What I learned from the accident in my rock climbing gym

The essay about the importance of decisiveness.

Original article on my blog

Recently I started a new physical challenge — rock climbing. Well, bouldering to be precise — indoor rock climbing on artificial stones.

I thought that I was quite athletic for that but when I started to train in the rock climbing gym I soon realized that:

  • It’s way harder than it looks
  • My endurance is crap
  • Looks are deceiving

I saw skinny guys being able to do things that would take me years of practice to pull off. I met a 50 y.o. guy who is agile as an ape and has a grip of steel. I saw young fragile girls stay on steep walls for 20 minutes straight. I was amazed.

So I started to train hard. Human is the animal of the highest endurance. We are slower than other animals, weaker than other animals, we don’t have claws or fangs but what we do have is our endurance. We can outrun and “outsweat” any animal until it dies from a thermal shock. A lot of our endurance is rooted in our willpower.

The rock climbing has become a perfect manifestation of resilience for me. You hang on the rock. Your hands get tired and burn in pain. You hold the rock with one hand and let another one rest. You change them and repeat. This puts the brain in the “marathon” mode. You are constantly chatting with the inner bitch that tells you to let go but instead, you keep hanging onto rock because you start to have a taste of it — if that was a real life situation if you let go, you die.

Additionally, I found an extreme value for my brain in the rock climbing for the opportunity to solve challenging kinetic puzzles. It teaches my brain and my body how to become what human is designed to be— the best mover on earth. Rock climbing fit right in between the animal movements and calisthenics coherently adding up to my personal favorite physical activities. Highly recommended.

The Accident.

My gym

Yesterday was just a normal day. I arrived at the gym, stretched and started with some easy patterns or as rock climbers call them “puzzles”.

After an hour, in the break time between approaches, I was having a chit chat with others when suddenly we heard a sound of strong whack on the floor.

One lady fell down from the wall. I was behind the column and didn’t see how exactly it happened but the sound told me the impact was strong. She was sitting on the floor, obviously in a little shock, still confused on how to react and couldn’t formulate the location of her pain. After a couple of minutes, she said that her left leg is damaged and heel and ankle hurt.

All of us surrounded her. I was there to offer my help at any moment. As always the lack of my Korean really held me back. I couldn’t communicate the course of action I found appropriate.

Only two women started to help her — our coach and one lady who is a regular in the club (btw that’s the lady on the wall on the picture above). I was surprised that all of the guys around looked really worried but didn’t take any action.

I could see what were the thoughts behind their indecisiveness because I had the same thing in my head— they didn’t want to touch her body without her permission. Too shy.

I didn’t give a damn. She needed help and that is all that matters.

I instantly suggested that we had to go to the hospital. But I saw that Koreans were hesitating. Too many people, too many opinions, and no one steps up to actually do something.

Finally, our coach said that she is taking her to the hospital. One guy who had a car offered his help. I promptly rushed to my clothes to carry the girl but the regular lady was faster than me. She took the girl on her back and went to the basement parking with the guy and the coach. I followed.

As we were descending in the elevator I was very ashamed of myself that I wasn’t swift enough to take her on hands first and let the other lady do the job. The “man” inside of me protested. However, I knew that at least I stepped up while other guys left staring.

It reminded me of another story. My friend’s dog almost killed him. He was walking his dog on the street when suddenly they bumped into another dog owner. The dogs started to bark and attack each other. My friend jerked the belt of the collar and his dog bit him in the neck in the flash of aggression. The bite was severe, the fangs pierced one of the neck arteries, he was losing the blood fast. The other dog owner — the lady started to panic and shout, people on the street approached but did nothing. They froze in indecisiveness. My friend is the real hero of that story. With one hand pushing on the wound in his neck and stopping the spilling blood he used the other to pull off his phone from his pocket and dial 911. The ambulance doctor said that if they were 10 minutes late they would have been picking up the dead body.

Sorry, I got carried away. Back to our girl and her leg.

When we arrived at the hospital I took Ji-Young (that’s her name) on my hands and carried her to the emergency section of the hospital. The coach filled up the form, I put her in the wheelchair and we went to make an X-ray. When we went back to the emergency room the doctor showed up with the results. He was direct.

Calcaneus fracture. Calcaneus is the heel bone, the largest tarsal bone in the foot. I was hoping for a simple strain but I saw that her leg didn’t swell after her fall and it was a bad sign. It appeared that the impact was very strong. Apparently, she fell from a significant height and left heel absorbed the whole impact. The doctor’s verdict was hard on her: “surgery”. Ji-Young burst into tears. Her boyfriend arrived and we left them in the hospital. We came back to the gym and worked out for another hour. I was hanging on the wall processing what I learned in the passed hour.

In fact, I already knew what will be the lessons of this story the moment I made a decision to take Ji-Young to the hospital. They are very simple:

#1 Engage

Beautiful things happen to those who show up, speak up and step up. When the situation goes south dive right in. This habit to engage in situations that I fostered in myself especially at times when everyone freezes in hesitation became a door to many life experiences.

The next time a similar situation pops up I will not waste time and proceed on the experienced course of action: provide the first aid, find the hospital, transport the injured asap.

You are never ready before something happens, you become ready by stepping in.

#2 Indecisiveness is a weakness

Knowing the story with the dog and the story with the leg you might like me associate the indecisiveness of Koreans with the culture and mentality. It wouldn’t be 100% wrong. I know that back in my country no one would just stare at you if something bad health-wise happens to you on the street. People will actively help and cooperate.

I can see that this indecisiveness is the external manifestation of the core mindset that lies deeply within — “act like others, play like others, don’t show up and nothing bad will happen to you”. I know that this mindset is an automatic “break” that will cause the massive internal resistance to any change they will decide to implement in their lives. I don’t say it is bad to be like others but it is damn certain it is not my way to live.

#3 Decisiveness improves relationships

The quality to speak little and act a lot, the skill of materializing inner intent into actions is what everyone respects. My coach saw that I am a man who doesn’t shy away from critical situations. I could see it in her eyes that she realized that I am reliable, I won’t cut and run when shit happens and maybe I am mistaken but she had a little spike of pride for being my coach. We got closer because now we have a shared story and this fact joys me.

Ji-Young will get her surgery. She will recover, get back to the gym and be more careful. And everything will be the same except for the fact that she will keep a small memory in the back of her mind that one strange looking Russian-babbling foreign-ass Korean carried her to the hospital when no one of her comrade Koreans did.

Wow…are you still here? 😏 Thank you for reading my story. I hope it will pop up in your head next time something unexpected happens.

Engage in situations and let the life happen to you. You are what you do.
Stay decisive.



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