In my continuing series entitled “On Failure”, I want to talk about skiing.
I’m not a great skier. It would probably be a stretch to say that I’m a good skier. Still, I enjoy doing it, and I want to (and can) get better at it. Since I live in the Dallas area, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to ski – usually 1-2 trips per year – but I try to make the most of it when I do get to go.
When I first started skiing, I fell – a lot. The first time I went skiing, I took a half-day lesson before I got started, after which I assumed I’d be a decent skier. I was wrong. Beginner ski school is more of a lesson in logistics (how to put on and take off your skis, how to board and deboard the ski lift, etc.) than an exercise in actually learning how to ski. So my first trip down the mountain was rife with tumbles, lost skis, snow burn, and “WHY DO MY LEGS HURT SO MUCH??” On those first few runs, I spent more time in the horizontal than the vertical. Because I had to get out of the snow and put my skis back on every few hundred yards, just completing each run was a slow, painful, exhausting process.
Toward the end of that day, I recall that I had a particularly nasty fall after inadvertently crossing my skis (again). I was exhausted, embarrassed, and hurting. All I wanted to do was to lie there, gather my thoughts, and let some of the pain subside. My friend, an experienced skier, was skiing behind me and stopped to help. When I told him I just wanted to lie there for a minute, he told me, “Get up. Lying in the snow just makes it worse.” Grumbling, I got up and continued the slow trek down the mountain.
I’ve thought about my friend’s advice a lot since then. As a skier, I’ve come to find that his words were quite true. Why?
- Simply lying in the snow after a spill makes you colder, and the cold coupled with inactivity make it physically more difficult to get up.
- It’s easier to talk yourself out of continuing when you’re lying there feeling sorry for yourself.
- You’re physically in danger from other skiers crashing into you from behind.
But this statement doesn’t just apply to skiing. We can all use this advice in our careers and business relationships as well. Many of us have had some nasty spills in our careers, being on the wrong end of business failures, professional quarrels, terminations, and other career maladies. It is easy to sympathize with the desire to “just lie in the snow” after a career setback. I’ve been guilty of indulging the instinct to just stop moving forward, attempting to soothe those aches using self-doubt and self-pity, when things go wrong. But just like the skiing analogy, such behavior only makes the situation worse. Refusing to move forward after going topsy-turvy will almost certainly impact your relationships and career prospects. Sometimes it hurts to get up and keep moving forward, but simply lying in the snow hurts even more.
Every failure, on the ski slope or in the cubicle farm, requires some small amount of time to regroup. But the key objective is to get up and move forward, even if it hurts to do so at first.
This reminds of the day I first came across SQL Server and it seemed like this big scary beast. Unsure how to process I bought a few books and asked a few questions to my colleagues and over time I have become better at my job. If I hadn’t of lost the fear I would still be stuck at the beginning.