When I started skiing in 1983, I fell in love with it. Every year, I got a little better and I fell maybe once a year, a quiet tip over. It was a family joke that I never fell, crashed, or tumbled.
Despite hardly ever falling, I did experience paralyzing fear. As a novice skier, I went down a black diamond run at Bear Valley. In my memory, “Groovy Gully” was very narrow and filled with Volkswagon-size bumps with no space between them except deep trenches. I managed to ski into the middle of the gully and stop on top of the biggest bump in the gully (which I think was actually a snow-covered boulder). I think I stood on that perch for nearly an hour as I kept looking around for an escape. A gentleman skied up to me and asked me if I needed help. I wasn’t about to reveal my incapacitating fear so I responded calmly, “no, I’m alright.” I was far from being “alright.” When he skied away, I watched with hawk-like eyes to see how he did it. That did not help me at all. Obviously, I made it down, but I can’t tell you how. That part of my life has been blurred and somehow erased from my memory.
Years later, I joined ski school. That’s when I began having epic falls, slides for life and massive explosions as I worked hard to become a better skier. Despite repeated falls with consequence, I’d push through the fear and just do it anyway. Only later did I realize that overcoming death-defying fear as a novice had instilled a higher degree of confidence in me to push through fear. I learned that every historical moment of success in the face of fear was bringing me one step closer to building confidence to conquer the next fear.
So when ESPN asked Michaela Shiffrin (Olympic gold medalist and possibly one of the most accomplished skiers in the world ever) how she handled fear, I wanted to know what she did. Her response: she looks back at her past successes.
TODAY’S HOW TO LIFE BETTER
It’s nice that someone who is as accomplished as Michaela Shiffrin confirmed that what I’ve been doing works in her life. It’s not just “in my own head.” So I think I’ll keep writing down my successes as a hedge against fears. I’m pretty sure there are plenty more times when I’ll face fear in the future.