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Try the Black Diamond

February 18, 2013

I took my two daughters skiing this weekend, and it was a welcome break from the daily grind. My daughters are 10 and 6. Both of them are skaters, so skiing is not so physically difficult for them, but the intimidation of looking down a steep slope creates a real mental challenge.

They did lessons the first day. Lessons can be a mixed bag, especially the group lessons, because you don’t know the mix you will get. This time, both of them were very fortunate, and had only two people in their classes; they got individual attention and they made fast friends, which always helps. The teachers supported them, but continued to push, which is not always the case. In group lessons, and often in many classes, the lowest common denominator determines the level. Both Nadia and Melina found good matches in this case, and both girls finished the day completely excited about their new friends and the runs they had completed (including the first black diamond for each).

The next day was family ski day, and Mari and I took them up the mountain early in the day. They have skied about 5-6 times before, so they are competent skiers, but it is always interesting to see how much progress has been made in lessons. We decided to start on a blue that was in range of what they had done the day before. There was one steep section at the top, and Nadia immediately said she couldn’t do it. I of course reminded her that she had done more difficult runs the day before, but she was not swayed. Melina went ahead cautiously, but was not particularly happy either. After side-slipping with Nadia for a while, I had her look up and see what she had just accomplished. “Yeah, but I don’t want to do it again,” she said. “But, you did it no problem,” said the dad who always wants his child to take on challenges. We got to the bottom without incident.

The next run had only slightly less slope, and they both went down with no problem. The third run, I had to work to keep up with them, especially Melina. By lunch, they were totally comfortable and looking for new runs, including more challenging runs. They had found a comfort zone with the standard blues, and were willing to keep pushing. When Nadia got home and saw her grandparents, the first thing she said was “I went down a black diamond.” Huge accomplishment. Not easy for a young child, and often more difficult for adults.

The biggest thing was overcoming the initial fear. Looking at a steep section of a mountain from above, you can’t see what is ahead– it could be a cliff or just a slightly steeper slope. You don’t know. Intimidating. As you get closer, or get to the edge, it can still be frightening, and it always looks steep from above.

Taking the plunge over the edge takes courage, and is not unlike taking challenges in life. Carol Dweck, in her book

    Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

captures this better than anyone I know. Challenging oneself to grow is the best way to achieve success. Just as I told Nadia to look back up the hill after she had come down, it is true in life that looking back, things look much less intimidating. The key is remembering the fact that you tried the Black Diamond, and you made it.

From → Raising Capital

One Comment
  1. Have you read Succeed by Halvorson (with a forward by Dweck)? That’s a great book as well.

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