This week’s episode is special. It’s from our first Finding Mastery “Live” recorded at the USC Performance Science Institute.

Seattle Seahawks head coach, Pete Carroll, USC Executive Director for Entrepreneurial Studies, David Belasco, and I created the institute to teach, train, and research the science, best practices, and applied processes for a high performing mindset in any domain.

That’s our mission.

I can’t tell you how excited I am for what we’re building – it’s got all the makings for something very special for the next generation of doers and thinkers.

The guest for this first Finding Mastery Live is Alex Honnold, someone I’ve wanted to talk to for a very long time.

Alex, in my mind, is one of the most compelling athletes in sport right now.

Alex is a professional adventure rock climber whose audacious free-solo ascents of America’s biggest cliffs have made him one of the most recognized and followed climbers in the world.

If you’re not familiar with free solo climbing, it’s literally climbing without using any ropes and harnesses or any protective equipment, relying entirely on the climbers ability, which is just his or her mind, their hands, their feet, and their connection with the mountain.

That’s it.

Alex’s mind is extraordinary. His depth of presence, his curiosity, his confidence, his ability to be calm and to think clearly – they all just jumped out in this conversation.

All of those are likely hallmarks of why he’s so different than so many other physically talented climbers.

Alex recently became the first person to free solo climb El Capitan in Yosemite, the most iconic wall in the world.

To Alex, this project was just a little bit bigger, a little bit harder, than he’s attempted in the past and in his words, it was attainable.

That’s something to consider for when people are pushing the boundaries of human performance and human limits.

Although it looks crazy or reckless to many of us, it is just an incremental step in the direction of growth for them.

You’ve likely heard me talking about ways to dissolve pressure and not just perform with it.

One way Alex has done that is by having this incredible balance between being mission minded (meaning why and what he’s doing in his life) without compromising his ability to lock in and be present with whatever he’s doing.

Alex is a world-class talent and I hope this conversation gives you some perspective on why he’s able to do what he does.

“Life is short and you need to do the things that you want to do. You don’t have forever.”

In This Episode:

  • How he’s changed over the last 10 years… overcoming his fear of public speaking
  • Why he places so much value on progression
  • His desire for constant adventure
  • Why dropping out of school to climb didn’t feel like a big decision or big risk
  • His approach towards achieving goals
  • His relationship with death
  • How he learned to find his best
  • His method for utilizing imagery
  • The most challenging section he faced free-solo climbing El-Cap
  • What Felix Baumgartner wanted to know from Alex Honnold: What happens when you face a situation where you’ve run out of skill?
  • How he avoids being influenced by others’ opinions and external pressure
  • Why mastery is about being comfortable with any set of circumstances
  • Q/A with audience


Listen via: Apple Podcasts | Android | Stitcher | Pocket Casts |  RSS




“I don’t think about it as being uncomfortable. I think about it as having an adventure.”

“My overarching principle within climbing has always been as long I’m getting better, it’s all good.”

“If I fail on things, that’s fine as long as I try, and as long as I’m moving forward.”

His approach to goal-setting: “Strong goals, loosely held.”

“If something happens and I get very afraid, I take some deep breaths and just bring it back together and then carry on.”

“Mastery is having a depth of comfort in what you do. You’re comfortable with any set of circumstances. I think about that with climbing. Broadening the comfort zone. Going on rest day adventures that are a little bit hard in some different way. Then anytime something happens you’re like, ‘O yeah, that, I can deal with that.’ That to me is a sense of mastery.”


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Rock Climber

Alex Honnold is an American rock climber best known for his free solo ascents of big walls. He is the only person to have free-solo climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and has broken a number speed climbing records.