I went skiing recently for the first time in 4 years, which if you know me at all, seems crazy! I used to ski everyday! Other things were getting in the way and I let them, but last week I said “Enough. I need to ski.” And so I found myself back in my old home, one of favourite places, Rossland BC and Red Mountain.
The day before I went skiing I had a conversation with my coach and she asked me about the relationship between skiing and leadership. What a great question, one I had never considered before. But the answer was right there in front of me, and without a thought this is what came out…
This is what I know. Leaders need to be curious and they need to think like skiers. Skiers look for the open spaces. Open spaces are chock full of possibility. Trees and rocks and logs will stop us in our tracks, but the open spaces let us run free and discover. The open spaces are where we get to use our imaginations and create. Leaders who get curious and look past the particles (the trees and other barriers) have the opportunity to see more, and hear more, and sense more. And here is the kicker; if you focus on the particles, you will hit them. The other way that leaders need to think like skiers is that they need to trust the fall line. The fall line is the natural route that a ball would take if you rolled it from the top and watched it go, or the way that water would flow. It is not necessarily straight, but it is a path of least resistance. When skiing, trusting the fall line means letting your skis go where they naturally want to go. It feels like flying. And flying takes courage and trust.
The first time I stood at the top of a chute and looked down I thought, “No way. There’s no room to turn!” It was maybe 12 feet wide and had rocks on either side so there were 2 options. Try to side step down until it opened up (maybe 20 or 30 feet) or trust the fall line and see what happens. The fall line never runs into a rock wall. It finds the open space, where things are possible. Side stepping down is (seemingly) the safer way to go. But it is limiting. And won’t teach us to have courage or to trust our skills.
As leaders, we need to be able to dream, to see possibility in the open spaces. We have to trust that whatever we discover we can handle it. We have to trust that whatever we say, others will hear it. We have to create a safe space, from a truly curious energy that will allow and encourage others to say what is true for them. We have to trust the fall line and look for the open spaces and we will find many ways to get safely down the mountain.
I took that with me on my ski trip, and whenever I felt scared or doubted that I had “the stuff” to get down the mountain, a big voice inside my head said…”trust the fall line”, and so I did, and it was magic.
In what part of your life do you need/want to trust the fall line more?