Rock Climbing is not a new phenomenon. While this sport’s inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has given it recognition, rock climbing as an activity has been with us for centuries. The modern-day rock climbing can trace its roots to mountaineering. The construction of the Alpine Club in 1857 allowed for the promotion of the code of climbing ethics, which seeks to protect mountains, mountain regions, and their people from harmful impact by climbers [1]. Although rock climbing is a subset of a vast set of mountaineering skills, rock climbing by itself has experienced a fantastic boom in the 20th century.

In a report titled Gyms and Trends 2019, the Climbing Business Journal states that the net number of climbing gyms in the US grew by 5.21% in 2019 compared to the 2.8% growth rate for gyms in the health club industry [2]. In an article titled, The New Hot Team at College: Rock Climbing, author Hilary Potkewitz introduces us to Mr. Ben Roa, the captain of the podium finishing University of Utah climbing team, where “two-thirds of the team was competitive youth climbers, compared with just a handful four years go” [3]. While the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have played a significant role, the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo which featured Alex Honnold, helped develop a different sense of aspiration with a new generation of climbers.  No sane person should attempt to do what Mr. Honnold performed on El Cap, but an argument presented is that instead of focusing on his action, focusing on his practice or rock climbing, in general, can help create better money habits.

Before establishing a correlation, an examination of rock-climbing, in general, is necessary. There are several varieties of rock-climbing: Traditional rock climbing, Sport climbing, Free solo climbing, Indoor climbing, Ice climbing, Bouldering, and buildering [4]. Each variety comes with its own set of difficulties ranging from technique to equipment, with the unifying elements trusting in one’s skill, practice, and ability. A rock climber finds grooves in the wall to hold onto as he maneuvers his body weight to reach the next groove. Depending on the wall, various routes can exist to reach the pinnacle.

“Whenever possible, the climber is trying to do most of the world of climbing using his/her legs… On extremely difficult routes, finding enough things to hold onto in a continuous sequence becomes a complex geometry problem” [5]. The variety that Mr. Honnold specializes in is Free solo climbing, a type in which there are no ropes involved. Only the individual and the rock wall. What Mr. Honnold achieved on El Capitan is a sporting achievement, but a feat in human mechanics. Upon first glance, what Mr. Honnold accomplished something that should not be possible for an average individual, but John Cochrane explains others. Mr. Cochrane, in his essay, What the success of rock climbing tells us about economic growth, states, “Rock climbing is much more advanced than before because of technology – the technology of communication. Each new idea in rock climbing is accessible quickly all over the world. Without that large group of interested people, this communal knowledge would not have advanced so far” [6].  Rock climbing as an activity is attempted more because of the democratization of knowledge regarding climbing and better access to resources. The internet has made rock climbing an accessible sport in local gyms. Positioning focus back on Mr. Honnold, his free solo of 3 hours and 56 minutes ascent of the 3000ft granite wall called El Capitan in Yosemite, is admirable [7]. Special consideration should be given to his process to prepare for his challenge.

The documentary goes into detail, but it presents us to Mr. Honnold, who prepares himself for the ascent under stressful conditions. He spends copious amounts of time practicing singular routines and then maintaining a journal. A journal reflective of his actions, consequences, and lessons learned. Through Mr. Honnold’s efforts, the importance of not just a routine, but the execution of that said routine can be deduced. Understanding one’s vulnerabilities and abilities, then focusing on creating positive routines or habits, is vital in implementing a plan. Merely making an agenda reflective of others’ patterns is not enough since it does not include personal actions. Similar to how a lawnmower cannot be driven on the interstate regardless of it still being a motor vehicle, a generic structure in managing one’s money may not apply to every scenario. Elements of plans can overlap, but an application needs to be tailor based on individual interests.

A list compiled by REI Co-op Journal, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Climbers, can serve as an excellent starting point to build a plan for money habits. The execution of good money habits is similar to those of highly effective climbers. They both work under precision, discipline, and preparation. According to REI Co-op, 1) Have Confidence in the Process 2) Prioritize Sleep 3)Do Something to Improve Yourself Every Day 4) Pick the Right Partner 5) Focus on Quality over Quantity 6) Record Everything 7) Do Your Research [8]. The action plan suggested by REI Co-op is seamlessly transferable in any attempt to create positive money habits. Instead of reviewing current money habits for reform, assessing them to identify areas of opportunity shall serve more benefit. Above all, having confidence in the process is essential and should not be substituted for bad habits.