Life lessons at the skate park

The surprising life lessons from some father/daughter time at the skate park

The Long Drop (image by author)

Whilst looking for things to do during the limited travel of COVID times, my daughter decided to take up skate boarding. Our local skatepark is a hidden jewel, resplendent with ramps and half bowls and a wonderful pump track. For many weeks we would go, my daughter and I, skateboard under her arm to the track, and I would run along side, helping her build up confidence in the trickier bits.

After several visits, I decided to jump on her board for a quick skate — what a surprise I felt. I had never been hugely into skating as a kid — enough to be able to stand and ride on a board, but certainly no tricks or skills to speak of. Stepping on that board was a revelation — man what a blast. With Fathers Day coming up, no socks for me thank you. All I had my eyes on was a great new board. What a thing of beauty!

Almost every weekend since, as soon as we get out of bed, my daughter and I venture to the skate park for an hour or so of unbridled delight. We are both in the learning category, so every visit sees us challenging ourselves and developing skills. And it doesn’t come easily. Many skateboard “tricks” need a leap of faith when you are learning, the risk of falling before you actually build the skills and confidence to be able to execute it. The courage to trust the physics that as long as you keep your balance, everything will be fine.

Currently we are working through the process of dropping in on the “vert” ramp. We are on the smallest one. Probably only a meter high. When you stand back and look at it, or watch a fellow skater rolling down, the challenge seems very achievable.

Ready to drop (illustration by author)

And then you stand with your board at the top. All of a sudden it looks a long way down.

It didn’t seem that high from the ground (author)

My immediate response is to back away, these old bones don’t bounce like they used to and I am too young to die…

The fall to certain death (that’s blood pouring from my head…)

If only I had more confidence then surely I could do it…

The 4C’s

Entrepreneurial coach Dan Sullivan calls this the 4C’s process, which brilliantly captures any worth-while learning and growth experience. The 4C’s are — Commitment; Courage; Capability and Confidence. People believe that if only they had confidence then they would be able to commit to a project. Dan highlights that actually it is the exact opposite process.

  • Commitment. First, you have to take a leap of faith and really commit to what you want to achieve — commit before you have every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted. There’s no doubt that it’s scary.
  • Courage. Most people admire courage in others but don’t like the experience themselves. In fact, this crucial step feels awful. You’ve committed yourself without having any proof that what you’re going after is going to pay off.
  • Capability. Think back to one of your breakthroughs. Wasn’t it the combination of making a commitment and going through a period requiring a lot of courage that created both the new capability and the new confidence?
  • Confidence. The new level of confidence you experience after a breakthrough is what gives you the ability to commit to an even bigger breakthrough and an even greater sense of confidence. And the process repeats itself.

Tail End Consequences

The other lesson for me is one in downside risk management. Highlighted perfectly by Morgan Housel in a post “The Three Sides of Risk” I am acutely conscious, that I don’t bounce like I used to and I need to be aware of my limits. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to push myself a little bit or that I won’t hurt myself. It does mean that I take extra time to warm up and get my eye in, maybe take an extra week or two or ten to creep up on a trick. And I am at peace with the fact I won’t be attempting a Tony Hawke 1080 frontside triple flip. The tail end consequences are too high. Better to do this and get the drop in a couple of months late than blow a knee and maybe never skate again. The reason I am here is to spend time with my girl. I don’t want to risk that.

You realize that the tail-end consequences — the low-probability, high-impact events — are all that matter. They’re all you should focus on.

and there it is… (Author)
Maybe next time I’ll get it… or maybe not but that’s ok.

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