According to Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Inspiration comes from different sources, experiences, people and places. Some people share stories about their passion for art, gardening, books, service for others or music; while some love the thrill of outdoor athletic adventures and seek to challenge the limits of their body. I love skiing because it constantly pushes my abilities. I’m terrified of heights, particularly ledges, but I love the challenge and exhilaration of skiing. I’ve discovered that by challenging oneself, especially while doing something you love; can lead to happiness and beautiful self-discoveries.
Some of us have a special place we turn for refuge – a church, beach or the quiet comforts of a home. Seeking refuge in Big Sky, Montana, I find that the mountains are powerfully therapeutic and spiritual. As soon as you step out of the airport in Bozeman, one can’t help but to feel the magnificence of God’s unparalleled creation displayed before their eyes as they look at the surrounding mountain range. The best thing about time in the mountains is the unplanned and unscripted ways to further mend a heart under the big blue sky, always feeling a renewed sense of purpose and hope.
Time on top of the mountain helps to clear the mind, as well as appreciate the extraordinary skills of talented alpine skiers, like my good friend and trusted ski instructor, John. He was a former competitive college skier who is now a realtor and lives in Big Sky. On the chair lift, we enjoy conversations about our faith, family life, and some heated discussions over politics. John has taught me that skiing is a sport that requires a strong foundation, athleticism, skill, and a strong mindset. After years of ski lessons and conversations with John, it crossed my mind that his ski tips are actually wonderful parallels to life and business.
Here are some of the special teachings from the top:
Attitude creates altitude.
Attitude is power on the mountain. As I snap into my skis, and I’m starting to sweat from all the layers of clothing, I begin to easily get annoyed. I work hard to try to stay positive and create a happy intention for the day of skiing. If my mind is somewhere else, perhaps on my to-do list, phone calls, family or work; these distractions can impact my ability to enjoy the fun of riding the mountain. Furthermore, if my attitude is negative, pessimistic, filled with fear and self-doubt, then my judgment is impaired and makes skiing more dangerous. As John says, “resisting, fighting or falling back from what you fear has a 100% failure rate. That failure also reinforces and makes a habit of doing the wrong thing, verses practicing something with a positive result.” Only when I begin the day with a positive attitude, thinking positive thoughts, can I truly have a great ski experience regardless of the conditions.
In all we do, whether your goals are in conquering the mountain or in the boardroom, remember to focus on the positive. Visualize it!
Have a plan before you drop-in.
Before you drop-in to the mountain, and onto steeply pitched and daunting double diamonds, focus on the turn in front of you. You’ve got to have a bailout plan if everything goes bad, so the bailout doesn’t do too much damage. Consider how many turns it might take to get to the next narrow area and pick out places to stop and evaluate. John say’s, “when dropping into something scary just make the first turn a good one and the rest will follow. Along with that, try to keep just one thought in your head, you can’t execute more than that.” For a moment, I take pause, trust in my capabilities and consider my plan. Before I drop-in, I remember to just breathe!
Just like work or business, have a plan. Do your homework; design a plan, set dates and measure your performance.
Keep your focus down the mountain.
At 11,166 feet, the summit of Lone Peak on Big Sky Resort Mountain offers the most incredible views of Montana. Often riding the scenic Lone Peak Tram to the top, I am in awe of the “Big Couloir”. On a clear, “blue bird” day, one can see unbeatable views of two national parks – the Tetons and Yellowstone, three states and many incredible mountain ranges. You can literally see for MILES! The view from the top is so breathtaking that one is drawn to ski down it just to go back up again to see the views all over again. While the views are surreal, skiing down them can be a little daunting. Before you let fear take it’s hold, John reminds me, “keep your eyes focused down the fall line and not in the direction of your skis!” This simple ski tip helps me stay focused, especially so I don’t let the steep incline below me overwhelm me with fear. Out of this place of fear, I find myself skiing too far across the mountain ridge before dropping my ski tips, until I hear John yelling again, “drop the tips and focus on the fall line!” I then repeat my mantra, begin to relax and focus on what matters most – getting down the mountain safely.
Are you looking down at the details or focused on the horizon?
Speed is your friend!
John will yell, “Come on, go faster, you’re making it harder on yourself!” As John shares with me, his college downhill coach always told him, “If I have to repeat something more than three times; stop and rephrase.” John says, the real goal is to just go with the mountain, let it ride and don’t fight the mountain. The mountain will always win. Just let the ski ride! With experience, I’ve learned it takes less effort to just point the skis vertically, tuck-in and let it rip.
To achieve your goals, embrace speed!
To reach higher peaks, take lessons from the experts.
I always ski with an experienced skier, like my talented friend Meg, as well as with John. Many friends can claim they know how to ski steeps, yet aren’t trained and certified instructors. You can get yourself into some big trouble, if not prepared. It’s a recipe for disaster if you’ve not had proper training or lessons. Spend the money and get a ski lesson.
In business, too many leaders and consultants have never proven they can lead. Be sure you take advice from coaches, instructors and those with credentials to give you advice. Seek mentorship and professional help. It’s worth the investment.
Lessons pay off!
Clear your mind.
Our focus can drift on the ski lift. We worry about checking our phones. The best solution is if there is no cell coverage. While skiing, I try to keep things simple in my head and clear of the “what if’s”. Such as “what if I fall off this chair lift?” “Or what if I slide off that cliff?” It’s a horrible feeling. I force my mind to not even enter those thoughts. As soon as I get off the ski lift and begin to make my way to down the mountain, the “blender in my mind” begins to clear and I begin to enjoy the ride.
Create clarity by focusing on one thing at a time, what matters most, and doing it with passion.
See the forest through the trees.
Every year I challenge myself to go ski something out of my comfort zone. I sometimes get down on myself for not taking on more challenging peaks, and begin to shame myself into thinking I’m not tough enough. By reflecting my past year’s experience and applying what I’ve learned, I’ve been able to ski new and more challenging areas of the mountain.
I find in life that we can be either too detailed or too broad when looking at a situation. I sometimes get coaching tips on the mountain or in other business situations that feels like sweeping pronouncements without considering the various details. When you can’t see the forest through the trees (the bigger vision), advice or coaching can feel overwhelming. It’s important to process the tips, appreciate the guidance, and realize; without the trees, there would be no forest.
In business, those who manage can sometimes “not see the forest through the trees”, especially when not understanding the complexities of a certain project. A business coach or outside advice can help one gain perspective and approach a problem from a new angle. May you find that special place in your life, where your heart is behind it, and you see the forest through the trees.
If you wipeout, get right back up.
Several years ago my good friend took a bad fall skiing and injured her knee. It was the last run of the day and we were making our way down the mountain to base camp. We had skied tough terrain all day, but the light was soft and dull, so the sightline ahead was challenging. My friend mistakenly hit a ridge, twisting her leg and knee up into the air and backwards on the slope of the hill. Her damaged knee sadly ended the ski trip. With determination, she remarkably got right back up again.
It’s not a matter of if, but when, you will wipeout. In life and business, look at every problem as an opportunity. If you fall down or make a mistake, be sure to pick yourself up, dust off your pride and keep on trying!
And most importantly, enjoy the JOY in the ride!
My time on the mountain is always enjoyable and unforgettable. John challenges me to continually “dive into my fears”. He say’s, “The pit in your stomach will never go away. Just do it and you will learn to accept that pit in your stomach.” Each year, I accept his challenge, climb a new mountain and feel a huge sense of accomplishment for what I am becoming in the process. The last run of each season, I snap a few extra photos to savor the memory on the mountain, and then, tuck in and let the winter wind hit my goggles as I smile with joy down to base camp.
As we say goodbye to winter and look ahead to what’s blooming this spring, a special time of renewal and transformation, be grateful for what you are becoming rather than what you’re achieving.
Is your identity in your cause, company, image, or to prove your self worth?
Whether or not you love the challenge of skiing, the goal of sharing my teachings from the mountain is to encourage everyone to go make life an adventure in who and what you are becoming, enjoy the JOY in the journey, and be sure to do it passionately with gratitude!
Until next ski season, keep Big Sky Dreaming!
On behalf of the “Discover U: Live Inspired!” blog