League of Wildness,
I can't remember exactly when I first heard of the birthday challenge idea, but I remember who I heard it from: Hans Florine. Hans is a professional rock climber who is known for his speed ascents up El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Hans has does some exceptionally wild birthday challenges; some worked out well while others had some "failures". It's extremely important to highlight that the Birthday Challenge concept share many of the same qualities of the Misogi. Misogi is all about expanding your imagination of what is possible. When you seek to push your boundaries, you should expect to fail. So in a sense - failure is the goal - at least 50% of the time.
A proper birthday challenge is something that has a 50/50 chance of success.
At the very least - it should have some unknowns and push your boundaries.
Although not required - it is in good style to incorporate your age into the challenge.
Check out Hans' 2020 birthday challenge for his 56th birthday (it even has some wild gym exercises):
- 56 KMs on the road bike. - completed
- 56 push-ups. - “failed” or got part way.
- 5.6 KMs hiking/walking. - completed
- 5 or 6 routes and/or a 5.6 grade route. - completed 5 routes and a 5.6
- 56 pull-ups. - completed
- 56 squats. - “failed” or got part way.
- 56 @wildgymco movements. - completed
- 56 swimming strokes. - completed
- Picked up 56 pieces of trash. - completed, but lame, I should of done 560. I’ll do better @leavenotracecenter
- 56 meters or strokes on SUP. - completed
- Met 5 or 6 new people. - completed
- 56 lunges. - “failed” or got part way.
- 56 hammer toss and strikes. “Stump game.” - “failed” or got part way.
Hans wrote a legit reflection to his 2020 Birthday Challenge that I copied below:
What I learned. (again) : CHALLENGE yourself. If you complete a goal you set, then…. It was with-in your reach. Perhaps you did “reach” yourself to attain the goal, but you’ll never know for sure how much you can grow or “reach” if you don’t fail. Every challenge I completed yesterday I failed to push my self past my limit. Hmm. What this translates to is that you really should pick: fun, purposeful, motivating goals/challenges, so that the journey to attain them makes you grow and you have to dig deep to get em' done, that uncomfortableness helps you grow. Accomplishing things is not as useful as getting uncomfortable and growing from the experience. A credential or certificate is good, actual learning/growing/experience is better. If you want some ideas for yourself check out @dhtchallenge (there is stuff there you will fail to do, but I recommend attempting anyway).
The purpose of the Birthday Challenge, Misogi (or dare I say...life?) is to LEARN. Hans had a serious injury in 2018 in which he broke both of his legs. For a professional athlete I can only imagine how much of challenge that was, and continues to be. But Hans has maintained an extremely positive attitude throughout the recovery process and made it clear that he continues to learn and grow.
This is one of our core values at wild gym - expanding your imagination of what is possible. It can also be articulated as: the obstacle is the way, or more simply - learning and growth.
There is an ancient parable about the Farmer and the Horse that clearly highlights the duality of life. Growth often comes through failure and/or misfortune.
A long time ago, a poor Chinese farmer lost a horse, and all the neighbors came around and said, “well that’s too bad.” The farmer said, “maybe.” Shortly after, the horse returned bringing another horse with him, and all the neighbors came around and said, “well that’s good fortune,” to which the farmer replied, “maybe.” The next day, the farmer’s son was trying to tame the new horse and fell, breaking his leg, and all the neighbors came around and said, “well that’s too bad,” and the farmer replied, “maybe.” Shortly after, the emperor declared war on a neighboring nation and ordered all able-bodied men to come fight—many died or were badly maimed, but the farmer’s son was unable to fight and spared due to his injury. And all the neighbors came around and said, “well that’s good fortune,” to which the farmer replied, “maybe.” And so the story goes.
Before I had heard of the birthday challenge, I had a high school teacher (shoutout to Mr. Klement) who told us about how every year on his birthday he did something that scared him. He followed this up by showing the video of his recent birthday sky diving excursion.
On June 29th, 2023 I had surgery to repair a ruptured pectoralis major tendon. I turned 38 a few weeks back in August and had a 'birthday challenge week'. Here's what I did:
- Climbed two 14,000 foot tall mountain - aka "14ers".
- Shot my bow back for the first time since my injury.
- Rucked up a local mountain with 38 pounds in the wild gym Ruck (more like 45 pounds with pack weight and water).
- Hung from a pullup bar.
- Back Squatted by bodyweight.
My injury highlighted that many of the challenges were capacities that only 2 months prior I wouldn't have considered a challenge at all. This is the beauty of the Birthday Challenge and Misogi culture - these are relative endeavors that only you can evaluate. Are you capable of more?
Seek failure and start to grow.
If you would like a get a few reminders and tips for birthday challenges you can JOIN BIRTHDAY CHALLENGE CULTURE here.
You'll enter your birthday and we will send you an email a few months out so you have ample time to prepare.
Much love and enjoy the process,