Alex Honnold is an extreme athlete. This 26-year-old climbs mountains for a living. He lives in his car and gets by on less than a $1000/month. He climbs mountains taller than the Empire State Building, and he does it without any ropes or harnesses. You need to see him climb.
There’s a lot we can learn from Alex Honnold, and a lot that we, as artists, recognize as familiar. (Beyond the low income.) He has a gift. He is doing what he loves. Others may call him crazy, but he lets his unique, individual passion drive his life choices. He has big, scary goals. He makes and lives by his own rules. When he climbs, he is present in every moment, and he takes one moment at a time. Regardless of your field, this is what we should all be doing.
When asked about how solo climbing feels, Alex Honnold says, “It’s not an adrenaline rush. If there was a rush, then that means something is wrong.” Is every class I teach perfect? Absolutely not. I can think of many moments that have brought on those alarming rushes of adrenaline. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about how you respond to those challenges. As a recovering perfectionist, I’m replacing that unattainable PERFECT standard with a new goal: being present in each moment, and responding to it one moment at a time.
The balance of energy and serenity that Alex Honnold exhibits as he solo climbs up a mountain face is a physical representation of what I feel when I’m teaching. When I am truly present, anything outside the four walls of the classroom and the group of young people it contains is irrelevant. That headache I had before class? Gone. The endless to-do list? Out of my mind. Teaching brings me a kind of joy that I haven’t found in any other activity or possible career path. This joy inspires, centers, fulfills and challenges me. That’s why I do what I do.