesn’t mean you can’t do them – it means you needs put in the time to learn the fundamentals of the hold, practice, and then execute.

Do you find any parallels in your life to the challenges of business? What are they and how have they taught you to advance yourself?