Fear of Falling and Other Lessons From Figure Skating

I was enjoying a pleasant coffee with my wife at local over sized mall while watching figure skaters practicing their art on an ice rink. Some where diamonds in the rough with Olympic dreams. A few perhaps approaching their peak. Most were seemed to be competing against the ominous foe of self.

As I watched skater after skater attempt spinning jumps it became obvious that the fear of falling must be overcome before one can land gracefully in an upright position. It didn’t take an expert eye to see the predictable result of hesitation and doubt. Perhaps some where over thinking, other perhaps just off balance, but when ever there was that momentary hesitation before executing the jump…it must hurt a little landing on your butt on the ice.

The truth is that if you are afraid of falling you can never learn or grow. It doesn’t matter if you are a figure skater, a software engineer, a plumber, a preacher, a teacher…whatever you aspire to be, the road to success is littered with failures. Whether it is buggy software, a leaky pipe, a sleepy sermon, a lesson that flopped, or a jump you landed with the grace of a drunk one legged duck, we all fall down at some point.

Success is not measured by how talented we are, but by how often we get up, learn from our mistakes and boldly try again with the audacious confidence that we can master our chosen art.

As I write this I have a pastel painting on my easel. It was a "quick" work and it shows. The fact that pastel is not my primary medium could be a good excuse for a less than perfect painting. I doubt it will ever be hung on anyone’s wall. That said, I see in it the foundation for an excellent painting, perhaps larger and done in a different medium. Before that happens, I need to do a bit of research and a few sketches to work out some difficult passages and refine the composition. Maybe the next one will be perfect. One thing is for sure, if I don’t try again, I will never know.

Persistence and audacity are the keys to success. Impatience and doubt are the keys to failure.

Those who fall, get up and try again may or may not become Olympians, but those who are unwilling to risk falling will certainly never become Olympians. Success can not be guaranteed, but those who never try have failed already.