Don’t Get Older Get Better

It had been a rough night and It was definitely making the days objective seem like a bad idea.  This was the start of my birthday challenge.  We had rolled into the campground after 11 the night before, tired from the drive we threw our tents on the first available platform after checking in.  The first spot probably was not the best idea as we quickly learned when our newly adopted neighbors for the weekend rolled in yelling, Lets do shot.  I looked at Rich but we were both to tired to move to a new spot.  Our neighbors made it hard to sleep as they carried on til 2, then an owl howled above our spot for a few hours then a nearby rooster beckoned the morning, which was finally followed by near by dogs barking for a solid 2 hours.  So after such a restful night we were off climb as many boulders as years I had been alive.

It took a lot of work and traveling to a few locations but on that long day I did finally complete my birthday challenge.  Most people spent their birthdays indulging themselves, I tend to spend mine challenging myself. Doing things that are hard and making sure that the possibility of failure is there.  I really wanted to test myself.  In fact the next day we ran into my friend Clinton climbing and Summersville Lake and he said I just looked spent, which I kind of was after all the effort of the day prior. But it was worth it.

I first got turned on to the Idea of the birthday challenge by a series of youtube videos, the first was 35 , the other was a series done on Epic TV.  Both of them focus on climbing with a number relevant to your age, and I liked that.  These challenges are not easy when you are young and become even harder as you age, and require you to grow as a person.

However I don’t think your challenge needs to be solely focused on volume climbing.  Your birthday challenge is entirely up to you.  Find something that will test your skills, ability, endurance, courage.  Find out what make you who you are at the age you are coming to.  This is a good point to take a self assessment.

I also have a secondary birthday challenge I’d like to encourage everyone to take part in.  It stems around an article my friend shared with me that argued that time seems to go faster as we get older because less of life is memorable.  To me that was a bit disheartening, I want to live a life worth remembering.  So every year as my birthday approaches I make an effort to write out my top memories. Writing out as many as years that I have lived.  Furthermore if those memories involved someone letting them know that they were part of some of the best moments of the last year and so that they can hold on to those memories as well.

I encourage you all to build your own birthday challenges, and let me know what you end up doing.


The Problem of the Blank Canvas

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend who was working on a project for a friend.  They were supposed help paint a design on a table our other friend had made out of a slab of hard wood he had come a cross.  My friend doing the painting though was stressed out, and did not know where to start, they wanted to make it the best they could so they were worried about how to start it, and not make any mistakes.  They cared so much about the project the only the best would be an acceptable outcome.  The desire for the perfect outcome was actually hindering them from starting, because they did not want to make any mistakes.

Through out life we come across a lot of blank canvasses. They could be open field holes in disc golf, they could be climbing routes with a lot of different holds as options, it could even be a blank page for a blog post that you just keep putting off til you have just the perfect topic to write.

Standing in front of a blank canvas is always intimidating. We all want to do great things, but we just do not know where to start.  We also do not want to screw up what we have or make mistakes.  This is why you will often see people fret over which routes to take or how to begin, because there are many options and we do not want to make mistakes. Blank canvases are hard to start.

Maybe that is why we like things that have one way to do them.  The disc golf hole that has one line to the basket, the climbing route that has just the one sequence through the crux, or the training plan that tells us exactly what to do when to do it and when to rest.  Having one way to something takes away our anxiety of choice and allows us to focus purely on execution.  However life does not always make the routes we take so clear.

To me there is nothing more daunting than a blank calendar, to me this is the ultimate blank canvas.  I know time is finite resource and I sure want to make the best of it, and I only get one shot.  So in times like this I think to the way I have to play those open field disc golf holes.  I think about the end target where I want to be.  Then I have to pick the method to get there, and it is not always a straight line. Next I typically look out to the horizon and pick the place I need to start towards, then I have to fully commit to it the execution.

I think this is a helpful outlook to the open fields, and the blank canvases in life.  We pick and end destination for that part, then we need to visualize the path we are taking to get there.  We look to the future and the horizon to find our point to aim at, and then execute on the follow through.

In the end like with making a painting, or climbing a route, you need to pick you point of attack and just start. Not every painting will be a masterpiece, not every throw is an ace and we don’t send every route.  The important thing is to start, and that is the hardest part.


*the table at the top is the table my friend made.

Why we’re out there

I was talking with my friend Dan, and in between him hassling me into moving up to play in the open division disc golfing he was telling me about his approach to the game.  He is just going out and putting in on himself to go out and try to beat the course, and that got me thinking about why I’m playing, what I’m there to attempt.  I’ve had similar conversations with other people about their perspective on climbing and on disc golf.  Some people are in it for time with friends, some are chasing ratings and grades, others are out for the competitions.  So with all of these conversations its really got me thinking about what motivates me to be out there.

There are a lot of people who are strongly extrinsically motivated in their play.  There are a lot of people who are trying to get their PDGA rating higher or climb the next higher grade, and at times I have been one of those people.  I personally have found this mindset can leave you frustrated and limiting.  You put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform at a very specific level, and while pushing your self is good, when you have an objective goal that you can see how you missed and can be a little bit demoralizing.  When you see how far you need to go it can be a disheartening, and can rob some of the joy of your time out with friends because you’re so focused on your performance.

Chasing ratings and climbing grades has limited my ability to perform to my potential, and that is why I like Dan’s perspective about trying to beat the course. It is a good place to start to look for my personal motivations.   For him its not about other people, it is about an interaction between him and the environment around him.  Going out trying to perform to the best of his ability. The area I start to break off in my view is I’m not sure you can actually beat the course.

Its a common saying in climbing that the rock always wins.  You never really beat the mountain, it’s still standing, its more the mountain has allowed you to get up it.  Climbing routes and disc golf courses give you the opportunity to test your skills.  At then end of the day the rock and course are inviting you to come test your self and to play within what they give you. I have started to bring this perspective and approach into both my climbing and disc golf lately.

If you take the mind set of you are playing with the course or the rock, it makes it much less of an adversarial relationship.  Too me this perspective has taken a lot of pressure off me trying to beat something but more see the fun in the sport and adapt to openings.  It also changes your mind to look for what openings the course is giving, not what obstacles its putting in the way, much as in climbing you focus on what holds you are given not the areas there are not holds.

So for me personally the perspective of you get to play with what the course or rock gives you, helps to make it more fun, and also helps to focus on positives and has helped me perform a lot better in recent months.

let me know some of your outlooks and perspectives on the sports.

Sports: The Ultimate Form of Self Control

Lately I have been thinking a lot about self control and how that plays into our lives, and into our life pursuits. Normally when we think of self control we think about diet, exercise and delayed gratification, but I’ve been thinking about it in also the ability to control your body and movements.  Ultimately isn’t that what most of our activities come down to is the ability to control our own body, and minds.

A good example of this thought in disc golf would be a simple 28ft putt.  This distance is within the range of most players where they have a reasonable chance to make the putt, most have done it before.  However while they can make it, what it ultimately comes down to is the in the moment ability to control yourself to get the body to perform the way you want it to.  Its harder than it sounds thought to get all of those moving parts to be coordinated and timed perfectly, but when you have that control it all works well.

So how do we work on building control with so many moving parts of the body.  One of the best avenues that has worked for me is slowing down.  When moving slower it is a lot easier to focus on form, control and timing.  When you are climbing and have small delicate holds that require precise placement its always much easier to exercise the needed control when moving slowly, maintaining balance.

This does not mean to slow down forever.  Simply Slow down to dial in for form, timing, balance and overall feel.  Then as you dial in your control you can increase your tempo, power, and maintain the feel and control you built up while slowing down.

Another good tip is just to work on your own personal body awareness.  Having a sense of your own balance, body positioning, and footing can help you execute greater control. I was recently listening to an episode of Trainingbeta where Mercedes Pollmeier talked about how she improved her climbing by taking a summer off from climbing, and training and simply did a series of exercises around body awareness.  Improve your awareness leads to a better understanding of your body and thus a better ability to control yourself.

These tips helped me build more control accuracy and consistency over the past few months.  I hope this helps you get a greater feel of control over your movement.

When Did Win?

Did you win when you finally got your project? Was it when you hit the big putt on the last hole that won it?  Or did you actually win long before either of these ever happened?  We all love to win, to succeed to, to do well at the sports we love.  But lately I’ve been thinking the key to winning tournaments, the key to sending your projects is all of the work you put in before you ever get out there.

The old concept of reaping a sowing comes into play big time in this.  Tournaments, and climbing days are the times we a reaping the rewards of all of the work we’ve put in prior to that day.

You won when you committed to fieldwork instead of a casual round

you won when you made that 200th 15ft practice putt

you won when you kept training in the gym even when you felt weak

you won when you practiced instead of going out.

you won when you committed to working to get better

When you put in the work before hand, you feel confident, perform better and get to reap the rewards so much more.  Commit today, put in the work so you can enjoy it later.

Win today.

The Work Behind the Play

Yesterday I pulled into the full parking lot of my local disc golf course, which it was really nice seeing it full as the course had recently been re-opened after going through a major redesign that drastically changed the course.  I was glad that people were coming out to see the new course and its new layout and to experience it.  Among some of the people there I had heard some groans and mumblings about how it had changed and that the course was harder, that it was kind of unfinished.  As I heard these I wondered how many of them knew the real amount of work and labor that had been poured in by a small handful of local folks.

It is kinda like when you go climbing, it is very easy to take a lot of stuff for granted.  On a simple day sport climbing how much do you ponder the work put into making trails cutting the hated switchbacks, putting up access ladders, cleaning lichen, and moss off of the walls, putting in bolts, and maintaining the hardware on the routes.  There has been a ton of work put into a lot of our favorite places that we can easily take for granted.

We should take time to reflect on all of the behind the scenes work that make our play grounds great.  We should approach these areas with gratitude, thankful that they exist, and thankful for the people who care for and maintain these areas.  A lot of them do it anonymously, no for praise, fame, or money.  They take on these endeavours  out of love, love for the land, love for the community and love for the sport.  If you see or know any of these people give them a thanks, or better yet a helping hand in getting the work done.

I encourage everyone to take part in some activity to give back to your favorite spots.  Pouring yourself into a course or a crag give you a sense of agency, and ownership in the area, and helps to foster a much deeper appreciation for it.  Most areas have local organizations that coordinate clean up or trail days, to help maintain and even improve the land.  Not everyone maybe able to attend these or commit fully to such an activities so here are a few small suggestions of how you can help with the work behind the play.

-Clean Up Sticks: On wooded disc golf courses it is very common for sticks and branches to fall into the fairways every storm.  If you take an opportunity during rounds to move them to side or off the holes it will help clean up the holes

-Pick-up Trash: Cleaning up trash is easy and everyone can do it.  Normally we are out with pack full of discs or gear but we still have room for some trash.

-Clean up Graffiti: Some people like writing on stuff, but if you can clean it up it helps make the course just a bit bigger.

I want to end by giving a huge thanks to Chris Mahaffey and the SCDGA on all of the work they did coordinating the work on the Robert E. Miller disc golf course, and thanks to all those who put in time helping out.  Also a thanks to Dave Wolfrey for complimenting one of my previous blogs in person, good to know people read it.

Making and Keeping Memories

“Make sure to take pictures you will want them later.”

This past week, I was sitting in a meeting and I had a notebook with me.  Perusing through what random ideas I had written in this book I came across a few pages sparked my interest.  I had stumbled upon some writing I did while on a flight back from California, during the flight I wrote down everything I could remember from the trip I was just finishing up.  Good bad or seemingly insignificant I wanted to make sure I retained as much of the trip I could.   People talk about making memories, but what about keeping those memories.

Last month while I was in Bowling Green at tournament I got a message from my friend Don, “Make sure to take pictures you will want them later.”  I used to make make fun of people who always had their cameras out, or people who journaled about what they were doing, but in the past few months I’ve been switching my thoughts.  While I still think a lot of the staged photos are cheesy and really touristy, I do think photos can help us capture a moment, and when we see them we can remember the feeling and the experience around that single image.  A journal though helps capture thoughts, lessons, emotions with a lot more detail for you to glean insight going forward.

While the doing of the thing is fun in and of itself, the memories are what adds true value into our lives.  Memories give us last joy reminiscing telling stories, and connecting with other people’s memories is a source of long lasting joy beyond the initial event.  keeping track of memories also is a helpful learning tool going forward.  K.J. Nybo is known for having a notebook where he logs all of his shots on different course so he knows his tendencies, where he wants to play from, and where to positions himself.  Having a connection to the past helps us relive the joys and learn going forward.

How are you keeping our memories?