Lessons from a ski trip

About a decade ago, I went on a ski trip organized by a group at my school. I was new to the country, had very limited experience with snow (and certainly hadn’t skied before) and did not know any of the people on the trip. I was new to the country, to the culture, to the people. But there is one thing I had committed to when I moved here: I would not let fear get in the way of acquiring new experiences.

Once we got there, I started on the bunny hill, never having had a lesson or been taught the basics. I just jumped right in. I remember having attempted skiing down the slope at least two dozen times that evening and falling down twice on each attempt, by the end of the day, I was falling on average just once and perhaps even slid down the slope without falling at all for once.

When I reminisce about that time, I realize I learnt some important lessons that day. It’s never easy in the beginning, it takes a lot of hard work, persistence, you make a lot of mistakes. It’s a lot more practice than you think you would need (especially if you think highly of yourself). That’s the amount of work that’s needed to just become mediocre. That’s all the work that you need to do externally. As an outsider observing me, that’s all you see, you never even realize all the inner dialogue that goes on to make it happen. That’s where the real work goes on. You have to summon a great amount of will power to just keep going in the face of all the feedback you get from the external world. I can’t do it. It’s too much. Maybe I’m not designed to do this. This is not my cup of tea. I just naturally suck at this. If that’s the thought process in your head, you’re gonna give up way before the fun begins. But if you can get over that initial difficulty, the inertia drawing you back to your comfort zone and get some momentum going, you begin to feel its getting easier. A long time after, if you’ve kept at at, it seems so easy, so boring, so not-challenging, you even chuckle at the thought of what a loser you were back then.

Whenever I begin to learn and new skill and feel myself struggling, I remember that time and how I plowed through it. It gives me the confidence that keep on moving ahead, despite the natural frustration of not being able to meet the expectations you had created in your own head.

The second day, I decided to not be so stingy and take some lessons. An 18 year old girl was my instructor. We learned some basics, how to slow down and stop, how to change directions. It was just about an hour. Just these basics created a visible change in how controlled my skiing ability was.

Be humble enough to learn from the knowledge and wisdom of others, even if it’s an 18 year old girl. But chose your teacher’s wisely, it will save you the most important non-renewable resource you have: time. Developing the wisdom to do that will come with time and practice.

Perhaps the biggest underlying lesson is to question the assumptions and beliefs you hold. If you can’t find a good reason for them, attempt to suspend them and see what happens, it will create guaranteed discomfort but a potential to grow. For me, it was opening myself to new experiences, going to a trip with unknown people, to an unknown place to do an unfamiliar thing.