Semi-Rad: Hire a Climber

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Brendan Leonard
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This story originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of our print edition.

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Photo: iStock

Thanks for having me here to interview for this position, and to explain why I think a climber would be an asset to your company. I will, of course, be speaking on behalf of all climbers. Although it’s true that many of us would love nothing more than to climb full-time and not work, the simple fact is that most of us have “real” jobs. “Most of us” meaning everyone besides Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell, Adam Ondra, Alex Honnold, Hazel Findlay, Ueli Steck, and a handful of other folks worldwide.

Climbers (I’m going to stereotype all of us) possess a handful of traits that are potentially attractive to your business. You either have these traits and you eventually become a climber, or you develop these traits through climbing. Either way, a climber should be a shoo-in for that position you’re looking to fill.

We’re self-starters. Yes, I know everyone says this in a job interview. But let me tell you: Every climber goes climbing because they want to. Actually, sometimes you go climbing because you are interested in a hot guy/girl who is a climber (can you say go-getter?). But when it’s time to lead a route, no one’s making us do it. No one is standing there going, “I want you to climb up and clip that first bolt.” Do you think Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold’s sponsors said to them, “Guys, let’s see some synergy, huh? You can really drive Q4 metrics with a tip of the spear idea like an enchainment of all the peaks in the Fitz Roy Massif. Can we get some buy-in on this?” Hell no. They just went and did it. And although most of us have much smaller climbing objectives, we’re not sitting around waiting for someone to give us an idea.

We’re efficient. Everyone knows that fast transitions at belays are a key to success on multi-pitch climbs—or at least a key not to suffer through too many open bivvies. Efficient belay transitions mean each climber is working hard to keep things as simple as possible, and constantly thinking of the team’s success first. For example, I consider myself an expert multitasker because I can poop and belay at the same time. While that may not be a skill that directly applies to any roles at your company, I do believe it illustrates my ability to juggle multiple tasks in a stressful environment without falling off a cliff or, at the least, forgetting to respond to an email.

Also, as far as efficiency goes, climbers dating back to the original Yosemite dirtbags have been successful at doing an entire year’s worth of work in a few months so they can take the rest of the year off to go climbing. Compare this to the average office worker who does about one month of work a year, six months of watching cat videos, three months of forwarding stupid emails, and two months of eating lunch—all during business hours. The numbers don’t lie: Hire a climber, and your line graphs will go through the roof.

We’re goal-oriented. I know, same bullshit everyone says on their resume or in a job interview. But for real. The entire idea of climbing is about goals. I’m going to lead this route or send that boulder problem. Every time we go to the crag, we have at least five or six objectives, if not more, and we check those objectives off our list as we go. Sometimes we pick a difficult objective and work on it for weeks (this is called a project) until we’re successful. And think about it—this is what we do on the weekends! We don’t sit around drinking beer and watching TV (at least until after we’re done climbing). We set goals and achieve them. Just imagine what we could do for your business. It is worth pointing out that we do all of this obsessing outside of work hours, of course.

Many of our goals, similar to some of the things you ask your employees to do, are contrived, and quite pointless in the grand scheme of things—climbing up 75 feet of limestone to clip a rope to a set of chains, or putting together a sequence of gymnastic moves across a 15-foot imaginary line on a boulder. But we work hard at them, just like we’ll do with all those tasks you assign us because they’re not worth anyone else’s time.

Does your company have an internal newsletter? If it does, I bet it features stock photos of business people in suits climbing mountains. If you go on a stock photography website and search “business,” half the results will be close-ups of handshakes featuring people with different skin colors. The other half will be business people climbing mountains. This, I have gathered, is because climbing is the perfect metaphor for the monumental tasks faced by business people every day. What better way to be prepared for those challenges than by hiring an actual rock climber? This will also allow you to save money on stock photos in future editions of your newsletter. I believe that’s what you call a “win-win” in business.

We are team players. Nothing cements the idea of teamwork quite like roping up for a multi-pitch route: two climbers committing to the same goal. We root for our partner in this situation and do everything we can to ensure their success, because if they fail, we fail. In a way, our lives literally depend on it. If something goes wrong up there, like, really wrong—like all the gear rips out and the anchor blows (imagine you know what this means)—and our partner falls hundreds of feet to the ground, then we’re going too. Because we’re tied to them. One thing frequently forgotten in the cutthroat world of business is that everyone at a company is tied together in a way. If something goes really wrong and the company decks, everyone loses their jobs together.

We are trustworthy. When we say something, we mean it. Especially when we say, “You’re on belay.” I personally have belayed dozens of climbers and never once dropped anyone. If I can be responsible for the lives of dozens of cumulative people over the years—sometimes while simultaneously going to the bathroom—I’m pretty sure I can, yes, get that TPS report to you by Friday without blowing it.

What are our weaknesses? What am I supposed to say here, that we work too hard? OK, sure, that, plus we generally eat more food, sometimes sleep in our cars, come into the office with strange wounds on our hands, speak in a dialect only intelligible to other climbers, and we can’t quite explain our weekend or vacation plans to you in a manner you can relate to. Also, some of us can’t quite do one-finger pull-ups—yet.

We can start Tuesday. We’re climbing Monday.

Brendan Leonard lives in relentless pursuit of 5.fun and writes at semi-rad.com. His new book, Sixty Meters to Anywhere, is available now at amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, other bookstores, and at semi-rad.com/books. Watch the trailer: