How the Best in the World Make Decisions

By: Jim Murphy

“Within the climbing culture it means a committed lifer, someone who has embraced a minimalist ethic in order to rock climb. It basically means you’re a homeless person by choice. I live mostly in my van… every aspect of my life I try to manage as well as I can. I own very few things. I don’t spend money on anything except food and gas.” – Alex Honnold, world’s greatest free climber on the meaning of the term “dirtbag.”


  • The best in the world simplify their life based on one guiding focus.
  • Each decision has two crucial factors: rhythm and energy.
  • Every great performer keeps one foot in suffering and one foot in joy.

In the documentary Free Solo, Alex Hunnold is living out of his van, eating out of the pan that he cooked his simple meal in. He’s narrowed his life down to one thing: climbing. The day he became the first person in history to free solo (climb with no ropes) El Capitan, he was asked how was he going to celebrate. Go for a workout. Of course.

In North America, we’ve gotten caught up in busyness, in constant pursuit, but never knowing what we’re really chasing. Sprinter Harold Abrams talks about it here. This is the essence of chapter one in my newly released book, Inner Excellence: Train Your Mind for Extraordinary Performance and the Best Possible life. We lose our freedom, ironically, in our never-ending pursuit of more success and more stuff for more approval and more freedom.

In-and-out Burger has a mantra: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” In order to pursue our biggest goals and dreams with the most efficiency, we must eliminate a lot. Every time you say yes to someone or something (or order something online), you’re increasing the complexity in your life. This is not bad, it just needs to be examined to see how it impacts the energy and rhythm of your life and the things you want most.

“The drowning keep to-do lists. Soul survivors keep rhythms.” – Ken Shigamatsu, Survival Guide for the Soul

Most people live lives of constant reactions, their thoughts coming from their circumstances—what they see, touch and feel in their environment. The greatest lives are creative ones. Rather than waking up and responding to emails and constantly reacting to whatever is happening, they wake up to a set of specific routines, rhythms, and music that helps them feel how they want to feel, to live life based on their purpose, not based on what society says they should do or who they should be.

The people who have lived extraordinary lives—consider Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this Juneteenth holiday—kept one foot in suffering and one foot in joy. To share in the glory we must share in the suffering. We need to embrace suffering if we’re to do anything great, whether it’s the suffering of discipline, the suffering of compassion, or the suffering of pain and adversity. We must also learn that we’re all connected, all in this together, and when one group suffers, we all suffer.

For much of my life, the decisions I made were part of a constant pursuit of making my life easier and more enjoyable. This is a mistake. It creates a desire for more things, which brings more complexity and creates more clutter (a monkey mind). What I want to do now, what I believe the best do, is wake up and focus on the purpose of their lives, and what they can eliminate to make that purpose easier to live so they can be more present to beauty, more aware of possibilities, and be fully present in their moment-to-moment decisions.

What will it take for you to make your decisions open you up to more possibilities, and more aware of the beauty of your goals and dreams than you are of your limitations?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Love Jim
I’m writing this from Savannah, Ga in the courtyard of the Foxy Loxy Café.  I’m about to get some takeout from Sweet Spice, a Jamaican takeout joint from which I had the best Jamaican Jerk chicken a few years ago.

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