Free Solo

Bill Parrott |

Free Solo is a remarkable movie about Alex Honnold’s ascent of El Capitain. It was a masterpiece of a movie and the voters agreed as it won an Academy Award® for best documentary feature. The New York Times said, “Alex Honnold’s Free Solo climb should be celebrated as one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever.” I concur.

My palms are still sweating thinking about his climb, especially when he successfully completed his karate kick maneuver near “The Boulder Problem.” He climbed the Freerider route that has 30 pitches and “it was newsworthy when a climber was able to summit using ropes for safety.”[1]

El Capitain is a beast and it dominates the Yosemite Valley. It’s 3,000 feet from base to top, an imposing vertical wall of granite.

Mr. Honnold didn’t wake up one morning and decide to free solo El Capitain. He spent years planning his route, working with his team, and taking copious notes. He was singularly fixated on achieving his mission.

Investors can learn much from Mr. Honnold’s incredible achievement.  Here are a few ideas that you can employ today.

Team. Mr. Honnold did the climbing, but he was surrounded by a team of elite climbers including his long-time climbing partner, Jimmy Chin. Mr. Chin and his team not only filmed the climb, but they helped him plan much of his ascent. Mr. Honnold consulted his team constantly. He and his team climbed El Capitain often exploring routes, holds, angles, nooks, and so on.

A team of advisors can help you achieve your goals. Working with a financial planner, CPA, and estate planning attorney will provide you with insight and data to make sure you’re making the best decisions for you and your family. Surrounding yourself with wise counsel is, well, wise.

Plan. He journaled often, taking notes whenever he had the opportunity. His notebook was filled with detailed notes and figures about his route.

Committing your plans to paper and taking notes about your progress can improve your investment and planning results. A quick review of your notes to make sure you’re on the right track is recommended. Your plan and journal will be your financial guide.

Live. He lived (lives) frugally and well below his means. In fact, he lived in a van down by the river during much of the shoot and it had everything he needed to live. When he and his girlfriend bought a home in Las Vegas he looked uncomfortable and even more uncomfortable shopping for a refrigerator. He finally settled on a small refrigerator, one too small for the space in his house. His house looked like the Taj Mahal compared to his van.

Living below your means is paramount if you want to obtain financial success. Controlling your expenses and watching your bottom line will allow you to live a stress-free financial life. Lowering your expenses will help build margin in your life allowing you to do the things you love.

Patience. It took him nearly 4 hours to complete the climb. And, prior to his amazing climb, he abandoned his first attempt. He was patient and deliberate with each move. At times he moved quick, others slow - his moves were calculated. At one point during his climb, he had to descend before he could ascend.

Investing success takes time – years, so don’t worry about the short-term moves in the market. Concentrate building wealth slowly, over time. Avoid quick-rich schemes and other promises of short-term profits.

Give. Mr. Honnold has established the Honnold Foundation ( Its mission is to reduce environmental impact and address inequality by supporting solar energy initiatives worldwide.

You can follow his lead by establishing your own foundation, contributing to a donor advised fund, or donating to organizations you support. Using your resources to help others will benefit many, including yourself.

You may not want to free solo El Capitain, or any other rock for that matter, but his techniques and tactics may help you improve your investment results. Focus on your long-term goals, follow your plan, save often, live below your means, and give to those you support.  

Happy climbing!

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. ~  Isaiah 26:4

March 8, 2019

Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management located in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose.

Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ than those posted in this blog. I went rock climbing once in Joshua Tree and it was a blast. I used a rope.