Legs bent, knees to the chest, squeeze everything as tight as possible, hold your breath, and keep your eyes on the boat.
It may sound like a weird game of Twister, but it was my mantra as I attempted to become a slalom skier. Beginning at the end of last summer I had made it my goal to get up on one ski, to feel like I could pop up out of the water on one ski and be in complete control.
Can I be honest with you? I kinda sucked at it!! I had learned to ski with two skis in previous years and I knew the next step in my skiing evolution was to go slalom – it had to happen. I came into the summer of 2016 with that one goal, and at the risk of sounding arrogant, I’m usually pretty good at what I set my mind to. However, I was quickly learning that this goal was significantly more difficult than things I had tried in the past.
Have you ever crashed while attempting to slalom? Picture a 200+ pound man being pulled behind a ridiculously fast ski boat. Except, while you are picturing this I want you to imagine that the man can’t seem to get out of the water. So really, just picture a boat pulling someone behind it in the most violent way possible.
I went water skiing seven times this summer in pursuit of this goal. I spent countless hours trying to hold on to that stupid rope, each time seemingly losing the battle of tug-o-war to this large machine.
I had great instructors, we tried different skis, we tried different gloves, and we even moved people around on the boat. Still, the handle would pop right out of my blistered hands and the boat would have to come back to try it again.
Have you ever reached that point in life where a goal feels so elusive that you are about to give up? That you begin to question: Maybe I’m just not made for this? I was there. Actually, I was there this past weekend. There was one moment where my hands were blistered, my body was sore, and my ego was crushed. One of my best friends had already gotten up on one ski, and now I felt as if I was holding up the whole day. As if we wouldn’t’ be able to move forward in life if I didn’t get it.
In that moment I repeated my mantra and tried it one more time. This time I did it! I got up on one ski, and the feeling was euphoric! It felt like rainbows and unicorns….. for about two seconds, until I remembered that I didn’t know how to keep my balance. My face met the lake in violent fashion, but you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
In that moment I remembered something I had heard on a podcast: Put yourself in situations where you aren’t very good at something. Put yourself in a position where you aren’t an expert, where you aren’t a leader. Put yourself in a position where you have no option, but to grow.
The whole weekend was a big lesson for me: If you want to grow, you have to get uncomfortable.
These types of life moments are great reminders that sometimes the biggest gift we can give ourselves is to learn how we will respond in moments where we feel the weakest. Sometimes, the learning that needs to happen has to come from a place of humility, and if you are really good at something it is difficult to truly encounter that type of humility.
I learned a lot this weekend. I learned:
- I need to trust my instructors.
- Sometimes, things are just going to be difficult.
And more than anything, I was reminded that I’m not going to be good at everything, and that I don’t have to be good at everything in order to learn something.
While I eventually learned how to get out of the water and even ski a bit on one ski, the lesson of the weekend for me wasn’t that I did it, the lesson was how much I learned by being so bad at something.
Intentionally putting yourself in a situation where you aren’t very good at something can be a tremendous gift, so I ask: Where are you growing, learning, and not being good at something?