Lesson #1 of a life with wings: take every opportunity, even if—no, especially when—it means going outside your comfort zone.
We went to an small outdoor rink in downtown Bentonville, not far from the starry glow of Christmas lights on the city square. We strapped on our bright blue skates and got out on the ice amid dozens of other people making the most of the winter night. My friends are far more accomplished than I, so while I clumped along trying hard not to slip, they were gliding across the rink (as the hours went on and I was invigorated with a s'more latte from the coffee shop, I did get to feeling more confident).
Many of the skaters were little kids, but there were also a few people with enviable skill. They swished around and around with their hands in their pockets, twirling a little here, making a lap going backwards...it was fun to watch but also a little disheartening.
I've gone ice skating twice in the last 6 or so years, and I have yet to fall down. I might be proud of that—it shows that I'm not a complete lost cause—but on the other hand I realized something that night that applies far beyond the world of ice skating.
Some of the best ice skaters out there were sporting wet spots on the backs of their jeans.
Yes, they fell. Do you know why?
They were taking chances. While we amateurs clung to the railing or took tentative baby steps, waving our arms like windmills to avoid falling down, those guys were putting it all out there, pushing themselves to learn new things. Even if it meant falling flat on their backs. They were not afraid of failure.
Remember this: it is the expert, not the amateur, who is covered in fluffy ice shavings, has bloody scrapes above their socks, a purple knot on the knee, strained muscles, and a wet bottom. One of my friends—who's been skating for years—said that he must have fallen 30 times that evening. He fell because he took risks.
If you're out on the ice long enough to get good, you're out there long enough to fall. A lot. That goes for a lot more than skating too, you know.
It goes for diving (you're going to belly flop),
driving (you're almost guaranteed at least one fender bender),
biking (you'll wipe out),
tennis (you'll lob some balls over the state border)
writing (you'll create something so horrible you'd be ashamed to see it printed),
and on and on.
My natural inclination is to smile from the sidelines. I watch and admire others, but don't try new things myself. What if I look stupid? What will others think? I need to internalize this message more than anyone else. Amateurs play it safe. The successful ones try hard things.
So that's what I took away from a super-fun night with friends.
What do you think? Are you the type who plays it safe, or do you go out on a limb without fear of failure?