Friday, November 6, 2015

Lessons From Dirtbags And An Iron Addict: Redefining Obsession

If you were to look at my YouTube viewing history for the past week two major themes would be evident: dirtbag rock climbers and C.T. Fletcher.

Some further explanation is needed…

“Dirtbag” is not a disparaging title in the climbing community; it’s actually a compliment. Dirtbags are considered to be ultra-committed to the craft of climbing. They live out of their cars or in tents year-round as near to the rock faces they’re climbing as possible. They forego pursuing traditional careers and building families in order to spend as much time climbing as possible.

C.T. Fletcher is on the opposite end of the physical spectrum from the dirtbags. While they are lean and wiry, he’s massive. He’s a former world-champion, record-holding power-lifter who has certainly earned the moniker that he has given himself: “The Original Iron Addict”. Today C.T. is a gym owner, fitness personality, and motivational speaker with an over-the-top persona that uses profanity as often as a valley girl uses the word “like”.

Now, I have no aspirations whatsoever to be a power-lifter or an elite climber. So, why have I been watching these videos for hours on end? To put it simply: they speak to my heart. Their subjects have taught me a great deal about having lofty dreams, setting equally lofty goals, and doing what is necessary to realize those dreams and goals. So, this is the first part of a four part series about what I’ve learned from these dirtbag climbers and the Original Iron Addict.

Lesson One: Redefining Obsession

Talking to people about obsession gets a little tricky, because, by most people’s definition, it has a negative connotation.

Merriam-Webster defines obsession like this:
a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling

A Google search will lead you to this definition:
an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind

Neither one of those definitions seem like they would or should be part of a healthy, well-balanced person’s life.

The dirtbags and C.T. would say that they are obsessed with being masters of their craft, in fact many of them are. When they talk about the obsession that mastery requires they don’t use words like “disturbing” or “intrusive”, but rather they talk about being passionate, determined, and focused. They talk about elevating their dreams and accomplishing what most would consider to be impossible.

What is most amazing to me about C.T. and the dirtbags is that they openly admit their obsessions carry little weight outside their small spheres of athleticism. The world isn’t more peaceful because Everest has been summitted and we aren’t any closer to finding a cure for cancer because C.T. has 22-inch arms. But that certainly hasn’t been a deterrent.

I'm beginning to understand that healthy obsession must be deeply personal. No one would put in the necessary effort to attempt, much less achieve these feats because they wanted a pat on the back, hear “atta boy”, or get a piece of paper to frame and hang on the wall of their office. These obsessive endeavors begin as ideas and only mature because the individual themselves puts such a great value on striving towards them.

In addition to changing my personal definition of obsession, the dirtbags and C.T. have also inspired me to start dreaming about what my own magnificent obsession can be.

What is worth devoting my time, my heart, my mental faculties, and my physical strength to?

What is worth losing sleep, maybe some blood, or even my life for?

What goals require a path which, if travelled upon regardless of outcome, will be more rewarding than the possible accomplishment itself?

I personally have a very simple answer to these questions. From a distance my magnificent obsession is simple and beautiful. But a closer look reveals complexity, an intricate orchestration of thousands of tiny details that together become grander than their simple sum.

So, what’s your magnificent obsession? What are you willing to do to accomplish it?

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