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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
I’ve talked recently about how heading outside has made me braver or more courageous. It goes like this: before I started to spend time outside every day, I was very risk averse. I didn’t want to do things outside my realm of experience. I didn’t want to try things that ventured into the unknown — that included unknown places, experiences and things. And because I was so hesitant, when I did get out there and try new things I was loooow on confidence. I was basically setting myself up for failure because I didn’t believe that I could do it or wanted to do it, and I wasn’t really that willing to try.
But getting outside every day? It taught me to view different experiences in nature as safe by giving me a gentle on ramp to experiences. And the more I did things that proved themselves as safe, the more I was willing to try new and bigger challenges. And when I found myself doing something that felt especially risky, I was able to talk myself into moving forward with it by simply remembering other times similar things had been totally fine and ended up being fun and not nearly as scary as I thought that would be.
OK, so that’s learning to take risks and try new things outside. But here’s the deal with that. Sometimes – not every time, not always — but definitely sometimes, you’re going to fall. That could be figuratively. And often it is literally.
Falling – failing or actually physically falling — is a part of learning. It is unavoidable. It is going to happen. No one is perfect at any given thing the first, second or even third time. Heck, you might even fall on the millionth time. Falling is a part of learning. It is absolutely, positively going to happen.
So the question you have to ask yourself — I have to ask myself — is “am I OK with falling?”
And the more I do it, the more the answer is “yes.” And the best part is: falling, literally falling, outside has taught me to be OK with falling figuratively in other endeavors. Because falling and temporarily failing is a part of learning, it is a part of being human.
What matters isnt the fall. What matters is the recovery.
Let me explain. As someone who has tackled new outdoor winter skills like skiing and, most recently, snowboarding, I have learned that falling is absolutely inevitable. I fall spectacularly into snow banks. I wipeout going down hill sending my skis bouncing in two different directions. I zip into the ditch on the cross country trails leaving behind what the volunteer groomers call “cartoon tracks” that tell the story of my hilarious, loony-toons esque flail of the path. As of this recording I have taken exactly one snowboarding lesson, and while I thought the whole thing went really well, I have yet to make it off the lift without falling and I did at least one wipeout where Im pretty sure I bounced and then rolled three times before coming to a halt.
Also that’s when I learned that if you don’t tuck in your shirt, you’ll get a whole lot of snow down your pants. But I digress.
During one of these wipe outs my snowboarding instructor asked “are you OK?” and I laid there laughing out loud, sat up and told him “I dont mind falling. Falling is a part of learning.”
And that’s because I’ve learned that if I want to do new things I am going to fall. And then I’m going to pick myself up again, try again and get incrementally better over time. I’m going to ask for help — often in the form of a lesson, sometimes in the form of some advice from a friend.
Now imagine if you fell while trying something new like skiing, and instead of continuing down the trail or trying again a different day you said “that’s it, I quit.” And you did this every time you encountered a set back or failure. Are the failures temporary? You have no idea because you never get past the first fall to find out if it gets better.
You could live that way. But you’d never experience what sits just beyond the known. Your life would be only the things within your current box.
That sounds really limiting and sad to me. The only other option is to fall, get back up and try again.
Being OK with falling or not minding it, by the way, is WAY different than liking it. I do not like falling. It can hurt. It makes me grateful for the invention of the helmet. It leaves me sore the next day. Falling is not fun and it does not feel good. But because I’ve tried new things over time and learned from experience that the road to not falling paved with lots of falling, I’ve accepted it. I don’t have to like it to be OK with it.
And now when I face a risk that could result in a proverbial fall, I feel better about taking it. Because risks that are not physical outdoor activities also come with their own version of falling in form of at least temporary failure. I do not LIKE failure in any form – temporary or otherwise. But just like with falling outside, I am learning to be OK with it. And hopefully as I experience that, I also model for my kids and the people I lead in my job that a little falling won’t kill us. It’s how we recover that matters.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m experiencing plenty of falling right now because I’m learning to snowboard. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to snowboarding, but every single person I’ve mentioned this to has told me that I need to get ready for a LOT of falling, and to not give up. I wonder if these people have ever learned to ski or know how much Ive fallen while doing that. Is it the same amount of falling? More? Some context would be good. But no matter what comes, I’m OK with it — or working to be.
You can see photos from all of my outdoor exploits — including PLENTY of me wiped out in the snow — on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. Share your photos with me, falling or not, with #humansoutside365. And until next time, we’ll see you out there.