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It had never been done before. El Capitan — the famous 3,000-foot granite face in Yosemite — once seemed impossible to climb at all, let alone solo and without ropes. But on June 3, 2017, Alex Honnold posed for a National Geographic photo — climbing shoes in hands, wide grin on face — atop the mammoth monolith after 3 hours and 56 minutes of flawless execution that crisp morning. His many years of meticulously detailed practice and planning had culminated in the realization of a dream that, three years after the fact, remains unthinkable to the lion’s share of humanity.Why did he do it? How did he do it? Journalists around the world covered the incredible, death-defying feat, and the Free Solo documentary has netted almost $30M as of this writing. Nathaniel Rich of The Atlantic claimed that what we envy in Honnold is not so much his climbing ability, but rather “his ability to forget about death.”It may seem over-the-top to compare the exploits of competitive lifters to Honnold’s awe-inspiring solo climbs; after all, what percentage of iron game participants transition to Valhalla after a one-rep max attempt? But make no mistake about it: loading more weight than your body has ever handled onto a squat bar and entering that special gauntlet — solo — requires serious commitment and extensive preparation, the lack of which has resulted in countless injuries (or worse). The PrecipiceWhile cliffs, crags, and escarpments lie squarely within the climber’s world, there is a very real precipice that lifters face as part of their iron journey. The fact that this dizzying overhang is more psychological than physical in no way diminishes its power.EliteFTS founder Dave Tate calls this precipice The Void, or what occurs deep inside the lifter during “the moment between the chalk box and the...

Unconscious. The flow state. In the zone.These terms describe how we comprehend incredible performances — in athletics, the creative arts, and elsewhere — during which the protagonist transcends the mundane to momentarily enter another dimension.Witnessing the zone in others is powerful; experiencing it ourselves can be literally breathtaking.We have all seen the phenomenon in the sports world: swimmer Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals in one Olympics; runner Joan Benoit Samuelson besting the field to become the first women’s Olympic marathon champion; sprinter Usain Bolt annihilating the competition in both the 100m and 200m at three consecutive Olympics. While these are inspiring examples, the zone or flow state is not limited to the Olympic Games, winning medals, or even the wide world of sports. Instead, one can “flow” in a seemingly unlimited number of realms and disciplines, to include one’s profession as well as one’s passion (which may or may not overlap). The Flow State and the “Best Self” ConceptMihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who first identified the flow principle, described it as follows:“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”Years ago, a friend pursuing an MBA at Harvard University asked me (in the context of a class assignment, the Reflected Best Self exercise) to identify times when his “best self” had emerged. I do not recall the examples I conveyed to him at the time, but this “best self” concept has stuck with me over the years. Specifically, it has caused me to repeatedly reflect upon my own “best self” moments and what I believe has led to them.Only recently did I make the connection between this “best self”...