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[Photo by Keith Binder]

One fine October day, I received a text from a friend saying, “Hey, anyone want to go to the Red with me in two weeks?”

Um, seriously? Ask me a real question. OF COURSE I WANT TO GO TO THE RED! It’s been like 3 years since I touched that heavenly sandstone!

I was so giddy I could hardly stand it, but two weeks wasn’t much time to prepare for the Red, or any worthy climbing destination for that matter.

It had just started cooling off in Austin to the point that I didn’t feel like I was melting outside. I had only been back out for about 3 weekends, and I wanted to ease back into things.

But life never happens according to plan, and I couldn’t rightly turn down a trip to my favorite climbing destination in America, so I agreed to go to the Red with ZERO training or preparation…. because I make awesome life decisions.

Tickets were booked, rooms were reserved, cars were rented – it was totally happening. We were going to the Red for 6 days.

The first day started out great. It was raining, but we spent the day at Bibliothek wall, an overhanging wall that stays mostly dry in the rain with tons of 11’s to climb.

The plan was to spend a day on moderates so that we could acclimate to the area and the different style of climbing, but funny things happen on trips when you don’t have time to prepare for them…. you don’t typically crush.

A Lesson from the Red: Letting Go of Ego and Expectations

I think one of the biggest barriers in any sport is keeping your ego in check, and I’m not talking about bragging or arrogance. I’m talking about the expectations that you have for yourself.

I’m talking about the arbitrary goals that you have in your head about how you should perform in a given situation. I don’t have a scientific study to prove it, but I think we all have these perceptions about ourselves – some more positive than others.

What separates us is how we react to those expectations when they don’t go according to plan. For example, I am the absolute WORST in this entire area of life. As you might recall, I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I feel like a complete failure when I fail. Makes sense, right?

My boyfriend, on the other hand, has a different view about failure. He wants to climb anything and everything in sight, regardless of the grade. Everything, I tell you. He actually enjoys climbing on the granite slabs at Enchanted Rock, which we all know are death traps.

The point is that grades really shouldn’t matter that much. Of course it’s nice to track your progress and push your limits, but not at the expense of your self-worth.

I was legitimately upset with my performance because I didn’t have the endurance to climb any 12’s in my time at the Red. I onsighted and flashed a couple 11’s, warmed up on the 10’s that I used to project 3 years ago, and got to climb in some really awesome caves, but I still felt like a failure.

I let it get me down for an entire day until my boyfriend finally asked, “Who cares what grade you climb?” It seemed like an obvious answer… me. I care what grade I climb, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the grades didn’t matter.

I was worried about what other people would think of me. I wasted SO much energy worrying about the thoughts of strangers instead of enjoying my time in the Red River Gorge. Remember what I said about making awesome life decisions? Winning!


So next time you start feeling down on yourself, just remember these three things:

  1. Comparison is the thief of joy.
  2. Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner.
  3. Just try to have fun out there 🙂

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What helps you keep your expectations in check?


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