Finding beta: Confidence in my own path

It probably wasn’t the best time to ask a question, with a forkful of pancakes being shoveled into my mouth (and these were an unusual find — cranberry oat Irish soda pancakes as part of a local diner’s pre-St. Patrick’s celebration) but I had been meaning to ask Mark about a particular climbing term since thumbing through one his magazines the previous day.

“What does ‘beta’ mean in climbing?” I asked him, reaching for my coffee to wash down my indulgent breakfast.

It took a few minutes before I got the general gist (I think) which is that beta in climbing designates all the information about a particular climb, including what route to take.

That definition gave me slightly better insight into an article in the magazine Rock and Ice. Regardless of whether I understood “beta” or not, much of the article, written by Andrew Bishaat in the April issue about bouldering, was well over my head. But it wasn’t the topic of the article per se that caught my attention. Casually flipping through the magazine, one particular paragraph in the story caught my attention, so much so that I ran to find my ever-present notebook to write down the following:

The first step is to be free to choose your own path and find your own beta. The second step is to forget about using rock climbing as a way to be seen, gain fame, or determine how you stack up against your climbing partner. The third step is not to allow what others do take away from your sense of achievement, and the lessons learned from following your own path.

The final part struck the strongest chord with me — not letting what others do affect my own sense of achievement or impact the lessons I’ve learned following my own path. Perhaps it’s a certain level of confidence, maybe even maturity, which will allow me to see value in what I do for myself, independently of how it might compare to another’s achievement.

This is part of the mental game of athletics (and the mental game of life). As the ritual spring cleaning clears out the clutter accumulated in my apartment over the winter, so too is there a good chance for  clearing out the clutter that accumulated in my brain. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with what it is I love about triathlon, about adventure, about sports and yes, even about my life.

It’s not just about choosing my own path, it’s also about being confident when discovering my own beta, without judgement and without comparison. I may not be the fastest, most graceful or most decorated. I may not win awards or accolades or promotions or bonus checks. But I will be achieving, learning, growing, expanding and most importantly, living with a sense of joy and freedom.

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