What handstands taught me about life

I mount my hands to the floor and raise my legs to the sky. Blood rushes to my head because it’s hanging upside down. My face resembles a red watermelon. My wrists rock back and forth to balance and counterweight what’s above my head.

Snap! I can’t hold on any longer! I bail the handstand and bring the legs down. I stay up for 1 second.

Should I consider 1 second as success?

What the hell does a handstand have to do with life? More than I initially thought, and it only became clear to me on the day I held a handstand.

But why did I pick the handstand? Since I was 10, I’d sit on the floor watching the Olympics on TV. The men gymnasts were impressive. They did somersaults, flips, and handstands.

The somersaults looked complicated as hell. Speaking of flips, it seems that a small miscalculation and my head would splatter the ground. No thanks. A handstand was different. I could bail on a handstand if I lost balance and I’d spare my head.

I could practice every other hour during the day and that’s what I did. You’d think I’d hold it down within 2 days. You’d be wrong.

Four days passed and I kept mounting and dismounting just as fast.

I couldn’t keep balance with my wrists, and my legs would overshoot. I couldn’t stay up for more than 2 seconds.

Invisible progression

While progress seemed bleak, I now realize what why progress was non-existent. I was wrong in my thinking. The progress was there, but it was hidden because it wasn’t ready to be shown to me.

Behind the scenes, my body was slowly calibrating its nervous system and muscles in order to keep balance, but not everything was in place to show me the results just yet.

Think about it: My wrists had to get stronger within the week to support my legs and torso in the air. My legs had to learn to balance upright. It all has to fall into place at the same time. There’s progress while the legs and wrists are growing stronger but you just don’t see the magic handstand… yet.

It’s like a car with a good engine and a good transmission. The engine might be ready, but if the transmission is in high gear at the start, your car ain’t moving. They aren’t synchronously working yet.

One week passed since I started the practice and I went for the handstand mount as I had before. BAM! I did a handstand for 3 seconds! Everything kicked into place, worked synchronously, and I had a handstand to show for it.

I expected a linear progress of holding the handstand for 1 second, then 2, then 3, but that’s not what reality gave.

After that moment of no return, I was able to extend my handstands to over 10 seconds and learned to walk on my hands as well.

Back to the initial question, was 1 second a success? Yes, even though at the moment I couldn’t see progress.

My expectation:

This is what I expected. A nice linear progress.

What I experienced (Reality):

That was the reality. Nothing special happened for a long time and then a fast progression occurred.

Life is a handstand

You think of life as a linear cause and effect machine. If I do this, I’ll get this. I also expect the cause and effect to be a perfect line. Tough going, buddy. It’s not.

The faster you get comfortable with understanding a non-linear nature of life, the calmer you’ll be when stormy winds blow your way.

Life is like this. Work is like this. Meeting people is like this. As you keep pushing forward and putting yourself out there, your body, life and work will invisibly continue calibrating behind the scenes. It’s not ready to show you the full result as it’s still synchronizing all the parts to come together.

If you’re moving forward in life, expecting linear results is a pipe dream. You won’t see progress happening because it’s not ready to appear as a whole, but at some point, it will suddenly click into place.

Likewise, you can be a master at handstands but one day you’ll mount into one and fall on your ass. Success isn’t linear either. It’s okay. Take the fall as a reminder that nothing stays constant. It’s just one attempt out of the future many. You had the guts to make the attempt while the guy next door won’t even try.

Life is like a handstand.


Originally published at www.basicdrop.com on September 6, 2015. Article totally revised for better reading on February 2017.