Lessons from climbing I'm applying in life - problem-solving

When you hear the word problem-solving, you (or at least I) remember that my CV needs updating.

The problem-solving skill is the eagerness to solve problems that you encounter. You might hear others call these problems challenges, or chances. In the end, whatever your preference, the goal is the same - solve a problem in front of you. If you want to dive deeper into problem-solving, just have a look at its Wikipedia page.

This blog post will not, by any means, be as long as the Wikipedia page on problem-solving. It will probably contain some of the problem-solving strategies or methods described there but written in some other context. Here, I plan to continue rambling about life lessons I've learned from climbing.

Problem-solving in practice

In essence, besides being the sport of endless failures, climbing is also a sport of endless practice of problem-solving.

What do I mean by that? Well, every time you approach some route, be it a boulder, sport climbing, longer multi-pitch, or traditional route, you are tasked with a problem. This problem is - I want to reach the top of that route, and I have so many obstacles in front of me. Some of them I can see, and some of them not. How do I overcome these obstacles?

Here we can use different approaches. First, we can try and imagine hands and feet placement - where does the left hand go, where should I place my right hand, and so on. What will happen if we cannot do the specific move? We look for alternatives, often the most creative ones.

If the top of the route is no way near, we might go and see how others did it. We can ask for advice or let some person tell us that advice without us even asking (a.k.a. beta sprayer). If no one did reach the top, we might join some relaxed brainstorming session(s) and see what others think of it and what their approach will be.

We might try and split the route into multiple smaller parts, fix it one by one, and in the end connect them all. And, if we are more advanced, we can visualize ourselves on the route, visualize the exact moves we are going to do, maybe even simulate the moves with our body, and then apply them to the route itself.

Possibilities are many.

What you can learn from all of this?

These possibilities of problem-solving we are continuously encountering in climbing can easily translate to life. Here are just some of the examples. Feel free to use them as you see fit, or just as examples to guide you.

Let's say we want to pass an exam. And we need to study, a lot! The first thing to do, after the episode of despair on having so much to learn and cover, is to step back and try to split the learning material into meaningful and smaller parts. Then, we can start completing parts one by one. If there is some section we don't understand, we can go and ask somebody for help - don't be afraid to ask for support! If you find others having trouble understanding the same things as you - go ahead and discuss those concepts with them, and try and learn to understand that together. Last but not least - you might find that the learning approach you initially thought of doesn't suit you, so you can spend some time finding new ways to go through the material and pass the exam.

The next example comes from work life. Imagine you have some report to complete, but you don't have a slight idea of what the content for that report should be. Yeah, it happens to all of us! Here, you often try and find some similar approaches, in other words - how others did it. If you are not able to find any, then you ask around - what info should or shouldn't be part of that. I'm repeating myself but, don't be afraid to ask for help! If nobody can help you, then try and find some other, creative approach to complete the necessary report. Maybe you can include this relevant graph or some science-backed facts, with footnotes to sources. Possibilities are endless, we are just choosing how to use them.


Following is my list of the problem-solving approaches learned from climbing. I try to practice them daily.

  • If something doesn't work - try a different thing. Fail often, and fail fast.
  • Visualize the solving process.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help.
  • Discuss similar problems with others.
  • Split the bigger problems into smaller, chewable chunks.

Thank you for reading the blog post. I am really curious to see what problem-solving skills you've learned and are applying in life. They don't have to be climbing-specific. Feel free to write them in the comments below, or send me an e-mail, I am more than happy to learn about other people's ideas and approaches to problem-solving.

Until the next post!