What is the balance between performance and ‘happiness’?
If you haven’t seen the movie Free Solo yet, SLIGHT spoiler alert! Read at your own risk.
In the documentary, the struggle between free soloist Alex Honnold and his girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, is a classic one. He wants to climb giant rocks without a rope, and she wants her boyfriend intact and alive. This conflict arises time and time again throughout the movie, but Alex continually makes it clear that rock climbing comes first. When Sanni brings up the late soloist Ueli Steck, who had recently died on Mount Everest, Alex’s callous reply about Steck’s widow hits home.
“What did she expect?”
The assurance Sanni reaches out for is met with a crushing blow of realism. She obviously wants the best for Alex, but her presence in his life may be holding him back from bigger, and potentially more dangerous, free solo exploits.
Can Alex have it all? Or more importantly, should he have it all? Can he have a girlfriend who loves him, AND do whatever rock climbing escapade his heart desires? Would that be living a successful life? Maybe I’ve been hanging out with philosophy professor Carrot too much, but I think we have to ask ourselves; What is success?
From my perspective, this question is the main conflict for Alex in the movie Free Solo. Does Honnold lead a successful life if he summits El Capitan? What if he never attempts the mountain, choosing to grow old and happy with Sanni instead?
Consequently, if Alex chooses rock climbing over Sanni, and she leaves, would he still consider himself successful?
I can’t answer these questions for Alex, but the movie definitely made me think about my own life. I’m a fairly performance-oriented guy. Couple that with the tendency to overestimate my capabilities, and I end up with a pretty busy schedule. Sometimes it’s important for me to say no to opportunities in order to have time for the things (and people) that I love.
I think we all need to decide where to draw our line doing the things we HAVE to do so we can have time for things that make life worth living. We all have to decide what those things are. Where things get sticky is when the thing that makes your life worth living IS the thing that makes you your living!
So I’d love to hear from you. Do you lean towards valuing performance? Or doing things that make you happy? What makes life worth living for you, and what have you had to give up to make time for it?
Thanks as always for reading!