Lessons from climbing I'm applying in life - patience

As I embarked on my journey as a rock climber, little did I know that beyond the physical challenges and adrenaline rushes, there lay a profound lesson in patience. The vertical world became my classroom, and each ascent taught me the art of embracing patience in the face of obstacles.

How to be patient? How to manage not to have everything, immediately? These are just some of the questions I'm interested in finding answers to every day. Will I be able to answer them in this article? I don't know. Probably. And maybe not.

What I will try to do here is to share with you my process of learning patience. Yes, you heard it right, learning patience. Sometimes it can be very difficult, and other times it's easy, like breathing. I hope to present things from a different perspective. Something that might make you question your approach.

How does climbing fit into all of this? Well, I think this activity has taught me a lot about it. How to overcome the obstacle of youthful impatience. An obstacle that seemed insurmountable to me before. All that is true, but how, someone might wonder at this moment. Well, I'll start from the very beginning and give you an example of my impatience and carelessness. I'm not saying I've completely eliminated them. Far from it. But now, thanks to climbing, I have managed to recognize those situations. To see them from a different angle. And take a step back.

Interesting fact before I continue - I will write this article in Serbian for the first time during preparation, and then translate it into English. I haven't done that before. Everything I wrote was from the preparation stage to the final publication in English. I'm very curious to see how this article will turn out. Will it be different? Maybe it will make more sense. We'll see.

Why is patience important to me?

Isn't it important to each of us?

Like most of us in our youth, I had that thread of impatience. The carelessness and the belief that I can do, read, figure out, listen to... things somehow faster. Time is limited, and it needs to be used to the fullest. It's necessary to do more and constantly be doing something. That's how I used to think when I was younger.

As I grew up and started learning new things, carelessness and impatience were always there. For example, while running, I had to listen to a podcast episode. It went so far that I spent a lot of time searching for the "perfect episode" while running and even missed going for a run a few times. When taking notes, I often had the urge to write down everything I read, heard, or saw, often losing sight of the meaning behind it. There are many more examples, but I don't want to bother you with them...

Somewhere along the way, I expected that as I matured, these traits of impatience and carelessness would change, and be eradicated, but that was not the case. I continued going through life with episodes of impatience. They were everywhere, every day.

Climbing = Patience?

Then climbing came into the picture. I started training about ten years ago. Nothing serious, I was finishing my studies, and climbing provided a good continuation of everything I had been doing until then. I wasn't particularly good at the beginning. Now, when I try to recall things from that time, I can't get rid of the smell of the climbing gym when I entered. It was a strange mix of air freshener and other unfamiliar scents to me at the time... That and the sneakers I wore - they were gray running shoes that I wore everywhere - one pair of shoes for all occasions, so to speak.[1]

Of course, when I started climbing, did I automatically become more patient? Hell no! It took time for that. Hours and hours of scraping my fingers on plastic in various gyms and on rocks in Serbia and around.


The thing that pushed me in the direction of patience, no less, no more, was the desire to improve. I was bad at the beginning. There was progress, but nothing significant, nothing impressive! Nothing that would show me that I was made for this, for climbing. Nothing that would indicate that maybe I had some hidden talent, just waiting for me to start climbing. Nope!

I trained like that for a long time. Aimlessly and impatiently, moving from one training session to another, with one single desire - to progress as much as possible. And as I mentioned above, there was progress, I was just blind to it. I wanted more.

Then came the end of my studies and the return to my hometown. Throughout this process of returning and reintegrating into a small community, climbing was on my radar. Even though I didn't have a place to climb (how wrong I was!), every training session I had was tailored towards that activity. Everything I did was to become a stronger climber.

Thanks to my father, I got in touch with people who were involved in climbing there, and I slowly got to know them, socialized, and eventually continued climbing. That's when I began to understand many things. The first was that I had a magnificent climbing oasis near my home - the Stol mountain and I didn't even know it. The second - hey, I have actually been improving this whole time!

I realized I was making progress when I first went to that climbing gym. It was an office of one of the city's local communities, where we had a wall about 5 or 6 meters long and around 3-4 meters high. I remember that before every training session, we had to move the tables on which people had meetings that day. It was all so great!

It was there, in that space and with those people, that I began to familiarize myself with the benefits of patience. I learned not to rush into the wall. Not to act like a headless fly. I realized that the wall would always be there. Even if I was in the gym and a route was taken down, I knew that a new one would come that would challenge me. Before that, I thought I was a patient person. Now, when I look back, I realize that I was quite mistaken. I only thought I was patient.

How did I learn that? By pausing. I fell off the route and didn't immediately jump back in to try again, but decided to take a break. When I thought I was ready, I rested a little more. It was hard to force myself to do that, at first.

And not only that. I started to notice daily how much progress I was making. Of course, the progress was small, but it was there. Yesterday, I was on the verge of reaching the last hold on the route. Tomorrow, I will try again and see where I am. If I don't succeed, well, okay, I'll succeed another day. This way of thinking slowly spread like water to other aspects of my life. And it pulled me further. And it kept me in climbing. And it taught me patience more and more.

Why now?

What prompted me to write about patience from this perspective (again) is something I experienced in the past week or two. I had a minor setback that required me to take a break from climbing and training for a few days. Maybe even a week. Can you imagine?!

It might sound funny, and it is a bit funny, but initially, it was difficult for me. I was getting out of the routine I had settled into so well, I felt great, and everything in my life seemed to fall into place. I impatiently wanted to go back, to return to training and that feeling before and after each session. I wanted everything to be as it was before! That impatience turned into mild frustration with the unplanned rest days.

Then I remembered my experience with how I improved in climbing. To make progress (in any field), it requires patience, nothing comes overnight. What I didn't realize is that the same goes for recovery. Recovery also requires patience. Nothing comes overnight.

Although, after ten years, I can say that I have made a lot of progress, both in climbing and in patience, I can't say that I have completely eradicated that thread within me. As can be seen from the paragraphs above.

Now, whether it's perhaps some nerdy impatience of millennials influenced by technology, as David Foster Wallace calls it in his work Infinite Jest, or something else - I don't know. I only know that I am aware of these shortcomings and I'm working on overcoming them. This is one way to do it - to actively think and write about it...


  1. Perhaps I have learned patience over time, but when it comes to having more pairs of shoes for various occasions, it's difficult. Of course, I don't include climbing shoes in that, as the number of pairs I own would make shoe stores envious at one point. ↩︎