"I Didn't Want it Bad Enough"
Your goals aren't free. Here's how to muster up the courage to pay the price of achieving them:
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I lap the parking lot twice before I can find a parking spot. It’s a Friday night, so of course: the climbing gym is packed.
I stroll in, scan my member tag, stretch, and tug on my tight pair of La Sportiva climbing shoes. Almost every cubby lining the walls is crammed with gear.
A large group of climbers sits in front of a semi-circular section of wall. The bright colored holds pop like neon against the slate-gray backdrop.
No streaks of shoe grime or caked-on layers of chalk; this is a brand-new set. The route setters haven’t even graded them yet — which is fine by me. Sometimes those pesky little difficulty ratings have kept me from pushing myself and trying harder climbs, just because I feel like I’ve yet to reach that next level.
I join the other climbers on the mat, studying the landscape, trying to scope out something worth attempting.
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I settle on an absolute mess of oversized slopers and volumes, and start chalking up. Before I can approach the problem, another climber from the group stands and walks toward it.
He brushes back his mop of hair and grabs the starting hold.
The man reaches for each new plastic boulder with deliberate precision, testing their strength with a tug before fully committing to a move. Before long, he misjudges, swinging away from the wall and falling back to the floor.
The instant the first climber hits the mat, a second is standing up to take his place. This contender makes it a little bit farther — drawing cheers from the crowd — before tumbling off the problem.
It’s my turn now.
I copy the moves I’ve seen twice now, moving smooth and steady to preserve my strength for the stretch of the route I’m attempting blind.
I reach the spot where the previous contender fell.
There’s a huge expanse between me, and my next good handhold. I jam my toe into a lumpy piece of plastic below me. With the extra tension and support, I can lean a little farther.
“Almost!” Someone yells up at me from the group of onlookers.
My fingertips brush the next hold — an enormous side-pull. So close.
The farther I lean, the more unstable I feel. My leg shakes from the prolonged tension.
My foot slips straight off the wall, dropping me about six feet down onto the crash pad. Before I can even get to my feet, another challenger approaches the wall.
I gather up my wounded pride and return to the semi-circle, watching the next climber’s attempt. He skirts across the wall like a spider, stopping right before the move that caused me to fall.
He reaches out with his toe tentatively, as if he were using it to check the temperature of a pool. The climber applies light pressure to the foothold, hesitates, shakes his head, and jumps from the wall.
“Awkward reach, huh?” I ask as he passes me to rejoin the circle.
He shakes his head, causing sweat-soaked orange hair to stick to his face. “I just didn’t want it bad enough to try that reach tonight.”
Evidently, no one else did either. Cowardice seemed contagious, and for the rest of the night, no one got farther than that move.
“I didn’t Want it Bad Enough”
There are great reasons to come take part in a crowded night, to bathe in the high-energy of a group trying to solve a new set.
A waiting crowd forces you to throw yourself at a problem without overthinking
Strangers egging you on can provide great encouragement to give it your all
Different approaches on display stop you from getting stuck in a rut
Watching a chain of people try something is exciting when each does a little better than the last. It gives you hope that you’ll be able to take the knowledge won by those before you, apply it, and press on even farther. Maybe you’ll even be the lucky one to reach the top.
But there’s a downside as well.
Watching a chain of people try something is depressing when each one reaches the same point and fails. It takes away your hope that you’ll be able to get any farther. After all: if they couldn’t do it, why should you be the lucky one to reach the top?
The first question you should be asking is the same one posed by that other climber: “Do you want it bad enough?”
Overcoming a challenge requires a lot of things: tact, creativity, strength, problem solving— but above all, persistence.
If you don’t want it bad enough, you’ll never be willing to put in the time it takes to develop the skill needed to overcome those obstacles.
There is no better feeling than being the person that cracks the problem everyone has been working on, believe me.
I approve! Well done.
I used to climb years ago, back in college, but found over time that exposed routes and elevation were creating more fear than enjoyment - I could say about climbing overall that "I didn't want it bad enough." I've turned to other sports since then. But I think "not wanting something badly enough" can be a great way to help us discern what to pare away in our incredibly busy lives. It's ok not to want something enough - hopefully it means you just want something else more.