Choose to Be Brave: Defining Failure with Jacob Lowe

Jacob Aloysius Lowe is a rock climber and climbing instructor in the Philadelphia area. He has experience teaching others to climb, as well as climbing competitively.

You can find him climbing at the Philadelphia Rock Gym in East Falls – when he is not busy climbing outside. 

I met with Jacob as part of a series of interviews I conducted with artists, athletes, and entrepreneurs, of all ages and all walks of life. The goal was to get to know their personal stories and understand how their failures have informed their successes. 

Here is Jacobs story:


I specifically interviewed several rock climbers as part of the project, because of the unique role that failure plays in the sport. 

Rock climbers have to accept failure as part of their process in order to grow. This is concept is widely accepted within the rock climbing community. The thing about failing as a rock climber is: it requires falling. The thing about falling is – it is terrifying

The process of growing as a rock climber is so intimately intertwined with falling because it is a direct consequence of "failing" at the sport. Like any other occupation, rock climbers get better with practice. The more they practice, the more likely they are to experience a fall. In this way, on the road to success in rock climbing, experiencing a fall is inevitable. 

There are a number of ways a rock climber can measure success. In general, most climbers conceptualize their growth using a system of climbing grades. The grading system changes a bit, depending on the style of climbing a person engages in. 

Here is a basic overview of how to think about the rating systems in climbing, according to REI:


For a more in-depth explanation, visit their website.

In order to advance their grade, climbers have to get stronger and push the limits of what they can climb. This is often achieved when a climber attempts to scale something that is just outside of their current abilities. The process of building the strength needed to climb at the next grade involves practicing the moves over and over until one falls or gets to the top ("sending"). During this process, the muscles that fail are forced to rebuild, making the climber stronger over time. The experience of failing also improves the climber mentally, by forcing them to actively problem solve with each attempt. 

In this way, climbers use a process that is very similar to modern entrepreneurial practices, as well as the creative process. 

Jacob's story is just another example of how having a positive relationship with failure as part of one's process can be a key factor in achieving success. 




Kelly Meissner