Free Solo and Pursuing FIRE

Free Solo is an inspiring and crazy documentary released in 2018 about the climber Alex Honnold.

The Free Solo documentary talks about his life and chronicles his journey in being the first person to free solo climb El Capitan. It is a massive 3,000-foot granite wall in Yosemite National Park.

This documentary is hard to watch but fascinating at the same time.

Free Solo Climbing

Free solo climbing is different than regular climbing in that there is no room for mistakes. You climb without any ropes, and if you mess up, you will probably die a gruesome death.

Less than 1% of climbers free solo. And for a good reason. There are too many variables to do it safely. Even climbers who have a ton of experience and skill have died from soloing.

Free Solo was incredibly hard to watch. Even those who were filming had a hard time watching him scale El Capitan. Can you imagine watching someone do something which has a good chance of falling thousands of feet? I would start to freak out after getting 5 feet off the ground.

His focus and outlook inspired me. He was able to define his dream, and he pursued it with everything.

We All Take Risks

Alex Honnold has received criticism for the risks he takes free solo climbing.

So many people condemn me for risk taking, but I find it sort of hypocritical because everybody takes risks. Even the absence of activity could be viewed as a risk. If you sit on the sofa for your entire life, you're running a higher risk of getting heart disease and cancer.

Alex Honnold

We all take risks in our lives. Granted, these are different types of risks. But they can sneak into our lives, and when we realize what is happening, it might be too late.

The goal is not to avoid risk.

Sure, I could dump all of my money into a savings account. This option ensures my balance will never go down. But that risks inflation making that money less valuable over time.

Sitting cash decreases in value over time.

We don't want to avoid risk, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to reduce it. It is a matter of controlling the amount of risk you are willing to take on.

As far as investments are concerned, this involves figuring out your risk tolerance. As you age, you probably want to tweak your holdings as you get closer to retirement to reduce your exposure to risk.

Money Can Reduce Risk

Money can free up our time. It also has the ability in reducing the day-to-day risk in depending on a job.

To me, that is what FIRE is all about; reducing the risk of having to waste my time doing things that don't bring me joy.

I will most likely make some mistakes with my money, where I don't make as much as I could have made. But as long as I'm pursuing an allocation that matches my risk tolerance, I will accept whatever happens.

I want to get get to a spot where the money I have is working harder than what I can do on my own, which could be from dividends from the stock market, owning rental property, etc.

It Isn't About Living Risk-Free

We can live life unintentionally, and gamble where we end up in 20-40 years. Or we can pursue a point where money becomes less of a concern. Where our time 100% belongs to us.

There is no such thing as reducing risk to 0%. There are no guarantees in life.

But that doesn't mean we can't increase our chances in reaching the future we want. I want to learn how to use my money efficiently so it will grow over time and enable me to do what I want with my time.

If we make mistakes, unlike climbing without ropes, we probably aren't going to fall to our death as long as we spend less than we earn, have an emergency fund and aggressively save.

Money Doesn't Care About Who You Are

Money isn't living and breathing. It is something we own and control.

It isn't like our money has a mind of its' own. We can't earn a certain amount and then wake up one day to find out our money decided to “move on” to a different owner (thank goodness).

The only way we can lose the money we've earned is by not using it wisely.

The more money you attain, the easier it is to have that money earn more money.

That is why the super-rich has no problem earning more money, even with extravagant purchases. They've reached a point where they can do nothing, and their money makes a massive amount of income.


I was never, like, a bad climber [as a kid], but I had never been a great climber, either…there were a lot of other climbers who were much, much stronger than me, who started as kids and were, like, instantly freakishly strong––like they just have a natural gift. And that was never me. I just loved climbing, and I've been climbing all the time ever since, so I've naturally gotten better at it, but I've never been gifted.

Alex Honnold

Alex Honnold doesn't just wake up one day and decide he is going to free solo a climb he has never done before.

He understands the risk he is taking, and prepares to tackle that risk as best he can.

He studies the details of the route and figures out the best way up the wall. The more difficult parts of the path he practices obsessively.

It isn't like he just “hopes” that he makes it up the granite wall. Alex gets to a point where he is comfortable with the wall and is confident he knows the best way up to reduce as much risk as possible.

Personal finances can often feel intimidating. That we could easily make a stupid decision at any point. However, the more we can educate ourselves on the available options, the less likely we are going to make huge mistakes.

The biggest risk in personal finance is not thinking about what we should do with our money.

We spend like buying crap is going to make us happy. And we get surprised when that doesn't happen.

FIRE is Like a Massive Wall

Many people look at having enough money to quit their day jobs as a huge wall that is impossible to climb.

And maybe you are not in your early 20's (like me) and have lost valuable time. You might be thinking that your time has passed in having the ability to scale this huge financial wall.

It is essential to understand where we are at, and how valuable time is in growing our money. But we can't underestimate the progress we can make if we focus our efforts.

Sure, we may realize that we might not be able to retire as early as we could have if we started the ascent when we were 20 years old. But we can still reduce the number of years we work, and we may have more options now than we did when we were younger.

You probably make more now than you made when you were 20. You might be married and have a spouse that also has income. Maybe you have options available now that you didn't have when you were younger.

Don't underestimate the power of focus to reduce the time it takes to reach the future you want.

Worst case is you have to work longer than you were hoping. But in the end, you will be better off than if you do nothing. Most Americans will have to work at least until they receive social security benefits. If you can beat that, you will be doing better than most people financially.

Set Smaller Goals

It would be great if we could establish a huge goal, and wake up the next day and meet it.

But that isn't how big problems are solved.

I've tried to approach environmentalism the same way I do my climbing: by setting small, concrete goals that build on each other.

Alex Honnold

As I've previously talked about how I succeeded as a web developer, complex problems become easier to solve when you break them up into smaller problems.

When you are at the bottom of a massive financial wall or looking at a massive debt mountain, you can quickly become overwhelmed. But as you start climbing, the distance to your goal shortens. The harder and longer you push, the finish line gets closer.

Completing smaller goals tend to motivate us as we see progress. Each step becomes a visual representation of progress.

In Summary

Our financial goals can seem impossible to accomplish.

But when we become focused on pursuing them, while keeping our priorities straight, we often realize that pursuing smaller goals keeps us on the right path over the long-term.

Free Solo is an excellent documentary that has motivated me to keep pushing towards our dreams.

Have you watched Free Solo? What did you think?

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