Falling is okay

I was at the local skatepark with my son recently when I took this picture above.

The boy stood on the concrete block for a while. He was clearly calculating the risk involved in the trick he wanted to perform. He was nervous; perched several feet off the ground, I imagined that he was thinking, “Is this really worth it?”

Finally, he pushed off… and fell. He got back up, and with the nonchalant effort of a teenager, nailed the trick after several more attempts.

When I was younger I used to own inline skates. When I first purchased a pair, I thought I would immediately be able to zip around in them like a professional. Wrong!

It took a while to understand how to use them well.

The mechanics of balancing on wheels arranged in a single row. How to effectively speed up, slow down, turn and stop. But with enough practice I eventually developed to the point where I could meet most challenges the environment could throw at me. And in a city like New York, there are plenty!

Falling doesn’t signal the end of your enjoyment. It just means you should pick yourself up and keep going!

Once I got the hang of it, I enjoyed the sense of speed and control it gave me. I would have lots of fun going all over New York City as fast as I could. I knew that there was an element of danger to rollerblading in the city. I could fall, be struck by a pedestrian or car, or get hurt in any number of ways.

Yet what kept me going were two things I came to understand early on in the process of learning to skate well:

1. You’re going to fall

My partner taught me this one. When I first got the skates, I was hesitant to go fast. I was afraid to fall and get hurt. As a result, I was (and appeared) awkward and uncomfortable. So, as my unofficial coach, my partner gave me the aforementioned advice.And it makes sense.

Falling doesn’t signal the end of your enjoyment. It just means you should pick yourself up and keep going! Once you accept that, you can begin to move forward. She also emphasised how to fall in a controlled manner. This way you can minimise the risk of injury.

2. Stay alert

In NYC, navigating through vehicular or pedestrian traffic is challenging enough on it’s own. Now imagine doing it while moving much faster than the average walker, or not being composed of steel and carbon like a car.

Along with wearing appropriate safety gear, what kept me safe (mostly, I’ve been surprised by a few car doors opening suddenly!) is keeping a sharp eye out for potential obstacles. As my skills improved, many obstacles became opportunities to showcase them.

What you’re looking to achieve isn’t control.

I have found that these lessons apply in the business world as well.

Organisations are like cities. They provide pathways by which people navigate, usually in the forms of business objectives. There’s also risk–physical, emotional, strategic –that can prevent individuals and groups from achieving its full potential.

With that, it’s important that leaders have a strong knowledge and understanding of the risks, as well as opportunities, facing an organisation. From there, they must recruit, train, encourage, and support people to be able to successfully navigate said risks and opportunities.

What you’re looking to achieve isn’t control. The (social, economic, and organizational) forces we’re all a part of are too big for that. It’s to channel those forces in a way that leads individuals and companies to their intended goals.

“…If you see a 50-foot wave and you don’t believe there’s something bigger than we are, you’ve got some serious analysing to do…”

~ Laird Hamilton, surfer

Understand that you’re going to fall

Learn how to do it well. Stay alert. You should always be tuned in to your environment in order to effectively move through it. With these things in mind, individuals and organisations can develop methods to take challenges and turn them into showcases.


Image of skateboarder courtesy author.


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