One Fall morning a few years back, when my younger son was only 3, he rolled down his window as we drove over the Banfield overpass and shouted at the still mostly dry cap of Mt. Hood: “Hey ski mountain, better get some snow, cause I wanna ski on ya!”
We are, as you probably guessed, a skiing/snowboarding family. That little guy was on skis as a toddler and we have to drag him off the mountain at the end of the day. Our legs are wobbly and exhausted and he is still ready to rumble. Skiing is a way that we meet our needs for adventure, communing with nature and good old fun.
When I was learning to ski as a teenager, I remember my instructor saying something that has always stuck with me: “Look ahead where you want to go. Your skis will follow your gaze. Look at a tree and you will end up crashing into it.” When I find myself getting too narrowly focused, looking down at my skis or on the sidelines for danger, I inevitably crash. But, when I am able to hold a more spacious viewpoint and stay focused on the trail ahead, I am in the flow.
Life is a little like that, don’t you think? When we get too caught up in the dangers that lurk on the outskirts or too worried about our own momentary problem, we lose the bigger picture of where we are going. In my life coaching work with clients, one of my jobs is to help them look ahead to see where they are headed. Like the Chinese proverb that says, “If you aren’t careful, you are going to end up where you are headed,” we all need to be reminded to take a wide, expansive perspective.
I learned some HUGE life lessons skiing, ones that stay with me throughout the years.
1) What does Real Pain feel like? I broke my leg (tibia) skiing when I was 10. Went over a jump, landed on ice and slid out on my butt. Another kid comes over the jump, lands on my ski and torques my foot hard. SNAP. It HURT, bad. But I was 10 and had had been hurt a few times so I stood up and skied down on it. Until I couldn’t. A few hundred yards from the top of the kiddie lift near the bottom of the hill I collapsed in pain, crying. I knew something very new and bad had happened to my leg. THAT was Real Pain.
2) Practice. As a kid everyone knows Practice makes Perfect (even though there’s no such thing!) but the next year after my accident I was miserable on the hill. I was afraid. Afraid to get hurt and afraid to try anything new. I bought some ski books and then my parents suggested I take some lessons. LESSONS?! I knew how to ski!? Well, I lucked out and started skiing every weekend with the son of the Ski School. He was also a coach on the race team, and he worked my ass HARD. We skied for 6 hrs every weekend, big turns, little turns, over and over. PRACTICE. And by the end of that season I was skiing better and with more skill then before I’d broken my leg. I noticed it. Practice works. In skiing and life.
3) Do it for the Love. So I decided hell, I should be racing. I raced for 3 seasons, and got pretty decent results. But in the end, I was a city kid racing against upstate kids who trained ALL WEEK. I had my breakout days, but in the end I just liked skiing. Going fast is fun, but competing to go fast got old. I noticed that I was not loving skiing quite as much, and my results were not really progressing, and right about then I knew… I love this sport too much to ruin it by competing when… In the end it wasn’t something I cared to compete over.
Awesome lessons Ben, thanks for sharing! I particularly resonated with number 3. When we LOVE what we are doing, it has a force of its own. When we are driven by “shoulds” or even external competition, sometimes we lose momentum.