Monday, February 25, 2008

Control and Balance

I was watching a professional climber make his way up the face of a two thousand foot rock cliff and thought to myself, this guy is nuts! But, as I continued to watch I realized, nothing could be further from the truth. After getting over the thought that he was insane I realized something. To the causal observer it looked as if his body was just hanging in mid air, nothing between him and certain death, two thousand feet below. But the more I watched the more I realized he was experiencing the key to one of the hardest balances to learn in life; the balance between controlling what we can and what we can’t and in the process finding the freedom to accomplish our tasks with the clearest mind possible. 

Control has earned itself a bad name. Control freak is how we describe a person who feels he or she has to have everything just as they like it, everything prepared in their little world, so that nothing goes wrong, no surprises; often in a rather compulsive manner. But think of the climber, if he had not found the balance between what to control and what not to control, even in one small aspect of his journey, he would die. His body has to be tuned, strong, to withstand the forces climbing puts on it. He has to be skilled in how to use his equipment, one misplaced chock or piton, and he falls. He needs to know how to read the rock, where to climb, where not to, how to pick his route up the wall.

We can view life much the same way. When we gain control over our lives, when we learn what we can and cannot control, we free ourselves up to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows. We gain a confidence that most do not find and that’s the balance. Control just for the sake of control makes us a freak; confidence without structure makes us arrogant. The two have to live side by side in a symbiotic dance, one complimenting the other, keeping each other in check, for when we gain control we gain confidence, and the two feed off each other and grow into a tool we can use to climb whatever rock we choose. 


Christopher said...


You know, after I read this, I contemplated on the posts I've been reading lately and it seemed like I was this guy who found holes in things that you wrote. I read this posting and thought, "Huh, I think I actually agree with everything Tony is saying here." But then, I went to the grocery store and thought through this posting, I just felt like there was something missing. Something just didn't sit well with the assumption that 'control' and 'confidence' had/has this symbiosis that you're suggesting.

In order to have 'control', then I must have the 'confidence' in order to execute that 'control'. Once I have that 'control', I then have the 'confidence' to know that I can execute the 'control' itself. Thus we have attained the symbiotic dance.

The control freak does not have the ability to control anything because the control freak has this unending desire to control things that are outside their control or even the control of others. It does become compulsive because the control freak has a desire to gain 'power' over their control objects of desire.

But if I asked the rock climber if he has the ability to climb or scale that cliff? Would he confidently say, "YES", OR would he say, "I don't know"? Let's assume he's never scaled that rock before. If he says, "YES", is it because he has confidence in the control he's attained in order to scale the cliff? What if he falls? Well, then he's wrong and he's dead. So, he might have some confidence in the ability to scale that cliff but he doesn't REALLY know for sure, there's no TOTAL confidence there. Odds are, he's going to say, "I don't know". But he's going to get up that cliff anyway. Why? Because the missing element is "challenge". Challenge is the catalyst that allows control to manifest to total confidence. This makes it less a symbiotic relationship, suggesting not a circular relationship, rather more of a linear relationship, to attain a goal. That goal becomes confidence through control.

It's the initial challenge that generates some confidence to get up that cliff. There's somewhat of a trade off. He's probably not thinking whether he has the control or not, he's initiated by the challenge and some confidence to put those hands on the rock. If he's careful, his equipment is in tip top shape and will serve him well. Is that control or just attention to detail because he knows that without it, he'll surely perish?

We have alot of variables at work here that suggest symbiosis but I would submit it's more of a linear relationship. A goal to attain through the argument that through control, we gain total confidence.

Based on that, you say, "when we learn what we can and cannot control, we free ourselves up to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows". I think I experience highs and lows, not based on what I can and cannot control but rather that we are like reeds in a wind, waving back and forth. There is only the control we have as we bend back and forth but the wind will definitely blow us one way or another despite this and we can experience highs and lows when we control, or not control. How do you recognize what gives us what? That's what makes life interesting, we just don't know. It's all a gamble, right?

That guy is insane, he may be confident, he may have control, but it only takes a slip to fall to his death. By all means he should have been able to scale it, and you can argue that if he falls, he doesn't have control. Debatable at best if he's an expert.

Did I open a can of worms?

Chris Ortega

Amit said...

Chris: If the "can of worms" has enough proteins and low sodium i'll eat it up. Lol.


Wow! thanks for the back to back posts. Your posts are a treat for my mind and soul. I do rock climb from time to time although not freestyle (eek! i guess i dont have the control -confidence dance going for me...) so i understand what you mean. Being in control is so over hyped these days that its true meaning has been completely twisted. Being in control these days means having things taken care off. You are in control if you can multi-task, attend 10 different things at a time, eat and work at the same time. However in this race for getting things done instantly we have forgotten to place enough emphasis on quality. I see people at the gym all the time trying to workout as many parts of their bodies as possible in an hour, or over-exerting just because its exercise.
Once even I felt completely out of control and so low on confidence that i just felt like giving up. I guess these feelings are common in people like me in their 20s. One of the major concerns in my life was my health. I am not exactly an out of shape person but i was finding it difficult to "mutli-task" and stay in shape at the same time. But then i discovered the key to all of it. Partly by accident and partly because of P90x. I learned to do one thing at a time and devote myself completely to it. I got myself deeply involved in my everyday tasks than just superficially finishing them off. I started working out better, studying better, my relationships flourished, and i gained confidence. I was in control by doing one thing at a time but doing it right. Trust me there is no better feeling than that. I if some people think that they might run out of time but its not really true. When you start doing things with devotion you start doing things "faster". Wow! i just went off here... your blog topics really spark my thoughts.
Thanks a lot Tony. Have a wonderful week.

Anonymous said...

Gravity is a B!t%h. Hang from a rock face long enough and you'll go splat. :)