Don’t underestimate the hours and work it takes to go from good to GREAT

On May 13, 2012 by Andy Bandy Man

My hands were sweating (gross, but true) just watching 26-year old Alex Honnold, the best “free solo” rock climber in the world. He climbs massive rock walls with no aid other than his shoes and some hand chalk. Any kind of mistake – one slip on the rock, one faulty footing – would mean certain death. He may be stupid / crazy, but he is undeniably GREAT at what he does.



As a teenager, Alex was clearly a talented climber, but merely “very good.” He practiced several hours a day, and at age 18 was good enough to finish 39th at the World Championships.

But starting at age 19, he utterly and completely dedicated himself to his craft. He dropped out of Berkeley to focus on rock climbing, taking his parents’ minivan (where he cooks, sleeps, often goes days without showering, and until recently never had a girlfriend) just so he could maximize the number of mountains he can climb. He has been living out of this van and climbing mountains like this for the last 7 years.

And over the course of the past couple years, he has become a record-shattering rock climbing legend, performing feats that nobody has ever come close to matching. He climbed the 2,000 vertical face of Yosemite’s Half Dome in under three hours, without any protective gear. It normally takes two days to complete.



Assuming you have some degree of talent (in rock climbing, music, management, whatever), it takes YEARS of dedication and practice to gain the expertise and confidence to become GREAT. Even though Alex Honnold makes his feats look easy, every life-threatening free solo climb is the result of thousands of hours of preparation. He has spent almost two decades mastering his skills; and prior to any climb without using protective gear, he becomes deeply familiar with the route so he has the confidence to perfectly execute the climb.

While this may seem like an obvious insight, people constantly underestimate the hours of dedication and work it takes to become great (“I should just become a novelist,” or “I should become a chef and open my own restaurant”) So if your goal is to become great, be prepared to put in the hours (and potential sacrifice) and understand that huge achievements do not happen overnight.


Alex Honnold is the first person ever to free solo climb the 2,000 foot vertical face of Yosemite's Half Dome. He completed the climb, which typically takes 2 to 4 days, in just under three hours.


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