Leadership Challenges for 2019 – What will be your “Dawn Wall” in the year ahead.
Over the holiday my son persuaded me to watch a film with him about rock climbing, his new hobby. I expected a worthy portrayal of the technical aspects of an ascent up some steep rocks . I didn’t expect a compelling human drama about emotional vulnerability, compassion and prioritising others over self.
The film, ‘Dawn Wall‘ released in late 2018 follows American climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s 3,000 feet ascent of the smoothest side of El Capitan in Yosemite ( pictured here) . The “Dawn Wall” is so called because it’s the panel of the cliff face that the sun illuminates first
An avid climber, at 22 Caldwell was taken hostage by rebels in Kyrgyzstan. He later lost his index finger in a domestic accident but resolved to come back stronger. He spent six years meticulously planning the climb with his partner, Jorgensen. Half way up the wall, with the world watching, Caldwell faced a moment of truth. He knew at that point, he could complete the ascent himself but Jorgensen was struggling. Deciding that success would be hollow if not shared with the man who helped him solve the puzzle of the most difficult rock climb in the world, Caldwell goes back to support him. 19 days after they started on the wall they reach the summit together, a feat many believed impossible.
Before the climb a New York Times reporter asked Caldwell: “What’s the point of this?”
There’s a message for all of us in his response:
“The Dawn Wall was the last unclimbed big swatch of stone on El Capitan. I had looked at it before and thought I would never be able to do it. What I learned from my experience in Kyrgyzstan is that we all have this idea of our own limits. It takes something to push you past that and I discovered then that we are capable of so much more than we can imagine at times”
So in the year ahead, what will be your “Dawn Wall” ?