How Free Solo Climber Alex Honnold Faces Fear


In this episode of the Re:Thinking with Adam Grant podcast, Grant speaks with Alex Honnold, arguably the most daring rock climber alive. In 2017, Honnald did the unthinkable, scaling, without any protective equipment, Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan, a flat wall of rock 3,000 feet tall. The feat was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo. Naturally, Grant wanted to explore what we can take from Honnold’s approach to managing fear. Honnold delves into his way of regulating emotion when he’s fingers away from falling to his death, as well as what he finds frightening and motivating.

Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist who studies work motivation, job design, and prosocial and proactive behaviors. His research examines the forces that motivate employees to help others, and the implications of these behaviors for success and well-being. Although many employees do work that has a meaningful impact on others, all too often, they lack a vivid understanding of how their efforts make a difference. Grant’s studies demonstrate that employees work harder, smarter, longer, more generously, and more productively when they can see how their work affects others. He is the author, most recently, of Think Again among others.

Alex Honnold 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. A gifted but hard-working athlete, Alex “No Big Deal” Honnold is known as much for his humble, self-effacing attitude as he is for the dizzyingly tall cliffs he has climbed without a rope to protect him if he falls. Honnold has been profiled by 60 Minutes, The New York Times, and Nautilus; featured on the cover of National Geographic; appeared in international television commercials; and starred in numerous adventure films, including the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo.