I clung to the wall, almost 45 feet off the ground. Nothing separated me from danger but a rope and a trusted friend, Bob Neuman*, who was on belay. I didn’t notice I was so high on the wall until I could no longer hear Bob’s advice. When I tilted my ear toward his 6’ 2” frame, my gaze caught ground for the first time and I could barely see him!
At the beginning, I said, “On Belay?” To which he replied, “Belay On!” This exchange allows the climber to confirm the belayer is in position and paying attention. Through complex combination of knots, harnesses, buckles, and carabiners (one of my favorites words), both the climber and the belayer are connected.
One ascends with strength, picking and choosing a path to the top. The other stands firm in strength, adjusting the rope slack and locking it off to prevent a fall.
In addition to learning how to make a Figure 8 Knot in a rope no thicker than my index finger and capable of towing a semi-truck, my climbing experience mirrored real life limiting beliefs:
- Vanity (needing to look good) keeps me from taking chances and learning. Frankly, I was a bit nervous about climbing and delayed scheduling the event by a couple of days. “What if I look bad doing this?” I wondered. Newsflash: taking risks isn’t always pretty! Because I am very inexperienced, I didn’t really deserve to look good on the wall. When we elevate “appearances” higher than learning, we don’t grow or have new experiences, like success.
- Performance Identity (needing to do well) keeps me from being in the moment or even granting myself periods of rest. I sprinted to the top of the wall only pausing to plot my next move. I was so distracted by my goal which was apparently “get to the top as fast as possible”– I failed to realize how much I was enjoying myself. When we identify our success by our level of performance, it is hard to truly experience the moment or allow for needed rest.
- Doubt (needing to be good) keeps me from moving through “the crux.” Bob warned me of the crux: the most challenging point of a climb. …And a perfect metaphor for our professional difficulties! When I faintly heard, “You’re at the crux!” I feared being stuck there forever or having to rappel down. It took me more time and more thought to move beyond that point, but I was able to climb through it (using a grip on an adjacent wall– something outside my immediate view and off the path). Small delays or disappointments don’t imply we are destined for failure or that we can’t prevail. Solutions may be outside of our easy reach.
After my feet were solidly on the ground again, I realized how safe I felt on this… this huge wall. I was able to focus without worry. I was free to explore without concern for my safety thanks to my trusted colleague on belay (who literally had my life in his hands)! What is the impact of vanity, performance identity, or doubt on your business or professional contribution? Where can you be on belay in your work?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She hosts global masterminds, called Synergy Groups, for REALLY BUSY Christians leading with powerful confidence and humble hearts. She works with high-performing leaders focused on organizational effectiveness by refining strategy, inspiring teams, and delighting clients. Michelle specializes in the areas of information technology, project management, franchise management, and business as mission. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 22 years.