Life is Better Beyond the Bunny HillBy Paul Campbell
Article Date: 12-01-2008
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It's okay to stumble if you keep learning in the process.
It’s an interesting experience watching kids learn new skills and do things they haven’t done before – something many of you have had the good fortune to do, whether it’s with your own kids, nieces or nephews, teams you coach or the neighbor kids throwing a ball. There always comes an expression of great satisfaction when a new challenge is overcome. As a young child one of my biggest challenges – and a large life lesson – occurred on a mountain in Utah while learning to ski. I was not much older than 4 – my dad would hold me up by the arms as I skied between his legs. I remember how big his skis looked as he carefully guided me down the mountain. I thought he had to be the strongest man on earth to ski on what looked like telephone poles to a little kid. At some point that day I decided (or was maybe coaxed) to try skiing on my own. We went to a gentle slope that was well groomed (though in my mind it looked like we were standing on the top of Everest) and off I went. Slowly I gained speed but quickly forgot everything my dad had taught me about turning and soon I was moving at what seemed to be break-neck speed to a 4-year-old. I remember my dad calling from behind for me to “sit down,” which, when all else fails, will bring you to a stop. Obediently, I hit the ground and as expected soon came to a stop. However, while I came safely to a halt, my right ski, with the boot still attached and my sock hanging gracefully out the top, continued on its path toward the bottom of the hill. I will never forget sitting on the side of that mountain, looking down at my now bare foot and back at the ski, boot and sock combo growing smaller and smaller as it continued on its journey down the hill. Believe it or not, this was a pivotal moment for me – and the joys of future sunny days with fresh powder, incredible scenery and fun with friends and family were not at the top of my mind. In fact, all I could focus on was my cold foot and the fact that my older brothers were particularly enjoying the events as they had unfolded. In other words, they were laughing at me and I was not having fun. The simple response would have been “this is too hard and I’m not interested in skiing on my own again.” Thankfully, my dad picked me up, brushed off the snow and helped me recapture the run-away gear. He even made me feel better about the fact that my failure was not insurmountable and that others had stumbled and fallen too – even my older brothers. He also let me know that it wouldn’t be last time I fell down skiing. The important thing was to learn from my mistakes and try again. Over and over again if necessary. In other words, I had to get out of my comfort zone and stretch my abilities, even if it meant falling down in the process. We all know people who live their lives on the gentle slopes of their comfort zone, never venturing beyond what they know, or think they know. When we stay in our comfort zone, we tend to focus on ourselves and what’s best for us. We focus on our jobs, money, things we have, things we want, even our own opinions seem more important. We become the center of our own little universe. Almost every decision we make in life can be tied to our comfort zone. Whether it’s our career, families, politics, or involvement with others, it’s easy to stay comfortably in the center, never venturing beyond the familiar and onto steeper slopes. It’s easier to maintain our bias and discount those with different ideas or opinions. However, I have learned over the years there are smart people on both sides of almost every issue. I believe it’s healthy to debate in order to learn rather than to win. I have learned much from people with whom I have disagreed, as I have been forced to step out of my comfort zone and re-examine my own ideas and opinions. My conclusion: We only get one chance to live a life worth living. My advice: Don’t spend it on the bunny hill. Reach beyond your comfort zone and give yourself to your family, your career and those around you. Open your mind to new ideas and different opinions. Live your life by principles that endure, not by what is fashionable or even politically correct at the moment.
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