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Trickle Down Theory

Dave Nettle is an American rock climber, alpinist and backcountry skier. Take this special opportunity and tap into Dave's wisdom, which has been decades in the making. 


I believe we are a product of our habits and that excellence is achieved not through single actions but repetition. For me it has made sense to develop slowly over the years as a climber and skier, enjoying the gradual, satisfying refinement of the craft. Climbing and other action sports, give you a pattern that is self reinforcing: you set a challenging goal, you accomplish it, and then reflect upon it. This translates to other areas of life and keeps one passionate about things. 


Very early on I learned that WHO I climb with is far more important than WHAT I climb Essentially all of my adventures have been with close friends whom I trust. I donʼt keep going out with someone whose judgement I don’t trust. 


Sportgevity agrees that choosing partners is an important part of the equation to having a sustainable career. Partners have profound influences on our behavior. Choose wisely. 


I have definitely been in situations that were serious with potential for fatal consequences. Some were a bit more than Iʼd bargained for. After an ascent of the Thunderbird variation on the South Face of Mount Logan, my party had to descend off the back side. Without food and water, and in a storm, we made our way over unfamiliar terrain for 40 miles, traversing a glacier and a mountain range. Over the long three days, I ruminated on the question, “will we make it out?” Iʼd like to think THAT will be as close as it gets in my lifetime.


You have to be in touch with your body to know about your specific genetic advantage. I have known some genetically fit athletes who were passionate about running. But running destroyed them because mutant knees did not happen to be a part of their genetic package. Yet they “pushed through”, did it anyway, and are now trashed before they reached 40. Maybe they should have taken up mountain biking! I have recognized that certain activities take a higher toll on my body, so I let them go, sometimes reluctantly. But I want to be in it for the long haul. I think there is a tendency for people to play hard when they are young and then have nothing left when they are old. Ever since I was a teenager, I took on a balanced approach and was careful not to stack it up at one end or the other.


Accelerating death and injury rates in our sport is related to the speed of which the “human spirit” in our sport is expanding. I believe that to grow as humans, individually and collectively, we need to push the envelope in one way or another. There are going to be those who die pushing the envelope along the way. That has and always will be a factor. The problem now is that the boundary of what is “possible vs impossible” is often immediately shared globally and with major hype. Historically, information would travel over months and years, yet it is now available in a matter of seconds. The bar is set higher before people can develop the necessary skills to safely accomplish the “next step”. So luck, rather than skill, is gradually playing a bigger and bigger role in the blend. Luck runs out from time to time.   


The notion of death in our sport community will become unacceptable to me when I hear “they died for a good cause, to push our sport...” Life is a pretty fine thing and youʼd better be damn sure of why and how youʼre risking it before you bust a move. 


Most climbers love to resist conventional society. They thrive on doing what others think you shouldnʼt or can’t do. To many climbers a “keep out” sign is good because it means that you will have the area to yourself. 


Sportgevity believes setting up limitations often breeds a strong paradoxical response. For action sports athletes the fun is often on the other side of the “no” sign. To successfully lead younger generations into more sustainable athletic careers, we have to be particularly careful with this dynamic. 


The word “safe” turns a lot of risk takers off. For me itʼs about pursuing risk, then doing everything I can to manage that risk. For example on a big powder day, I WILL go backcountry skiing, even if people think it is “unsafe”. The activity itself is not unsafe, but how you approach it can be. 


Sportgevity agrees. Sending black and white messages about whether activities are safe or unsafe prevents participants from learning appropriate skills that are required to address risk in complex environments. For example, to truly be safe in avalanche terrain, one needs to learn how to adapt to higher hazard conditions. Some of these adaptations may come in quieter forms. For example, when having to ski lower angle slopes or when having to take a longer and less exposed route back to the car, learning to reframe a feeling of “let down” into one of “reward” is a valuable tool. 


Enjoy the process of achieving skill and excellence as much as the accomplishment itself. Over time, accomplishments and goals will become less important. If you have spent your life learning how to enjoy the process, you will always have fuel for your passion. Learn to love the feeling and not the rating. The feeling will last a lifetime. 

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