How To Fail at Something New and Still Succeed
Snowboarding, the ‘90s, and a valuable lesson
Photo credit: Alesia Kazantceva on Unsplash
My legs dangled off the chairlift. The cold air bit my ears and I readjusted my goggles. I rested the back of my snowboard on my free foot. As we climbed higher I became more and more nervous.
I knew that once we reached the top I would have to hurl myself off the chair and roll out of the way so other patrons of Mammoth Mountain would not mow me over as they glided down the small hill that dropped you out of the chair lift area.
My shoulders inched up to my ears and my face scrunched up. I scooted to the edge of the chair, waited for that last second, and as we clickity-clacked our way to the top and finally, I threw myself off.
Once out of the way I clipped in my back foot and adjusted all my gear. I made my way down the mountain at a snail’s pace. My friends tried to stay with me as long as they could but eventually, I was on my own.
I finally learned how to turn around — which was essential since every time I fell I had to get up facing the mountain. I was so exhausted trying to get down one run that at one point I just sat down off to the side.
I took my goggles off and just parked it for a minute. A ski patrol guy swooshed over to me to ask me if I was okay and advised putting my goggles back on so my eyeballs didn’t sunburn.
What was I doing out here? I had no idea. My friends told me this trip would be fun so I went. I thought I would be able to learn to snowboard in a day or two. I thought I would be able to pick it up fairly quickly because I had done okay skiing.
I had some mild success skiing as a kid so I thought I would be able to pick up snowboarding quickly. I was totally wrong. I rode goofy-footed (right foot forward on the board) but that was one hundred percent wrong for me.
No wonder I had a hard time! I’m right-handed and If I rode a skateboard I would push with my right foot. I should have been riding with my left foot forward. I was snowboarding completely backward. But when you’re 20 you have to try the coolest things and your friends may have no idea how to teach you how to do it even though they are great at it.
It was the mid-nineties so snowboarding was the coolest thing ever. Everyone made it look effortlessly cool. The Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch was pictured snowboarding often and all of a sudden the slopes had this new, cool, rebel vibe.
This wasn’t your parent’s version of fun on skis…flying down a mountain on two legs with poles in your hands? Lame! One solid board was where it was at. I was pretty sure I could do this and look as cool as Adam Yauch did. I bought a used snowboard with a graphic of an open can of beans on the back.
Apocalypse was scrawled down the side. There was no stopping me…except my complete lack of ability.
I took a day off during the trip to hang around the cabin with one of the girls that had hurt her ankle. Honestly, I needed a day off from all this fun. I was so worried that I had gone to all this trouble to buy all a snowboard and buy all this gear and that it would be a total waste.
Had I just thrown away all this time and money for something that I would never be able to do? Was I even having fun? I phoned my mom to confess that I may have made a mistake thinking I could do this and be good at it. What she told me I will never forget.
She told me that’s what life is. You try new things all the time. Some of them work out, some of them don’t, but you will never know until you try them. You can come home, sell all your gear, and move on.
You have had a great adventure. Or you can keep it all and try it again another time. They are both the right answers.
After that, I worried a lot less about “wasting” my time on this or that. I would just try things. Some things I liked, some things I didn’t, but I always learned something. And isn’t that the whole point? Sometimes you need to fail to get headed in the right direction. That failure is what pushes you toward your next success.
I no longer snowboard. The last time I skied was probably ten years ago. I did okay. It’s hard. All the preparation is exhausting. After we finally made it to the mountain and found a parking spot we unloaded all of our stuff.
I pulled my ski boots on, leaving them unbuckled so I could walk in them. I threw my skis over my shoulder and began the hike up the road to the slopes. I felt like a robot marshmallow man with all my ski equipment on.
When we got to the lift I was ready for a break. It tuned out to be a fun day but the fun part was hanging out with my friends. The adventure of it. Maybe we can do that and not hurl ourselves down a snowy mountain. Maybe we can just go on a hike.
Try new things. Even if you are afraid. Even if you are bad at first. Or bad always. Just try it. You will have succeeded just by trying. I’ve always thought that I would be instantly good at something.
Maybe I could just strap my feet to a board, cruise down a mountain, and I would be instantly decent at it and I would have a great time. That has never happened with anything. No matter what I have tried but I keep trying. Some things I try, I love. Some, not so much. But that’s the point of life. I think my mom was on to something.
20+ yrs. in Retail Mgmt. Leadership, kindness, food, travel, dogs, & Gen.X.