Trusting Guts and Instincts

I was climbing yesterday on a small mountain at about 9000 ft elevation. We made it to a peaceful lake and reflected on climbers who are more technical than us – climbers that trust their guts and instincts.

Take Alex Honnold. You may have seen the recent documentary about him climbing without ropes, hanging from a 3,200 ft rock face, and holding on by the tips of his fingers.

A fellow climber told me today that Alex stayed at the base of the rock waiting for the right window to climb. The film crew was ready day after day. Yet each day they waited for Alex to decide the time was right.

Alex is an athlete at the top of his sport. For this record-breaking climb, he was physically ready. He was mentally ready.

The interesting thing is, Alex waited at the base, but would call the climb off because he “didn’t feel it.”

The weather was right. He was mentally and physically ready. However, he needed to feel it in his gut. No more data. No more logic. Just instinct.

There were so many layers to his decision. There were so many variables that he logically couldn’t justify or explain when he going to act. He relied on his instinct to tell him when the time is right.

I suppose we could find several inspirations and lessons to take from Alex’s death-defying climb. One lesson that stands out for educational leadership is this:

Your role includes so many variables and layers that sometimes you have to feel your way into a decision. Sometimes you can prepare and plan, but you must wait on your instincts to tell you when the time is right.

On the flip side, if you have to second guess a decision, it might be all the evidence you need to know the decision is not right at this time. There’s no amount of data that can overturn your instincts on some decisions.

Sometimes you have to trust your gut and act on it.