Persistence, Preparation, and Managing Risk with Alex Honnold

Peter Levine and Alex Honnold

Living simply just means staying focused on the things that are most important, having clear goals, working towards them, and making sure that all the other stuff isn't getting in the way. -Alex Honnold

Professional rock climber Alex Honnold is best known for his free solo of El Capitan in Yosemite — a feat that required climbing 3000 feet of sheer rock face without a rope or safety gear. In the two years since reaching that summit, he’s focused on a new challenge — spreading solar power to less developed communities.

In this interview, fellow climbing enthusiast, a16z general partner Peter Levine talks with Alex about his rise from dirtbag climber to world-famous athlete and philanthroper. How does he approach risk and regimen? What went through his mind during his climb? How does he apply the same persistence and preparation to his philanthropic efforts? But perhaps, most importantly, how can anyone at the start of a new venture broaden their vision and find a path to the top?

When you're living exactly the way that you want to be living, it's easy to give away what you don't need, because you're already on exactly the path that you want. -Alex Honnold


Alex explains why he won’t go ice climbing [0:57]
The preparation that wasn’t in the film “Free Solo”[2:24]
Preparing mentally for something that’s never been done before [3:22]
A failed attempt returned Alex to the route that started it all [4:48]
“If you’re going to do something, you might as well be the best at it.” [5:01]
When Alex goes to a climbing gym [8:09]
Why climbing is more democratic than football [9:07]
Dirtbag climber to world famous athlete [9:25]
The line between risk and reward in climbing and entrepreneurship [10:22]
The parallels of climbing and company building [13:01]
Taking the rope off to envision a new path to the top [15:04]
2 hours to the top — speed climbing on El Cap [16:20]
When it’s okay to fall… and when it isn’t  [17:59]
The impact of filming on the experience of the climb [19:48]
How climbing gyms have changed the sport [22:55]
Anti-gravity v. gravity assisted sports [25:06]
The Honnold Foundation mission of “solar for a more equitable world” [26:05]
“It’s easy to give away what you don’t need when you’re living exactly the way you want” [29:40]
How the Honnold Foundation chooses projects [30:08]
What living as simply as possible means to Alex [32:28]