I’ve been a climber in some way, shape, or form since around late 2007. It’s kind of part of the Seattle community, and coupled with my love of the outdoors, I suppose it was always meant to be. In 2009, I took the Basic Alpine Climbing course with the Mountaineers to learn how to climb real mountains instead of the plastic ones in the gym. It was a great learning experience, I met some great friends, and I had some of the more interesting experiences of my life thus far.
When I was taking the class, my mentor Ken was frustrated with a number of the students and their apparent “softness”. Climbing is a physically and mentally grueling pursuit, and some people on the team weren’t quite prepared for that. As I imagine most teams do, we had everything from people complaining about hiking in the rain to not being fast enough at getting to the next objective.
So Ken sent this video to everyone (warning: language):
The team got the message. Complaining generally stopped, and people performed better. Although the video is hilarious and meant to be so, it really speaks to the mindset shift that’s required to be a successful climber.
Truth be told, climbing sucks. You’re trudging through thick sticker bushes, it’s cold and raining, and you’ve got another 5,000 feet of elevation to gain. Your pack is 20 pounds too heavy, you didn’t really eat enough this morning, and you got about 2 hours of sleep in a ditch on the side of the road. But you keep going anyways, because you’ve hardened the fuck up, and the rewards are worth it. The rewards aren’t just the summit – the rewards include the experience of getting there too, and none of that is possible if you don’t harden the fuck up.
When I teach people outdoor skills, I like to teach them an exercise that really boils down to “harden the fuck up”. I think about the worst situation I’ve been in, and compare that to my current situation. Most of the time, the situation I’m currently in isn’t nearly as bad as the time we spent 6 hours sitting on a horse in the 32 degree rain in the middle of the night, or when I became ill on a horribly difficult rock climb, or when the altitude started to screw with my head on Mt. Adams. That the situation isn’t quite as bad as I’ve had before makes me feel better, and encourages me to harden the fuck up. Of course, sometimes the situation is actually worse, in which case I just harden the fuck up anyways.
Nowhere is the harden the fuck up principle more relevant than entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship sucks. You spend a ridiculous amount of time formulating an idea and a vision, researching it, building it, fighting for customers. You spend all of this effort and energy only to have your ideas shot down, your research lead to nothing, your product full of bugs that you don’t have time to fix, and no customers. But you harden the fuck up and keep going anyways, because you know that the rewards are worth it. You have a vision and the drive, and you just harden the fuck up and keep working, keep trying, keep pivoting. Eventually, your efforts are repaid, if not by success at the end, then by the wonderful learning experience along the way.
Depending on whose research you believe, something like 9 out of 10 new business fail within five years of inception. I wonder how many of them failed because starting a company was “too hard” or “too much work” and they didn’t harden the fuck up?
Welcome!My name is Jack Nichols. I'm an entrepreneur, professional software engineer, and all-around nice guy. This is my web site, full of random stuff that's on my mind. More