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Lessons from the Roller Rink

I love to roller skate — indoor skating in a good rink with great music and a primo floor. There’s nothing like getting lost in a song while you glide effortlessly a few inches above the floor.

I’m pretty good at it too — or at least I was back in the day. During college I even taught classes. I still have the syllabus tucked away somewhere.

What’s your end goal?

Pair of stylish quad roller skates on color background.

During those college days I spent many of my Friday and Saturday nights at the roller rink. Friends would often skate up to me and declare with a beaming face that they had not fallen down all night. Their goal for the evening, apparently, was to stay upright. They were pleased with their “success.”

I always had a different goal. My goal was to be a better skater. I fell all the time. I pushed myself with jumps and turns and backward maneuvers that kept me on the edge of my capabilities. Not falling down was not how I measured success. To go a whole evening without hitting the floor would be to go a whole evening without trying hard enough. How else would I know when I had reached the limit of my abilities? How else could I improve? How else could I learn something new?

Don’t be afraid to fall

When the opportunity arose to teach skating classes, I knew I would have to address this misconception and fear of falling. Part of the course would have to include learning how to fall.

The problem with falling is that our instinctive reaction is to try and stop ourselves from falling. As soon as we lose our balance our arms start flailing and our body starts contorting in a desperate attempt to regain control. Unfortunately, all of this kinetic writhing is the surest way to increase the likelihood of hurting yourself. To minimize injury, the best approach is go to limp and let yourself fall.

The first day of one of my classes was always the same. After we covered the course outline and learned the proper way to lace our skates, the rest of the day was dedicated to learning how to fall. The instructions were simple: skate to the music, and when you hear the whistle, just fall. I would demonstrate with a fall or two — along with a high speed ‘drop and role.’ I am happy to report that there were never any sprains or broken bones in any of my classes.

And so it is with life: Are you choosing “just good enough?”

Our fear of falling holds us back from pushing ourselves. We try just hard enough to do okay, but not so hard that we might fail. As a result, we never really know what we are capable of. We never learn our limits.

In Billy Crystal’s book Still Foolin’ ’Em he says: “I didn’t become a comedian until I finally stopped being afraid to bomb.” He gets it. Don’t be afraid to bomb — or fall. Success is not so much about staying on your feet as it is in simply getting up one more time than you have fallen.

Next steps

  • Visit your local roller rink. It’s more fun than you remember.
  • Do a quick inventory of what you are working on. Are you pushing yourself? Is there an area where you are afraid to fall?

Join in with your story. Use the comments below and tell us about a time that you fell and how you got back up.

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