Can 20-minute goals save your life?
It did for Joe Simpson.
Back in 1985, he and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, were the first to successfully ascend the west face of the Siula Grande peak in the Peruvian Andes. Upon their decent, however, Simpson slipped and broke his leg. With daylight fading, no drinking water, and the weather worsening, the pair needed to get off the mountain quickly. Tying two 150-foot ropes together, Yates successively lowered his climbing partner, subsequently descending to where he was waiting to be lowered again.
At visibility worsened, Yates inadvertently lowered Simpson over a cliff. With Simpson dangling and unable to stand to release strain on the rope for his partner to descend, they were in a predicament. Simpson could not climb the rope and Yates’ belay seat was beginning to give way. Facing the inevitability that they’d both be pulled over the cliff, Yates cut the rope, freeing himself from danger but sending his climbing partner to plummet 150 feet into a deep crevasse below.
The next morning, an exhausted and hypothermic Yates left his partner for dead after searching the area unsuccessfully. Miraculously, Simpson survived the fall and was able to crawl out of the crevasse. But his challenges were not over. He still needed to traverse a glacier and make it back to camp; a painstaking five mile trek with no food or water, nursing a broken leg and badly frostbitten fingers.
To keep motivated Simpson competed within himself to achieve 20-minute goals. Could I make it to that outcropping in 20-minutes? To the next boulder? To the crag?, he asked himself.
For three days, he crawled and hobbled from one 20-minute marker to the next, arriving back at camp just hours before his partner was preparing to leave.
A lot went wrong for Joe Simpson on that mountain. He was lucky it wasn’t worse. But the one thing he could control, when all appeared bleak, was his determination to press on—20 minutes at a time.
What can you press yourself to do in 20 minutes today? Just think. In 20 minutes you could:
- Write five notes of encouragement.
- Crack open that long overdue project you’ve been avoiding.
- Organize your to do list.
- Clean your desk.
- Take a refreshing walk.
- Listen to a favorite album.
- Or read a chapter of Joe Simpson’s fascinating story, Touching the Void, recently released as a 25-anniversary edition e-book.
Those activities wouldn’t have saved Simpson’s life on that mountain, but they might, in some small way, save a bit of your own.
What 20-minute goal will you pursue today?