Image: Michael Grab beside one of his gravity-defying rock structures.

A Lesson on Going All In with Balanced Rock Structures

When we go all in, we’re more likely to reach our goals. And that’s especially true for this man with a most unique hobby: rock balancing, a process of creating the most impossible looking structures from the rocks he finds in the most beautiful of places.

If you’ve ever been on a hike, a camping trip, on the beach, or just in nature, I’d bet you’ve tried your hand at this. Balancing one rock, and placing another, then another, until you’ve got a stack of the stones you’ve found around you. But I’d also bet you’ve never made or even seen a stack with the impossible wonder of those created by professional rock balancer Michael Grab.

With a metaphor for our lives that can teach us much about how we approach our goals, these creations are one for the books.

Image: Michael Grab beside one of his gravity-defying rock structures.
Courtesy of Michael Grab, gravityglue.com

Based in Boulder, CO, Michael began balancing rocks in 2008 in what he describes as a “happy accident.” His passion for the art was immediate, and as soon as he could, he quit his job to balance rocks full time. On his website, he says:

“I quickly noticed the therapeutic/transformative effects that balancing and working with nature had on myself and others; in an artistic sense, but also nurturing something uniquely human, inspiring a sense of magic and peace, luring awareness out of the mind and into the moment — ultimately cultivating a meditative presence.” 1

This meditative feeling is evident in the tranquility his creations inspire. They look peaceful, untouched, and strong.

Image: One of Michael's rock structures, resembling a bridge
Courtesy of Michael Grab, gravityglue.com

When Michael builds these structures, he must use significant physical strength to keep them standing until the structure is fully balanced and able to stand on its own. If he doesn’t fully go for it, he could break fingers and potentially get seriously injured by the heavy rocks if and when they fall. In the video below, Michael points out that part of the winning formula is to pick the last rock first and visualize how you’re going to get there, much as we can all do in our own lives when we pick a clear goal from the start and passionately pursue it.

With a seemingly uncanny ability to spot an object’s center of mass, years of practice, and a goal to one-up himself with each new creation, his work is a wonderful, gravity defying blend of art and nature.

Check out his feats of physics and geometry in this feature from WIRED:

Via: WIRED 2

For more great videos like this, check out WIRED’s YouTube channel!

Image: One of Michael's structures.
Courtesy of Michael Grab, gravityglue.com

You can find Michael and more images of his stunning creations on his website, Gravity Glue. Or, you can follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Vimeo.

He was also featured on another of our favorite channels, 60 Second Docs. You can watch their video about Michael here!

“This whole art form is definitely not for the faint of heart. You just kind of go all in or you might get injured”

Michael Grab

And isn’t that the truth? With a cartwheel, a move to a new city, a transition into working from home—the more we leap with two feet wholeheartedly, the more fulfilled we’ll be. But how do we do it?

Pick the last rock first…

To use Michael’s own analogy the best place to start is “picking the last rock first”. What is the “final rock” in the journey we’re embarking on right now?

When we pick the last rock first, we are able to be intentional about taking the steps that will help us reach our end goals. We have to see where we want to go before we can figure out how to get there.

Image: Another of Michael's Rock Structures at sunset
Courtesy of Michael Grab, gravityglue.com

…be present as you build…

Michael’s work is clear evidence that it can take many tries to create something phenomenal, and that every piece of the puzzle is integral to keeping that top rock supported. Maybe for us, that’s choosing the right people or the right place that puts us on the path to success, and knowing that even the tough points in life were pieces of the puzzle that led you to precisely where you are now.

A part of going all in is truly being present with the journey at hand. If we’re always looking over our shoulder, or perhaps worse, so fixated or afraid of an outcome that we don’t enjoy the journey, we can never fully enjoy where we are and let the beauty of the journey unfold. We may go all in on the idea of what we want, but the process of making that happen can take any number of forms.

With Michael’s work it’s clear the real art is not just the end product, but the whole process.

…and embrace the journey, not the outcome.

Image: Another of Michael's Rock Structures
Courtesy of Michael Grab, gravityglue.com

When the final step of the process is to knock the rock stacks down, the beauty is not in creating an everlasting monument, but in the joy of making it happen; the joy of enjoying and embracing the journey.

It’s in the willingness to let beautiful things fall down, and looking forward towards the next one that will inevitably come that resonates with so many of our lives. No one is on this Earth for only one thing, we can continue to contribute time and time again. So when one dream ends, we can always discover another.

Leaving no trace

After photographing his structures, Michael destroys them in an effort to leave no trace. For you and I who might want to give rock balancing a try ourselves, it’s important to note that—if you set it and forget it—these works of art can actually be bad for the environment. When left for long periods of time, they can cause erosion, become a problem for animal ecosystems, and disrupt the natural flow of the rivers. 3 Another, less obvious issue that’s been a problem in places like Acadia National Park is that rogue rock stacks can confuse hikers who rely on cairns made by national park staff for navigation in places where trails aren’t obvious. 4 So, if you follow in Michael’s steps and seek to create some cairns of your own, make sure you’re willing to let them topple when you’re done. If you do, you’re all good to go.

If you’re intrigued about other art installations out in or made of nature, check these articles from our library out next:

Trolls We Can All Come to Love!

What if we slowed our impulse to create new “stuff”, and instead, focused on using what we already have in excess? Take trash for example. Is there endless potential in the things we are discarding? Here’s is someone who is pointing to possibility in a wondrous way!

Read More
Saving Rivers by Turning Toxins Into Art!

How can painting with toxic sludge save rivers? Two professors at Ohio University are teaming up to combine art and science to conserve and protect polluted waterways!

Read More
This Art Was Created by Bugs!

Sometimes, if we can keep innovating, we can keep doing what we love for the rest of our lives. And as for Steven Kutcher, well, his passion for bugs has taken him on some creative insect adventures! And you may have been connected to a few of them.

Read More

So maybe, in our lives, it’s worth going through the trouble to pick the last rock first and go all in on supporting it. And maybe, if we do it well, that will make reaching our goals a whole lot easier.

Ellen

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Notes:

  1. “About — Gravity Glue.” Gravity Glue, 22 Dec. 2018, gravityglue.com/about/. Accessed 29 Oct. 2021.
  2. WIRED. “How This Guy Balances Impossible Rock Structures | Obsessed | WIRED.” YouTube, 12 Mar. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=puv_cHwT22Y. Accessed 29 Oct. 2021.
  3. Haigney, Sophie. “How Stone Stacking Wreaks Havoc on National Parks.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 2 Dec. 2018, www.newyorker.com/culture/rabbit-holes/people-are-stacking-too-many-stones. Accessed 29 Oct. 2021.
  4. Smithsonian Magazine, and Marissa Fessenden. “Conservationists Want You to Stop Building Rock Piles.” Smithsonian Magazine, 13 July 2015, www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/stacking-rocks-wilderness-no-good-180955880/. Accessed 29 Oct. 2021.
Image: Ellen Allerton

Ellen Allerton

Chief Operating Officer

After graduating from St. Lawrence University in 2020 and returning home to Vermont, Ellen found that helping make the world a better place with the Goodness Exchange team was just where she wanted to be. You can usually find her watching television while getting crafty, on the ice as a figure skating coach for 10-14 year old's, or in her inflatable kayak named Heidi. She's quite the film nerd and quite the cook, and likes it best when those two things - movies and food - coincide.

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