13/04/2016 10:32 BST | Updated 13/04/2017 06:12 BST

What Rock-Climbing Taught Me About Business

When you see a five-year-old scale an indoor-climbing wall like some kind of mini-Spiderman, you don't immediately think you're in for a workshop on business development.

After the adrenaline has worn off (and you're in the pub celebrating your intact bones) a few lessons might just sink in, that could be applied to anyone in business today.

Here's what an indoor rock-climbing experience taught me:

1. Focus on the present

It's all good and well to visualise lofty goals - and you should set your sights high.

But when your goal is so far away that it makes you dizzy to even think about it... Then it's time to focus on the here and now.

My tactic for rock-climbing quickly became 'one more at a time.' I would set my sights purely on getting a grasp on the next hand-hold or taking the next step up.

The only thing telling me I had reached my destination was the cheers from my team below.

2. Turn fear into excitement

As well as avoiding the overwhelm above me, I had to learn not to look down.

The fear of falling was at it's height (pun intended) when I would look back at my team on the ground - and saw how far I could fall.

But what did I have to control my fear? Simply 'don't look down' didn't really cut it for me.

On my second climb, I employed a tactic I discovered years ago whilst waiting outside an exam hall.

That day, in some strange zen-like moment, I realised what I was feeling was just like what I felt on Christmas Eve.

It was also just like the feeling I got before going on a rollercoaster. Or on a first date.

I was confused: I liked all of these experiences; so did that mean I enjoyed taking exams?

Not at all! It was just that the intense excitement before all these events felt the same.

"The flight-or-fight response is our body's way of preparing us for engagement. Whether you call it excitement or nervousness, it's the same physical thing."Source

So... why not try to confuse my brain in the opposite direction? I told myself I was excited to be going up the climbing wall again.

Just like before going into a big client meeting or pitch, we can - with practise - turn our fear into excitement.

3. Surround yourself with people you trust

There is a reason rock-climbing is pimped as a 'team building' day out.

If you can't trust the person holding your safety rope - you might not trust them with that project you have them working on.

Even when you're a 'solopreneur' like myself, it's important to surround yourself with those who you can trust.

Whether in an online community like a Facebook group, or in a monthly mastermind meet-up: I make sure that the people I spend my time with have my back.

In return, I'll do my very best to hold my end of the rope when it's their turn.

4. It's about the journey

Not every venture up the climbing wall goes according to plan.

Sometimes you reach a dead end. Sometimes you slip and lose your grip.

Ultimately, the end goal isn't that exciting anyway. You hit the ceiling. You may even get to ring a bell.

In business, it's easy to get disheartened when we realise our big dream isn't quite what we imagined it would be. Success doesn't taste as sweet as we expected.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to get there: it just means we need to savour the journey while we can.

5. Have a plan B

The one thing that got me up the wall in the first place was understanding the safety regulations in place.

Without having a safety net (well, safety harness in this case) I'd have been pretty foolish to go up that wall, especially as a novice.

Being a novice in business is no different. Some may strike it lucky, and start a business without any back-up plan or safety measures in place... but I personally wouldn't take the chance, recommend it.

Having a 'plan B' doesn't mean you're setting yourself up to fail. Quite the opposite: you're doing everything in your power to ensure you can't fail - even if you fall.


Cat Rose is the founder of the online community, the League of Creative Introverts. This is a place where creative business owners can learn how to get their work seen and recognised, and get the confidence they need to do it.