Alex Honnold: Pushing the Limits

Posted: February 7, 2018, 1:20pm

Last week, USC Perforance Science Institute hosted another incredible speaker, climbing phenomenon Alex Honnold. He is the only person who has free-solo climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, and speed solo climbed the Yosemite Triple Crown (Mount Watkins, The Nose, and Half Dome’s Northwest face). At only 32, he’s a legitimate extreme sports star, known around the world for accomplishing athletic feats that will likely remain unbroken for the next few decades. I had heard about his conquering of El Capitan without any ropes or safety equipment back in mid-2017, so I RSVP’d for this incredible event immediately.

Alex Honnold speaking with Dr. Glenn Fox at Bovard Auditorium.

In a discussion with Dr. Glenn Fox, a neuroscientist specializing in gratitude and human performance, Alex opened up about his life journey and his personal goals with climbing. His passion and admiration for mountains and natural wonders drives him to connect with them, whether it is camping beside them or scaling their walls. Although he has lifelong goals, Alex tends to focus less on sticking to his to-do less and more on becoming a better athlete. He may have 15 walls he wants to climb in 2018, but he won’t feel let down if he doesn’t get through all of them. He only wants to be a better climber at the end of the year. This really resonated with me because I tend to look at earning titles or recognition as a means of gaging accomplishment. This way of measuring success has been difficult in my PhD though since there aren’t always obvious benchmarks between starting projects and publishing positive results. Especially for the remainder of this year during the middle of my doctoral studies, I need to look more internally and direct my energy into improving my skills as an independent researcher instead of worrying about awards and labels.

Although many people think Alex is insane for scaling a mountain taller than three Empire State Buildings without any gear, to him, it was simply a feat that he knew he could accomplish with his skillset. I hope to develop my own expertise with medical devices and entrepreneurship to the point where I can perform at a high quality under extreme pressure. If you want to hear more about Alex’s story and how he manages his mindset in the world of extreme sports, watch his interview here!