When the rock won’t move

Self-doubt is a powerful force. I’m staring up at a 15-foot sandstone rock wall, assessing how I’m going to climb it.  My son had already scrambled to the top like Spiderman, not intimidated by the small footholds or the hard surface he could have fallen down on below.  We had been climbing for 3 hours up a boulder-heaped “trail” called Dragon’s Back and the summit was in sight.

“Come on, Dad you can do it,” Evan tried to encourage me from his vantage point above. All I could think about was the Wikipedia entry for Class III rock-climbing, noting that “not all falls from rocks of this height will be fatal.” That was a comforting thought.

I know that sometimes “scary” is necessary to cross over thresholds you previously thought impossible.  But this literal wall in front of me, which at the very least could cause me to break my leg, was causing me to have one of those “when to stop” moments.

I took a step back and took a long, warm sip of water from my camelback. Then I slowly looked to the left and to the right as I finished off the last of my Cliff bar.  I shouted up the wall, “Hey Evan, can you see a way around from up there?”

He checked out the terrain on the side of the mountain, a collection of jumbled sandstone boulders, sharp yucca plants and twisted Manzanita bushes that had been burned black in the Santa Barbara fire 2 years ago.

He shouted back, “If you backtrack 20 feet and go down and around, I think you can make it.”  He started climbing over to the left side to meet me.  I went “off-road” and it was rough going, snagging my backpack on the gnarled brush and slipping in the loose dirt, but I made it all the way up to meet Evan. 

We eventually made the summit together, and to me it was even more satisfying that I did it without taking the risky climb on the 15-foot wall. 

The life metaphor is fairly transparent… we often come up against seemingly insurmountable challenges and assume there is only one way through. Truth is, I didn’t have to defeat that wall directly because I was able to outsmart it.  But make no mistake, I DID defeat it.

There is nothing wrong with going back down and around when you have to overcome an obstacle.  Even when the rock won’t move… what’s stopping you from taking a new direction?

Photo: David and Evan Goad with the Dragon’s Back ridge in the background.

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10 Comments on “When the rock won’t move”


  1. Gosh, look at Evan… I feel so old. I remember when he was just ‘this tall.’ OMG! LOL

    Well congrats on the climb and overcoming the obstacle.
    Very timely David… how do you do this? Are you psychic?

    First let me applaud you on making that climb.
    And second… do you realize you really didn’t give the alternate route a second thought and didn’t let backtracking defeat you either? Take a look at what you said. I marveled at that… Evan gave you instruction to ‘back track’ … and most of us midlifers get a tad ‘put off’ by having to back track because it’s that whole two steps forward three steps back. Or in your case 20 feet…. but you didn’t let that stop you. You didn’t even let it discourage you. AND THAT my friend you are to be High-Fived for big time!!!! Good for you! Proud of you and your achievement.

    This is a great life lesson.
    Again, very timely.
    Sometimes to go forward or upward,
    we need to go backward a bit….

    because it is only when we do
    we get more clarity and a better
    perspective on what needs to be done.

    And with that – deeper appreciation for getting there.
    The trip is all the sweeter for it.

    BRAVO!!! BRAVO!!!! 🙂 And THANK YOU!

  2. Connie Says:

    there you go again, David…pointing out the possibilities where there seem to be no other options. I’m so grateful to be included in your blog following! Thank you!

    • davidgoad Says:

      Thanks for reading, Connie! Perseverance doesn’t always mean banging your head against a wall until one of them gives way 🙂

  3. Adrena Says:

    Agree timely and I needed a David Goad story to jump start my day!


  4. Surely a great lesson for all of us in this. Sometimes a going around something instead if hitting it straight on is the best way. Taking a smart approach is often the best.

    Congrats David on the climb and on the wisdom!

  5. Roland Says:

    Awesome stuff, David.

    So often we look at life as a series of successes and defeats. I guess that is one way… The fact that we are still alive when considering this should tell us something – maybe the lesson is worth it, regardless of how we get there. Also, the “there” changes as we look at life, and move throigh it.

    They say, “set a goal,” because as you approach the goal you get a new perspective on a regular basis. Then, so often, the goal and destination changes, and the map and road adjust accordingly.

    The reason people feel like they have to conquer a specific thing is to gain self-worth. It enhances their self-image. It builds confidence. But all this is based on the fundamental concept of fear. “…am I not worthy? …not good enough? …can I do it?”

    This feeds off of the self-doubt syndrome, and becomes the real rock in our consciousness – the obstacle that hinders our forward thinking and anchors us into immobility. So much of what faces us could be minimized in size with an adjusted point of view – which is exactly what you demonstrated.

    Everyone should read your article, and maybe they could “see” the inner message, and gain some strategic concepts that apply to their own lives. It could change the way they look at life itself, and give them reason to move forward and take on their challenges… and maybe see more of those challenges as opportunities, too..

    Thanks, david.


    • Wow, Roland! Okay… dig this as I do most of your reply posts.
      You said something that rang a few bells here….

      Conquering goals to gain self-worth.

      I guess the question is, why do we question ‘what is enough?’

      I mean, at some point, don’t we self-defeat by the very ideas that we’re never good enough so we must keep achieving until we feel accomplished or that we’ve tackled some sort of achievement? And in the end if we keep doing this to the point of listlessness and exhaustion aren’t we being counterproductive in the process?

      This all stirs… up ‘clarity of purpose’ and all those other issues.
      When self-esteem is attached to the idea of achieving, it can be destructive sometimes. I look at my Japanese heritage where the ‘Ichiban Syndrome’ (being number one) sometimes drives people to suicide, because they are not ‘good enough’ or feel ‘worthy enough’ because they haven’t tackled Mount Fuji or Everest… you know?

      This is an intersting dynamic, when we attach achievement to self-worth.

      I say everyone is ‘good enough’ and everyone is ‘enough’ as they are if they are happy, fulfilled and have inner peace. Life is full of pressures. We can set goals for ourselves to become better versions of what we are, but not to the point where we end up destroying the very thing we are set out to do.

      It’s time we all celebrate differences and ourselves and what we all can collectively share and bring together as different people. It can be so beautiful. Self-imposed pressures are difficult. Everyone probably plays ping-pong in their head at some point – beit the college kid contemplating the future; an early career tracker wondering if they’re ever going to climb the ladder high enough; a midlifer feeling stuck with the ‘is this all there is’ feeling and the empty-nester who feels ‘now what?’ – but it limited by other means to achieve certain things due to income, health or just age.

      I so loooooooove what you said about immobility! Amen to that. Fear paralyzes people when self-doubt enters the consciousness for sure.

      You are 100% right on with the goal and the destination changing……perhaps this occurs when evolvement comes into play. As we all grow and change, and our perceptions about need vs. want changes……we realize the important thing is we can shift/adjust our values into something more meaningful.

      I believe we are beings here trying to apply some sort of meaning to our lives, otherwise, what is the purpose of waking up in the morning without meaning. This is the motivator…. and we can apply meaning to our interactions, we can apply meaning to our goals we set, we can apply meaning to what we cherish in our lives and apply meaning to the lessons a rock teaches us about who we are, what we’re made of and what life can bring.

      I say it’s a beautiful thing.

      It was fun reading your reply.

  6. Merilee Says:

    WOW. You are a stud! I can’t do that.


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