I was in my late 20’s when I first went skiing. This Southern girl rarely saw snow, so I was thrilled at the idea of actually being able to ski in the white stuff. We headed out west to Tahoe and I fell in love with the mountains, the air, getting away, the slopes, and the ski village. The second time I went skiing, I was in my early 30’s and we headed somewhere a little closer to home – Snowshoe, West Virginia. Anyone that skis in the NE knows that you are never quite sure of the skiing conditions until you arrive. Anything from sleet to rain, to feet of snow, to having to make snow- the weather conditions are always up in the air. It was on this second trip that I gave up my Olympic hopes and dreams to become an avid skier. Ya’ll, I am a green slope skier. My family has begged, pleaded, and bribed me to risk my life on the treacherous more advanced blue and black slopes. But this girl, is all about the calmer green slopes. After skiing maybe 6 times in my life, I am still a pizza pie skier. My pizza pie can be so wide that I am pretty sure this is the only time you will see me doing the splits. I have no desire to trek down the serious slopes of the blues or the blacks (and this is East Coast skiing people!). I prefer my vacations to be spent in total relaxation and Zen. I get enough excitement and adventure from my day-to-day life! I do not want to ramp up and stress-out skiing down the slopes with pizza pie skiing even if the fear is all in my head.
As a kid learning to ski, many of the fears that you have as an adult are not inherent. You bend your legs, you tuck in and you just go. My two daughters have taken to the slopes as if they were born in the foothills of Montana. I watch (not breathing) as they zoom down the slopes with rooster tails coming out behind them. And as they reach the bottom, they are yelling out to me, “Come on Mom!”. As an adult, I am petrified of running into a tree, breaking a bone, or worse yet, totally embarrassing myself. My daughters ski without fear. Yes, they take their fair share of tumbles, but they are constantly growing in their skill set, trying new tricks, daring new slopes, and reaching for more. For me, the changing conditions of the slopes are plenty challenging. Sleet, ice, thick snow, slush, warm conditions, and manufactured snow are enough of a dare for me to stick to those green slopes. This is the one time that I actually enjoy just coasting along.
Recently, my family and I went night skiing. With night skiing, you cannot see the many nuances of the slopes. Doesn’t matter if you are skiing a green, blue or black slope. The shadows aren’t clear, you are not sure of what is ice, or snow, and you actually have to trust your training and your instincts. You have to trust the skis that you are wearing and know that they are going to do the job that they were created to do. You are not in control of the slopes. There are too many variables – the snow, the skis, the conditions, your positioning, your brain, and your focus. How many times have I tightened up control for fear of the unknown? How many times have I stressed out over something that has not even happened yet? You just have to look ahead, don’t stop, and keep moving. How similar is skiing to life? You must allow your knees to cushion the slopes and your skills to guide you.
As a self-diagnosed control freak, this is a lot to ask. I love control (or the thought that I actually have control). When I start freaking out or stressing out, that’s when I tighten up and 9 times out of 10 make a mistake or fall. And 9 times out of 10, the thing that I was afraid, was nothing. My fears made me fall, not my skills, training or knowledge. These fears manifest themselves in all of our lives. We obsess about things that are not even worth a thought in our head. We make mountains out of molehills. What I work on every single day is the impulse to worry about the little things and the things that I cannot control. Will I get this order, will the factory deliver on time, will it deliver to the right person, if we build it – will they come? The hardest thing in life is to keep moving forward. When the fear takes over, our tendencies are to stop and go back to our comfort zone. In life and in skiing, you have to keep moving toward your goals and dreams. You have to keep skiing and deal with the dips and moguls to get down the slopes. Just keep skiing.
Mother Nature has a way of changing weather conditions at a moment’s notice. It could be bright and sunny one second and then all of a sudden cold sleet will start raining down on you. We would wake up some mornings surrounded by the clouds with a total white-out and then by midmorning it would be gorgeous the rest of the day. Inches of snow would fall and then the sun would come out and the snow would turn to slush. Being able to adjust to these conditions is imperative to skiing – and in life. How often has your primary account gone out-of-business? How often have the market conditions changed from being out-of-favor to in-favor? This is where some of my control comes into play. I know what I can control and that I must keep moving with confidence and with serious preparation. Although I love perfection, I have learned that perfection is a myth. Just do something. One something. Every single day. Finish that quote, follow-up with the client, make the phone call, create a spec sample. Just one thing. This prepares you for the next thing that comes and opens up the universe for you to bring in more opportunities. Prepare for the unknown but also keep moving forward.
One big lesson from skiing is that you also have to ignore everyone else around you. When skiing, I tended to listen to the snowboarders’ swish behind me (or come barreling at me), or the ice scraping sound from the skiers behind me. I would totally tense up for fear that they were about to hit, run into, or cause me to fall. I would turn around or adjust and, of course, totally fall – just because I was paying attention to someone else and not skiing my game. There are going to be skiers that are crazy fast and then slower skiers (wave at me on the way down next time you see me!). Skiers that look like professionals (and some are) with much more experience and then those that have just started out. If you listen and pay attention to the skiers that are around you, where they are skiing, if they are coming into your lane, when they are going to fall on you, if they are going to hit you, then you will spend your time skiing in fear. Fear of someone crashing into you, fear of someone causing you to fall, fear of a snowboarder wiping out right in front of you. You hear the swoosh swoosh in your ear and try to get to get out of their way – and you fall. You turn your head to see what’s coming, you move out of your lane, and you will inevitably fall down and go boom. You need to stay focused on you and your goals – getting down that hill or making that turn, skiing your s’s, hitting that next course and navigating it to the best of your ability. If you spend your time paying attention to someone else, then you are not focusing (and failing) on your own goals and expectations – while at the same time helping them to succeed in their own.
In life and in this business, there are so many opportunities to get hung up on the competition. In the promotional products business, there are over 30,000 promotional product distributors! If I had listened to the noise from our competition, InTandem Promotions would never be where it is today. There are companies that are larger, have more followers, and have been around longer. You can spend all day obsessing about what the other guy is doing or you can just stay focused on you. Yes, I do follow, watch, and read industry news. I pay attention to what is happening in our industry but I stay in my lane based on the information that I have and the preparation that I have done. I keep InTandem Promotions moving forward based on my skills and instincts. Business is moving way too fast to focus on anyone else other than yourself.
Stay In Focus!