What Separates the Best from the Rest: IX Discipline #4

By: Jim Murphy


Discipline #4: Imagine Glory

The key difference between the best and the rest is their ability to see what others cannot. More specifically, they envision possibilities and opportunities where everyone else sees same old, same old. 

“I mostly tried to give myself enough empty time that my mind would just naturally gravitate towards it. For the full month before I actually solo’d El Cap, I erased all social media from my phone… I stopped responding to emails for so long that I stopped getting any e-mails…” – Alex Honnold, the only person to ever free solo climb El Capitan

On June 3, 2017 Alex Honnold did what no other human had ever done, free soloing the greatest rock face in the world. How did he do it?  

Well, for one, he imagined the “performance” for years… how he would go about it, what route he would take, how he would overcome “the boulder problem,” and every other detail. For the year and a half before his solo, he really got “conscientious about it.” 

He also lived in what he called “the box” (his van) for 11 years prior to soloing. He ate out of the pot. He simplified his life to the very essence, perhaps like Thoreau described when he went to Walden.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”

This simplicity/solitude did something extraordinary for Honnold. It removed the clutter from his mind. It allowed him to dream. 

As we get older it gets harder to dream. We fail and get hurt, so we don’t reach as far or dream as big. Gotta protect. The ones who live extraordinary lives are the ones who still dream. They dream because they believe. They believe because they dream. They dream because they’ve cut out all that was not them, eliminating distractions.

Honnold explains how he was able to visualize his dream:

“[With enough empty time] my mind would just naturally go to the things that I needed to think about on El Cap.

I find it really hard to intentionally go, “Now I’m going to sit down and visualize for an hour.”

What I need is just five hours in an afternoon with no plan where I can just like lose an hour or two sitting there being like, “Hmm and then the left hand and then the right no.. the right hand first and then the left hand and then…”

You know just have some time to think about it.”

The extraordinary ones who dream big dreams (and live those dreams) have strict boundaries around their lives, because when you have big dreams, you can’t be scattered. It takes a whole heart to dream big dreams. A heart cluttered by too many thoughts and too many distractions cannot dream. To be all we can be,  we need to get dialed in, then we can do what others have not even dared to dream. 

What do YOU need to do (or remove), what boundaries do you need to enforce, so you can get dialed in, so you can dream?

Here’s to nurturing your dreams. 

Love Jim

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