I think reading that Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers book got me thinking about my ski career a little more than usual. Here’s one of my more memorable (and useful) stories from it.

One little known fact about me is that I used to be on my high school ski team. On our team, everyone had to race both downhill and cross-country events. (Guess which one I was better at? Yup, the one where I didn’t feel I was constantly careening toward certain death.)

I remember my first practice going through gates. To set the scene: freezing coldness, icy turns, plastic poles to hit into, and cool people to be humiliated in front of. I held my breath for every turn, praying not to fall or die the whole time. I didn’t fall that day, but I was stiff and cautious so I kind of sucked. My other teammates had taken risks and had bruises to prove it. I knew I probably should have bruises too.

A few practices later, it was time for my first race. I made it through almost all of the gates upright. The adrenaline had kicked in and I was taking some risks, and actually was making good time.

I was two gates from the end, the easiest two on any course. Perhaps I had mentally checked out early because I missed the second to last one and wiped out in front of everyone, everyone in this case being a ski lodge filled with five other teams plus spectators.

My Mr. Miyagi-like coach had taught me two things about skiing and life that I somehow remembered in that moment: 1) always finish your race and 2) if you aren’t falling, you aren’t learning.

So I popped my ski back on (it was quite a wipeout) and I began stepping up the hill as quickly as I could to go through my missed gate.

Looking at the results later on, I didn’t actually end up losing the race. Someone else had probably done the same thing as me because there was another ridiculously long time on the results list. And four people had been disqualified. Not a bad first race!

I never did turn into a great skier, but my coach was right: if I didn’t fall, I wouldn’t have learned anything (like don’t space out until you are completely done your race!). And now I’m always glad when I’m finished something, whether it’s something I was great at or something I was just trying to get through.

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