Blog: Climbing, Fighting, and a bit of Overnight-ing
10 minute read
It’s been more than 18 months since my last Latest News post.
And it doesn’t need me to tell you that, quite frankly, that’s absolutely ridiculous.
It also doesn’t need for me to sit here and to explain why my output of work has been so poor. So instead, I’ll just proudly declare that this has now been turned around.
In a big way.
The purpose of this post is not to dwell, but rather to look ahead and to focus on what’s to come; and also to say a massive thank you and to send a bucket load of appreciation to those few that have stuck with me regardless. You know who you guys are.
With that being said, let’s get stuck in.
The opening sentence may have sounded a little confusing as this post is a blog post, yet I mentioned Latest News. Well, in a nutshell, I’ve taken the Latest News section of the site and have renamed it simply as Blog.
Why? Well, for two reasons. One, because the Latest News label really began to annoy me; and two, because I felt as though it sounded like I take myself a little too seriously. And I get very self-conscious about that kind of thing.
Latest News? I’m not the bloody BBC.
Plus, these particular types of posts take an informal diary-like approach and, well, that’s actually the definition of a blog; so it stands to reason that I should rename it.
They’re intended to be different to the more formally structured articles and they allow me to keep you up to date with all my latest rumblings (1) with the website; but while also providing a few snapshots into some of the things that never quite make it onto Lossul.
And they can also be very random.
For example, I could utilise this sentence to talk about how I’m still really annoyed at the fact that a bird took a massive shit on my car this afternoon (2), or how right now I’m enjoying looking at the lovely alocasia that takes pride of place in my home office, yet I’m slightly irritated by the fact that it keeps dripping water all over my desk.
Honestly, it drips so much that it’s like an elderly man with prostate issues.
But anyway, back to Lossul.
Over the past couple of years, I’d been averaging a new article once every six months, which is enough to drive a website into the ground. But since early June I’ve released three new articles, meaning the average has been increased to one article per month. Although I want to increase this average further still, the analytics show that the number of visitors and pageviews are beginning to increase again, and so I’m extremely proud of this turnaround.
But I’m even more proud of the articles themselves.
Play the Long Game was the first of the three, which takes a look at the benefits of persistence, focus, and delayed gratification. The second article, Trinkets from my Travels, is a really short but very personal piece which looks at the merits of holding onto a few key sentimental items that invoke warm memories, all while maintaining a minimalist approach to life.
The third article is the work that I’m most proud of, and which I consider to be my favourite piece of writing that I’ve published on this site. Why Top Gun: Maverick Has Been So Successful (and What It’s Meant To Me) is exactly what the title suggests.
When this movie came out in June, I had no expectations of it. And like I’ve explained to a few people, if it had come out one year ago or one year from now, it would have been unlikely to have had the same impact that in did in June 2022.
To put it simply, it came into my life at the exact moment that I needed it. It spoke to me in so many ways and allowed me to reflect on many things in my own personal life; restoring hope, shaping perspective, and giving me an incredible surge of strength and focus for moving forwards.
In all of my 44 years there are only two other movies that have had this impact; Higher Learning, back in 1995, and Swingers, in 2003. Both of these movies altered the course of my life, and Top Gun: Maverick has done the same in 2022.
The article took more than two months to write, dedicating time to it almost every single day of those two months. I had to do the movie justice, I had to convey its impact, and I had to cover everything about it that mattered to me.
The writing of it became an obsession, and I got truly caught in the grip of perfectionism; meaning that I couldn’t settle until I was happy with every single word.
And it was fucking therapy.
Check out the article to see, as the title suggests, why the movie has been so successful, but also why it’s had such an impact on me.
And in terms of articles, things really are in flow right now. In fact, I have four more articles complete and ready to roll, so please keep an eye out for them landing soon.
The Lossul productivity train doesn’t stop there though, because I have a couple more projects up my sleeve that are allowing me to engage in the other side of what Lossul was always intended to be.
While writing articles and telling stories is the real backbone of what I love doing, I’m also passionate about people and community. To me it always felt a little too self-indulgent to be writing stuff and just expecting people to read it and to invest in me.
When all’s said and done, I know that’s what writing is; but I never wanted Lossul to solely be about me. I’m just not comfortable with that.
This latest project not only involves people, but it also gives me the excuse to incorporate a little bit of domestic travel.
And so later this month I’ll be hitting the road for a weekend and will be conducting not one, but two interviews; both of very different natures, and it will also see me enjoying an overnight stay in a really cool place, nestled in a lovely part of the UK.
More details to follow.
Oh, and I also have another project that I’m mulling over right now. I can’t say too much about it just in case it doesn’t come together, but it’s bold, it’s brave, and it’ll be far out and completely fucking freaky!
Watch this space.
If you’ve been on the website recently then you may have noticed that the Life and Personal Development section has also had a name change, which is now known as Life and Relationships.
After spending many years on the seductive path of personal development, I’ve now reached a point in which I’m ready to leave that path and go wandering into the woods instead.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learnt so much and the work will never stop. But sooner or later the consumption of books, podcasts, seminars, and You Tube videos has to be put into check. There are people out there that become so immersed in that kind of lifestyle that it actually becomes an addiction. And although they learn the material and know all the theory, they never actually start applying it into their own lives.
That’s pretty damn tragic, and I never ever wanted to be one of those people. To me, I saw the path of personal development as being no different to going to university to earn a degree. A few years of hard study, some fun along the way, and then leave it all behind and make the work count.
In the beginning I learnt how to live as a result of personal development, but my truest personal development comes as a result of living.
I got into the whole PD thing for the same reason as pretty much everybody else; to point myself in a better direction, to get the best from life, and to develop self-awareness and understand why we do the things that we do.
But in the end you just wind up reading and seeing the same old things; only using different words and with it all being packaged a little differently.
I will never allow myself to stop learning and growing and so there’ll always be articles that reflect on these subjects, but it just feels like the right time to change this particular focus.
When I first started writing on internet message boards two decades ago, one of the main subjects I wrote about was relationships. These posts always seemed to be received the best, yet for some reason it’s something that I’ve avoided writing about too much on Lossul.
But following a bunch of feedback that I’ve been receiving and given that there are now two more decades of experiences to reflect upon; it’s now time to start posting on this subject again.
I have one article already completed and several others planned, but if we’re going to be discussing relationships then by its very definition it means this also involves other people, and that means you; so if there’s any particular subject that you might like me to cover or if you have any questions to ask that could also inspire an article, then please feel free to drop me a message by hitting this link.
And finally, for anybody that follows my social media pages you’ll have seen a couple of posts recently about rock climbing.
I started climbing around seven years ago but had restricted this to the indoors. It was a wonderful place to start and I had tonnes of fun with it, but I always had my eye on heading outside.
It took me a while to pluck up the courage but I eventually joined a climbing and mountaineering club and then I finally got my chance. But following a short run of outdoor climbs, Covid-19 hit and this suddenly came to an end.
With time passing by, my confidence disappeared with it, and when we could finally start climbing again I retreated to the familiar safety of the indoors.
Yet something didn’t feel right about this. I was enjoying it, but I knew that my goal was always to get back outside.
Not only that, but I also needed to pursue my ultimate goal which was to start trad climbing.
Traditional (or trad) climbing is what would have once just been called climbing, but following the introduction of sport climbing (3) it warranted the ‘traditional’ aspect to be tagged onto it.
What this essentially means is that you climb the rock face while carrying all of your protective equipment with you, attached to your harness.
As you progress along the route, you’ll scan the rock face and look for opportunities to place your protective gear into any suitable cracks or openings. Once you’ve done this, you can attach a quickdraw, clip your rope in, and then continue climbing. The logic is that if you should fall, the protective gear will hopefully arrest that fall and keep you safe.
It’s what I consider to be climbing in its purest form (4), and although I have nothing against any other form of climbing, trad is the only style that I’ve ever been interested in and it’s all that I aspire to become.
To watch an experienced trad climber working with the rock is like art; I’m in awe of them, and I wanted to become one of them.
When climbing there are usually only two people involved; the lead climber, and the second climber. The lead climber, as you can imagine, is the person that climbs first (5); placing all the gear and setting the route. Once they’ve completed the route, they’ll set up an anchor point at the top and then belay the second climber as they follow them up, removing all the gear along the way.
My ambition had always been to become a lead trad climber, but I didn’t know if I had the skills or the balls to do this. Yet back in July I achieved that dream.
For that, I owe a massive debt of gratitude to my mentor, Cath, for putting her faith in me and for helping to give me that opportunity.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you Cath.
Something clicked that night in July. Something just felt right.
And when we returned in August, I completed three more lead trad climbs and that feeling became solidified. It was an overwhelming sense of being on the path that I was meant to be on.
The last time I felt this way was a decade ago when I was involved in Muay Thai.
I only ever had two competitive fights, both of which were life-changing in the lessons that I took from them. The first fight in particular was an intense mental experience, and it was without doubt one of the best things that I’ve ever done in my life.
And I fucking needed it.
I was 33 years old at the time, and I’d been quietly carrying demons with me for many of those years. This may sound dramatic, but the absolute sincere truth of it is that by the time I entered the ring that night, I had no fear at all about the potential consequences. Such was the pain and the anger I’d been carrying that I didn’t even care about what might happen to me.
I just needed to fight.
What happened that night will stay with me forever, and it’s something that I may write about in more detail one day.
The feeling of putting everything on the line and fighting with everything that you have teaches you things about yourself that you may otherwise never get to learn.
Winning the fight was the cherry on the cake, but the real prize that night was the respect that I felt for myself and the understanding of what I’m capable of when I’m pushed.
Because it’s not until you’re pushed that you get to see who you really are.
In the space of just fifteen minutes my life changed dramatically.
And the demons, were gone.
But so too was the fire in my belly, and after that, I had nothing left to give.
While I loved the training, the culture, the sense of brotherhood and belonging, and the fact it pushed me to my physical and mental limits, I was never fully comfortable with the competitive aspect of it (6). Something about that just didn’t sit right with me.
On reflection, my days of Muay Thai ended that evening, and I understand now that I only ever needed that one experience. Becoming an ongoing competitive fighter was not who I was (7).
Should I ever need to fight then I know I can fight and that I can hold my own; and that is enough for me.
I still keep my hand in with Muay Thai training and it will always be a part of who I am, but the difference with rock climbing is that there isn’t a single part of me that feels at odds with it.
There’s something special about being on a rock face and feeling like you’re getting to know it. Because as you scan every inch of it by looking for opportunities for gear placement, there’s a feeling of becoming intimate with nature.
Although it can be balls-out terrifying at times, I can’t help but be in awe of the fact that I’m seeing part of our environment from an angle that you never normally get to experience. And when you complete the ascent and get to marvel in a beautiful sunset in a stunning location, it just makes me feel so alive.
It combines adventure, travel, nature, and fitness, and it provides a real sense of freedom; along with an opportunity to push your physical and mental limits. And although I’m still so very early into it and am a complete rookie in terms of where I want to be, I cannot wait to see where time will take me.
While it may not have the same brutality as fighting, there is still something very primal about it; becoming close to a part of nature that has been around for hundreds of thousands of years (8).
In many ways, it actually scares me far more than fighting, and I think that’s part of the appeal. Another part of it is that the level of focus that it needs means that you can only think about what you’re doing in the moment and it allows all other areas of life to slip away for a while.
When I’m climbing, I think about nothing but climbing.
This year has been a difficult year, and I’ve experienced a considerable amount of loss in my life, all within a very short space of time. While I’ve not been afraid to confront these things head on, sometimes it can understandably get a little too much and so it’s important to find other avenues to follow.
There needs to be a means of escape, even if only temporary.
Some people may choose to numb themselves through alcohol, drugs, or any other kind of vice; but that’s not my style. Thankfully I am able to take myself to the opposite end of the scale and channel my hurt into more constructive endeavours such as writing, my career, working on my home, or pushing myself to my physical limits and doubling-down on my fitness.
These days, I barely ever touch alcohol, I eat for nutrition rather than pleasure, and I’m making good progress on getting into the best shape of my life.
Because in that moment when it clicked with the lead climbing, I knew I’d found the path that I was meant to be on. And when that feeling is coupled with any pain that you carry, well, that turns into a rocket-fuel cocktail that pushes you in ways you didn’t think you were capable of; just like it did a decade ago in that ring.
This is the most focussed that I’ve felt since those fight camps back in 2011 and I can feel the fire in my belly returning, and that’s why next month I’m taking a literal huge step up with the rock climbing.
I don’t want to say too much right now just in case my plans need to change because of something like bad weather, but the next time I write a post like this, I should have some pretty exciting news to share with you.
Well that just about wraps things up for this time, but I aim to make these blog posts a more frequent thing.
Even though I’m writing articles on a more regular basis now, there’s often quite a few things happening behind the scenes that I’d like to be able to share with you.
And in the meantime, if there’s any questions you’d like to ask or have any feedback on anything that you’ve just read, then please feel free to comment below or to send me a direct message.
Until next time, take it easy my friends.
(1) When I talk about updating you on my latest rumblings, I’m not referring to my rumbling tummy or my farts.
(2) And by that I’m referring to the winged variety of bird, not the human variety with breasts.
(3) Sport climbing essentially means that the route already has bolts drilled into the rock that you can clip into. There’s no requirement to place any trad gear and in many ways it makes the climbing feel safer and less risky. It’s just a different form of climbing and I’m certainly not knocking it, but it just doesn’t feel natural to me. In my mind, climbing should be about working with what nature has provided.
(4) Although this is debatable and depends on how you see climbing. Many people would argue that free soloing is the purest form of climbing, i.e. climbing with no ropes and no protection. And this is a fair argument. But free soloing isn’t for everybody, and many experienced climbers wouldn’t even consider it.
(5) It’s also the most dangerous because there’ll always be a degree of climbing in which there’s no solid protection, and so any falls, particularly lower down on the route, will likely result in hitting the ground.
(6) I was happy with the fact I was competing against myself in many ways, but I didn’t feel the need to be aggressively competitive against another person; at least not on an ongoing basis anyway. What I liked most about fighting was that from a mental perspective, it’s like you’re climbing into the ring with yourself.
(7) I lost my second fight and that comes with a whole story of its own. Like the first fight, it resulted in considerable personal growth, only in a very different form, because the growth didn’t come immediately. Instead, the first thing I felt was extreme disappointment and self-loathing, but in the weeks that followed I was able to develop a deeper perspective. There is a huge contrast between winning and losing, but without doubt the true equaliser is in whether you gave it your best shot. You can win and not be happy, and you can lose and feel ultra-proud of yourself. No matter what the result, the most important thing is if you can walk away and know that you gave it everything. This, develops character, and nobody can ever take that away from you.
(8) From the beginning of time we’ve always fought, and we’ve always been around rock; and when we engage in these things there’s something inside that clicks. It’s the same as the fascination we feel around fire. It’s all hard-wired into us because it’s what we’ve evolved from.
Share this post: