Andrew Huynh
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The Fury In Your Head

2015 February 28 - San Francisco | 583 words

Climbers who lead routes often speak of having good "lead head" (lead as in leader), a mental state that lets you break through plateaus in training or climb challenging routes without that irrationally rational doubt and uncertainty plaguing your mind. There are even classes where the very purpose is to mentally train those who wish to push their limits.

These classes often follow a straightforward and very rigorous regimen designed to push limits over and over. Here's a dramatized example:

  1. First, practice climbing at the cusp of your limits.
  2. Now practice falling. Ideally a little above your comfort zone.
  3. Practice falling from even higher.
  4. Do it again.
  5. And then do it again.

The idea is to prime yourself into doing the same difficult movements over and over until it no longer becomes difficult, both physcally and perhaps more importantly -- mentally. This becomes significant seeing as how nagging feelings of doubt and uncertainty are perhaps more dangerous than the actual act of climbing itself.

When you are focusing on the distance from the ground or worrying about stray rocks, you block out the very actions that protect you the most. Remembering to clip in or check your placement; keeping correct form so that you don't get too tired; and of course, having that clarity of mind to react in case there is an emergency.

Analysis Paralysis

The phenomena of "lead head" is not something that is isolated to climbing. There are examples throughout life of what is usually dubbed analysis paralysis, causing even the best people to stumble in situations they may have done hundreds of times before.

A fun example I recently discovered is a card game called rejection therapy. I find it akin to the mental training regimen for climbers albeit for every-day situations. The game seems designed specifically to put people through life's awkward situations so they can adapt to the inevitable rejection and failure while most importantly making light of those moments. You are not successful if you are not being rejected.

At the very core, analysis paralysis is what happens when you are alone in the echo chamber of your mind. Ideas as well as uncertainty begins to reverberate and wave after wave of what if washes over you. More often, it's not even doubt, but simply the feeling that something is not quite good enough and what if you spend a little more tweaking this and tweaking that. what if you made the wrong choice? what if it was all for naught? what if?

The Art of Start

Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared to keeping my mind in check.

~ Ben Horowitz, The Hard Things About Hard Things

The mind is our greatest asset but it might as well be our greatest enemy. In a field where acting quickly is the name of the game, analysis paralysis becomes a detrimental addition to one's day-to-day. Startups are agile, they are lean, and idyllically are meant to move fast and break things. But they are also run by people, the same people who have nagging feelings of doubt when it comes to even simple concerns, much less those that come up when running a company.

Managing your own thoughts and psychology is by far the most difficult part of entrepreneurship. There may be tips and there may be tricks, but ultimately it will always fall back to you.