Lean Forward. And Be Kind.

30 year old lessons from the mountain as applied to real life.

3:30 pm, witching hour on a mountain.  Hundreds of snow hounds zipping down their last run in fervid anticipation of a hot cocoa, hot toddy, or anything to warm after a day of lapping the slopes.  Out of the far corner of my eye, I saw a young lady clad in white, turquoise, and fuschia, not dissimilar from my first snow outfit.  Beckoned by the nostalgic palate, I slid over to where she was, skis off and huddled in a ball on the ground.

“Hey, can I help you?” I leaned forward to ask as dozens of show-offs recklessly flew by us.  She tepidly looked up, tears frozen through her goggles and down her rudy cheeks.  “I can’t stand up, I have been here forever, and I am way too tired and afraid to even try anymore.”  “Don’t worry,” I told her, “we will do it together.”

At roughly Regina’s age, my father taught me to ski.  He instilled two main tenants:

1: Be a good mountain citizen.

Do what is right for your body and those around you, do not put others at risk, and above all, always help someone in need.

2: Lean forward.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, leaning forward gives you control while leaning back into your heels makes you fall.

As I am sure he did for me countless times up the learning curve, I grabbed Regina’s skis and laid them out in front of her. “First things first,” I said, inadvertently sounding like my father, “To stand up you have to learn forward.” “Forward!?!” she squealed in panic. “Yes, forward. Otherwise you will keep falling back.”

After some Cirque du Soleil worthy snow hugs between us, she got on her feet, putting us at mask level for the first time.  Ready for the next step, putting on the skis, I encouraged Regina to again lean forward, this time into the poles I placed far in front of her.  Her terror melted the snow that people blew in our faces as they shred by, but she succeeded.

Standing up with our skis successfully back on, we gingerly began to ski, she in a tundric daze, me nonchalantly recounting my father’s wisdom.  “Lean forward into your shins, like you were protecting a $20 bill from flying out of your boot.”  She stared at me blankly; I clearly should have adjusted for inflation.  ”Like a $100 bill,” I corrected myself.  That, she understood.

As we tugged back and forth between fear and necessity, emotions and technicalities, pizza and french fries, I realized that Regina and I had more in common than I initially thought. Throughout my recent career transition, I, too, have been sitting back into my heels instead of leaning forward.  I have sacrificed control in the name of a feigned sense of safety, hesitant to fully lean forward into the next curve. In turn, I have focused on the possibility of falling instead of the euphoria of succeeding, worrying far too much about the people flying down around me along the way.  During my time ‘Between the Waves,”I have let my perceived capacity dictate instead of my innate capability.  And very much like Regina, I have been gripping instead of trusting, stressing instead of flowing.

Flowing down a mountain or towards any life goal is a self-engendered forward movement. Although remarkably able to make you feel as if you are about to completely bite it, it is that precise lean forward that gives you the power, safety, and command you need to achieve the future.

With Regina now safely escorted to the catwalk, it occurred to me that it was not her outfit that beckoned me after all, but rather a Rocky Mountain fate.  A fate that has inspired me to point my skis down the mountain and lean forward, unafraid and ready for the slopes ahead.