If You Want to Learn to Ski, You Have to Be Willing to Fall

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I just got back from a late spring trip to Lake Tahoe where the family managed to get in some great skiing.

By the way, I should preface my article by letting you know that I am not, by any means, a skier. In fact, I’ve skied three times in my life, separated by about eight years each.

Every time, it’s the same: take a two-hour lesson and then ski the bunny slopes.

This time was not a whole lot different, except that I decided to forego the ski lesson and went directly up the chair lift with Janet, to the top of what looked like a cliff. It was actually one of the more challenging Green Runs.

I made a decision this time that I actually wanted to figure out how to do this thing correctly for lots of reasons. After all, skiing is great fun. It gives you lots of opportunity for travel. There’s a certain amount of panache around all the equipment, fashion wear, and resort facilities. And, it is truly a great family sport when you can raise your little children to be comfortable on skis.

Anyway, I started off the chair lift and played around at the top of the very first Green Run to make sure that I could stop, turn a little to the left, turn a little to the right, and, if I really had to, snowplow all the way down the hill in huge s-loops.

It dawned on me up there that, if I really wanted to learn how to ski, I had to be willing to fall.

And I had to be willing to fall, not just once, not just twice, but all the way up the spectrum of developing skills.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a natural born skier. If there is, I’ve never met him or her.

First, you learn how to stand. Then you learn how to start. You learn how to stop. You learn how to turn. And you then continue to learn how to do those things in an increasing level of competency.

Every time you absorb a particular skill, it’s time to take on the next level of challenge. And every time you take on the next level of challenge, it’s time for you to learn a new set of skills.

It is simply impossible to do any of that without falling. And, even more so, it is simply impossible to develop any of those skills unless you are truly prepared and willing to fall.

It seems to me that business is no different than that.

As I think back over my life, I learned to do what I now know how to do by actually doing it. However, I learned even more about what to do by learning the limit — the outer perimeter — of acceptable conduct, which kept me standing. I call that point the fault line. You can even call it the default line.

The point is that I learned by falling where the fault line is.

As we grow in our skills, we learn more about what works not based necessarily on what we are doing successfully, but often based on crossing the fault line where we actually fall. That tells us that, in that particular area, we have identified the optimal level of performing without falling.

I learned a great deal about developing a business based on doing certain things successfully. But how in the world would I have known the limit of what was achievable in any particular area unless I had stretched, and stretched some more, and then stretched again, until I found the natural boundary — the perimeter — the fault line, for what was no longer successful?

If I had not been willing to fall in business, I would not have been prepared to improve as a business professional.

As I think about all the graduates we have had through the American Cash Flow organization over the past 14 years, I think of aspiring individuals, motivated couples, wonderful people, who wanted so much, but were so afraid to fail.

If you are not willing to fail, there’s no point in trying.

I stayed on the Green Runs that day and I fell a lot. In fact, it was when I was flat on my back that this article popped into my mind.

Two days later, the family skied again. This time, however, I took on a Blue Run, not because I thought I was prepared, but only because I felt that it was the only way to reach the fault line of where my skills had progressed.

And you know what? I fell several more times. And each time, I got just a little better.

I’m looking forward to next year when the family is going to be going on a full week ski vacation. And you know what I want to do? Fall some more… but this time on the Black Runs.

If you’re not willing to fall, you’re not willing to play.

If you’re not willing to fail, then you’re not prepared to succeed