The ABCs of Tommy

When you think you can't do it, flip the script and make the terrain work for you instead.

Tommy can literally sell you anything.  I speak it because I know it.

There I was, one of four people at a bar made for twenty, relishing in a shred of normality whilst listening to Tommy recite the dinner specials, his beard gently nudging his mask towards his mischievous eyes.  Beef Tartare laced with foie gras adorned by a raw quail egg on top.  Delicious, he said.  Done, I replied. Until I came to my senses and realized the dish was my literal nightmare.  I eat well-done meat, yes, like a baseball glove or sole of a shoe as you hecklers insist, despise foie, and get squeamish with raw eggs.  But Tommy had sold me on it.  Impressive Tommy, impressive.

A few days and many martini-ed laughs later, Tommy and I hit the slopes, he a Boston bred retired professional ski racer, me, a mere Mikaela Shriffin fan-girl.  After following a pow-hound friend across a ridge through a powdery meadow and, “accidentally,” into a roped off danger zone, we hit a cliff.  Shocker.  But now there I was, on said cliff, in a tight forest, with fallen trees, scattered ice patches, and a pitch akin to the wall behind you.  A different kind of nightmare for sure. 

Our friend shot straight down, and bam, bit it.  His partners, the same.  I, frozen and hovering on the dusted rocks, Tommy slightly below me.  “Imma gonna call Ski Patrol,” I quivered.  This was not the way I wanted to die.  Tommy looked up, “Are you kidding me? You got this. Just make the terrain work for you.”

Make the terrain work for you.

Damn, Tommy. Dropping wisdom on the precipice.  

Tommy’s statement was powerful enough to make me breathe, his patience overwhelming enough to make me believe, his capacity to sell killer enough to make me go, one harrowing turn at a time, making the terrain work for me all the way down the mountain. 

Step one, assess the terrain.  Look at the minutiae of the landscape.  Observe its color and texture, scan for rocks, roots, boulders, stumps and other tricky little buggers that can and will send you flying, not in a good way. 

Step two, harness your technique.  Lean forward into the practice and skills you have been cultivating. 

Step three, marry the two and decide. Take the data and observations on said terrain into account, inextricably combine them with your skill set, and decide which terrain will work best for you.

Step four, go. 

And go we did, with Tommy reciting his mantra at each and every turn.  After fear-sweating two thirds of the way down, he even conned, sorry, ‘sold,’ me into making the terrain work for me through a longer series of united turns, which I collectively strung together with an instinctual melody of “fk-fk-fk-fk-fk-fk-fk-fkkksss!!!!” that bellowed through the valley, Tommy’s laughs echoing right behind. But we did it, I did it, arriving down the wall of hell safe and sound, me in one soaking, fear-sweaty piece.

Once at the bottom, Tommy nonchalantly pointed his pole up the death trap and had me look at the terrain again.  “See, that was not easy, but if you make the terrain work for you, you can go down anything.”

Although now far from cliffs and snow, Tommy’s wisdom is permanently ingrained in me. We are often taught to use what we have, or make due, or improvise, or leverage our skills, or optimize for the most efficient or profitable outcome. All valid.  Tommy, in turn, gave me an entirely new perspective not only on skiing, but on progressing in both my career and personal lives.

“Making the terrain work for you” is a subtle yet aggressive approach to getting ahead; I actually wonder now why I had never thought about it before Tommy.  It encourages you to constantly evaluate the playing field so that you can maximize your returns upon it.  It then forces you to leverage not only the terrain, but your skill set, and then instantly merge the two together.  In doing so, it emboldens you to be comfortable pivoting, evolving, and progressing with confidence and strength, no matter what lies ahead.

When you make the terrain work for you, there is no falling, no failure, no danger. There is only a route you yourself have impeccably designed for success, with a potential series of expletives along the way, for dramatic effect more than anything, of course. 

Tommy, you were right. Time for a martini. I owe you one.