I know a woman that has 3 little girls, a 7-year old and two twins at 4. The 7-year old got roller skates for Christmas and I was fortunate enough to be there for the ‘first rattle out of the box’, as rough stock riders are fond of saying.
I don’t remember my first trip on roller skates. I’m not sure if I was headlong fearless or timid or comical - no recollection. I do know that at that age failure bothered me a lot and I don’t recall having gone home in a huff because ‘I’ll NEVER be able to skate’, so it must’ve happened pretty fast.
But I can tell you that by watching these 3 little girls, I learned, or relearned, one of life’s most important lessons. Our blog at Qwyvr has an entrepreneurial and financial bent, as it should, but this lesson applies so broadly that I don’t think it matters if you make teakettles or turnip greens - It’s valid.
The 7-year old was first because, after all, they were her skates. She carries the weight of the god-status placed upon her by the twins and dared not fall in front of them. Her first skate had to be perfect and perfect was defined as ‘not falling’. ‘To skate’ meant ‘to fall’ and falling meant looking bad. So, she did a bit of walking on skates, an awkward thing to do, with arms out wide and tentative steps. Walk-Skating.
Next came the dark haired 4-year old, the more outgoing of the twins. Braver than big sis but still afraid to fail, she walked bravely on the pavement then found that traipsing about on the grass where the wheels can’t run off was something like skating and far less dangerous. She got the sense that she was skating by just being upright on skates, pavement be damned. She found an easier way, her way, but not THE way.
Last came the big surprise for everyone, the little, tentative, red-haired, blue eyed twin, the last one anyone even thought would give them a try. I had inwardly believed she wouldn’t get within 10 yards of those skates, much less put them on.
She made a few tentative steps, deep in concentration, which probably looked like Mark 1, Mod 0, Everychild’s first steps on skates. Then the amazing stuff happened. She fell and fell hard right onto the point of her knee with that deep bone-to-pavement sound of an impact that goes through someone’s whole frame. Thunk! I felt it in the pavement and I was a few yards away. We all held our breath because here would be either tears and no more skating or a dusting off and another try.
Amazingly, she picked herself up and gingerly stood back up on those skates without tears or even a grimace. Even I’ll admit that fall surely hurt. It was one of those ‘for sure, knee’s gonna be swollen tomorrow’ falls. But her fear was over. On her very first rattle out of the box she’d taken the worst that those skates had to dish out and from that moment on was a skater. She didn’t walk-skate; she skated! She smiled and was ecstatic, laughing uncontrollably, displaying the sort of joy most of us adults rarely dig out of life anymore. She was whooping those skates’ ass and knew it and was having a ball doing it. She couldn’t hear big sister’s derisive exhorts to fall and, perhaps more importantly, she wasn’t listening to her own monologue that was surely reminding her that the first fall hurt a lot and the next one would feel just like it. I swear that all she could hear was joy and success.
Do me this solid if you’re a reader of this blog. If you have the good fortune to witness this in real life, don’t look away. Get your jaded ass over there and hug that person and congratulate them for being a 1 percenter and, if you’re strong enough, hold them up in the air as living testaments to greatness.
Here’s the rub: That little red-haired girl has known adversity. She had a troubled birth and it was nip-tuck whether she’d live. She still bears some of the scars from that. She’s been weak and known what it’s like to live in someone else’s shadow. Even at 4, she’s been kicked in the teeth by life and she’s still kicking back.
I think that the lesson is right there. That girl knows what it’s like to fail so when she’s presented with ‘skate’ or ‘walk-skate’, she selects ‘skate’ because she knows the secret lies in this: Falling hurts for a few seconds. Not skating because you MIGHT fall hurts forever.
It’s not the falling we’re so scared of. It’s that someone else will see it. If we could all learn to skate on a rink with no one else around, we’d pick it up fast. We’d skate off, confident for a second, bust our asses, and proceed again. It’s when someone else sees us fall that we start putting up the walls. Avoid looking bad. Keep looking good.
I know, as an entrepreneur, I’ve sometimes been guilty of walk-skating. ‘Hey, Ma! Look! I’m an entrepreneur!’ I yell, hoping that someone will think I’m brave. Let’s call that being an entrepreneur with a little ‘e’. The results of that course are about as impressive as walk-skating. Skating in business is all about having the brass ones to put that capital ‘E’ on the word no matter where it comes in the sentence.
We all, myself included, would do well to take a lesson from the bravest person I had the privilege of observing in 2014, a 4 year old redheaded girl. I resolve to skate like no one’s watching and fall hard and often because she, and I, will be skating like the Great One before the rest of the pack.
Bryan Sory is the CEO of Qwyvr, Inc., a fraud-proof money transfer system that offers a cheaper, faster and more secure way to pay than traditional credit cards.