The Appetite and the Prize

Your appetite for risk is determined by a number of factors.  One of them is how big your ambition is – the bigger your ambition, the bigger the risks you will be willing to take.  Another is how good you are at managing the risks that come with it – the more capable you are, the more risk you can safely take, so your appetite can go higher.

Free Solo is a 2019 documentary about the first person to free solo climb El Capitán, the 3,000 ft high rock in Yosemite national park, California.  Free solo climbing is mountain climbing on your own without ropes or helmets or any gear at all.

Alex Honnold was the first to achieve a free solo climb of El Capitán.  He said beforehand “I’d like to think that the risk, the chance of me falling off, is quite low even though the consequence is extremely high.”

Honnold was open to the risk of death in order to achieve his ambition, but his appetite was supported by his capability and his preparation.  He’d free solo’d a lot of other, easier rocks; he’d spent years climbing El Capitán with ropes; he’d planned the free solo climb meticulously – on his practice climbs he’d made a note of all the foot- and hand-holds; and he had worked out a route down to the last centimetre.

Ambition feeds appetite, but it is the management of risk that ensures success.

Data Source: The Upside of Risk, Michael Berman

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