If You’re Not Falling…

skiingI learned to ski late in life.

To get my girlfriend (now wife) back into normal activity after her house burned down, my friends suggested I take her skiing. Julie skied before the fire and they figured she’d enjoy getting back to it. I, however, hate the cold and the idea of purposely going out in the cold was not appealing to me at all, but I did it anyway. I loved it!

We began skiing regularly and would spend a long weekend in Vermont every year with a large group of friends at a ski-in-ski-out home in Killington. One of those friends, Dave, was an excellent skier who had grown up in Colorado and even tried out for the US Olympic team. Dave became the coach for all of us amateurs.

I was getting quite good feeling comfortable on some black diamond runs but I was still falling more often then I wanted to. When I expressed my frustration to Dave he said, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t learning.”

I was pushing myself to get better and when you take chances like that, not all of them work out. I could have taken it easy, stayed at the level I was at and never fallen again, but that didn’t appeal to me.

Coasting, resting on my laurels, in other aspects of life also doesn’t appeal to me. Constant improvement, trying new things, living life as an adventure, those things do appeal to me but sometimes I fall.

Falling is not fun but neither is stagnating. I’ll take the occasional fall if that means I’m getting better. Are you willing to fall once in a while?

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You Can Swim

Once again I find myself writing about a Tweetchat. Through these weekly chats I’ve met new people and gained friends. In the post I wrote about Twitter called The Fun of Discovery I mentioned my favorite chats but noted I was new to this and would probably find more. My latest favorite chat is called #inspirechat and it takes place every Thursday at 11am eastern time. Joanne (@JoanneCipressi) is the organizer and facilitator of these wonderful discussions. There is also a Facebook page for InspireChat.Inspirechat

Because there are a lot of people on these chats things can move quickly and you often don’t have time to think about your answers – that’s a good thing. It’s like a stream of consciousness, your unfiltered thoughts are allowed to flow and I’m often surprised by what I write. That’s exactly what happened in this week’s chat.

The topic of the chat was renewing yourself and a subtopic was letting go so you can move on. This is also a common theme in my book What Next. Someone who asks What Next is constantly moving on from one project, one business, one idea to another. They are also adept at letting go. When one idea doesn’t work they move on to the next one. This is often confused with being indecisive or flighty but I think it’s just the opposite. Once a decision is made that something isn’t working you have to let go and move on.

The eighth question asked by Joanne was “Why is it scary to let go sometimes and how can we find the courage to let go?” This is a great question because we all cling to things that we’d be better off without, things like falling stock, relationships, jobs, even businesses that aren’t doing well. I immediately thought of the image of a life preserver. Life PreserverIt’s very scary to admit failure or acknowledge that something isn’t working out as planned. Taking a What Next approach, an optimistic approach, will help you to realize that what some call failure is really a lesson, and the person who learns the lesson is stronger than the person who never tried.

My answer to question eight surprised me and was re-tweeted by several people (an honor among Twitter users). Here’s my response:

My tweet

It’s hard and scary to let go of something you think you need, something that has given you comfort in the past, but you are stronger than you know. You can succeed in spite of what other people tell you, in spite of your insecurities. Let go and take the first stroke and you’ll see that you can stay afloat without any help at all.

What are you holding onto that you think is helping but in reality isn’t allowing you to swim?


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Navigating the Wilderness


Whoever says they have the answer isn’t thinking big enough. THE answer implies there is only one way, one answer. There are more options than you can imagine to every question. This idea is why I hate books with titles like “The Eight Steps to…” or “The Six Secrets of…” Some people may need nine steps to complete what you do in eight, someone else could do it in seven easier steps. How does that make you look Mr. Eight Steps?

The idea of secrets is just stupid. There are no secrets. Everything can be discovered, nothing is being guarded, protected like a secret would be, it just may not be out in the open. I often say “discovery comes when you look in places not easily seen” not because there’s some secret out there but because digging around, exploring, is how you learn, how you uncover answers.

I keep coming back to this one trait that successful people share because I think it’s the most important; curiosity. I also come back to curiosity because I believe this is the one trait that is the easiest to develop. Can success be taught? No, but the traits that successful people share can be, leaving the rest up to you.

Try to learn something new every day, discover a new website, research an historic figure, take the long way home. If there’s a problem you’re dealing with write down as many possible solutions as you can and then investigate which one would work best. There are so many options that no one person can claim to have THE answer. You’ll find the answer that works best for you through curiosity and discovery.

I often feel lost in a wilderness of knowledge that I can’t access. When I realize that I just have to spend a little time and energy looking for the solution, I find it. It’s like when I hike in the actual wilderness, usually in the desert, and take the route that most interests me. Sometimes that’s high on a ridge and other times it’s in a valley, but each offers a unique perspective and that’s all I need sometimes, a different perspective.

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Be Curious

One common trait among successful people is curiosity but I believe a lot of people are not curious enough.

My day job at a television network has been as an instructor teaching the various levels of staff to use new technology. From cameras to satellite transmission, technology has made everything more interactive, more computer-like. A common theme I see among the students however is a lack of experimentation, a lack of curiosity.

Sony Z5uTake the example of a camera that has several variables controlling exposure, the brightness of the image. I see students change one variable and, when they don’t get the desired effect, they often stop or give up. There are other options but instead of trying them out, instead of experimenting, they simply stop.

My innate curiosity leads me to touch and change more things than I probably should but that’s not a bad thing. Experimentation is necessary for learning especially in a classroom setting and yet so many of the students are unwilling to risk messing up that they never get it right.

I see a lot of people in life who are afraid to try new things to take a risk. An entrepreneur you meet in my book, Scott Loughmiller, says that people often “see massive risk where there is only moderate, and no risk where there is a significant amount.” Most people are poor risk managers.

Successful people take risks but manage them so that one mistake doesn’t derail the whole project. Successful people are curious and touch all the buttons and change all the dials in an effort to understand and to learn. So be curious! That risk isn’t as big as you think!

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