I was talking with some friends the other day about the movie Free Solo. One of my friends breezily remarked that Alex Honnold was crazy for climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, a nearly 3,000 foot ascent without ropes, anchors or any other protective gear. Before I watched the movie, I would have agreed. After all, the first time I climbed a rock face, I was only three feet off the ground when my leg start shaking, a condition so common it has a name – sewing machine leg.
But when you watch the movie, you see how impeccably he prepared for the challenge. Alex climbed each section over and over again with protective gear, until every move was automatic and if not easy, than at least anticipated.
For me the crux moment is when the film crew assembles to film his free solo attempt and he starts but then calls it off because he knows it’s not the right day. In that willingness under the pressure of expectation and respect for everyone else’s time and with the knowledge that they won’t be able to try again until the next year, he shows how incredibly brave he is.
For me this isn’t a movie about a climber ascending a famous wall at Yosemite. It’s an allegory for all of us about the call to recognize and commit to our gifts. It is about accepting our paths, the unique reason we are all on the planet, and then walking that path.
It contains both the vision piece – and execution piece, the incredibly hard work that we have to do to hone our gift once we accept it. It shows that purpose and practice go hand in hand.
And it speaks to how vital it is to listen to the quiet Divine voice within us. So that if the day, the conditions or the circumstances aren’t right, we are willing to honor the voice within that says “Don’t do it” no matter how silly it could make us look. We can listen, withdraw and wait for the right day.
When my daughter was 2-years-old and we were watching The Sound of Music, she asked why the characters at the convent were wearing habits and wimples. When I told her they were nuns, she repeated back to me, “They are nuts?”
Yes, sometimes when we follow our calling, we might seem like we are nuts. It is hard to get quiet enough to listen to the small voice within. Even harder to put our gifts on display for the world to see and put in enough practice to bring them to bear in an audacious way.
But when we do scale that wall of gifts and dreams, when we stand on top and celebrate that unity of purpose, preparation and performance, we set the world on fire. As Howard Thurman said so well, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people that come alive.”
Are you following your path? Do you have a great example of coming alive?
Please come visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com
Follow me on Instagram at @wynneleon
(featured photo from Pexels)