As an awkward 12 year old, I was too nearsighted to play baseball or hockey well, to prideful and vain to wear the glasses that my parents weren't too cheap to buy (this did not include the cool ones), and I had no neighborhood kids to play with. What I did have was a lot of energy and long concrete driveway. So I started skateboarding. A lot.
When I started to commit myself to learning tricks, I unknowingly enrolled in an amazing school. I deeply learned 3 great lessons. I will explain those here, and later I will share how this understanding lead back to a life of meaning and excitement after confronting the fact that it is all a game, and much of it might not matter.
First off, 80% of landing anything is your mental image of making it, and the state you put yourself in. Most skaters are surprisingly affected by the video parts they watch before they go skate, the shoes and clothes they are wearing, and all of them visualize tricks often and intensely. Big handrails, drops, and anything worth filming requires that you banish all images of failure from your mind and really use rituals to put yourself into state. Watch someone filming for a deadline, and you may witness some real craziness, as we all come to realize the gravity of the mental and the paradoxes of trying to maintain a mindset on your own steam.
The second great lesson of the skate spot is that you can only learn one thing at a time. I have learned, forgotten, and re-learned dozens, maybe hundreds of tricks, and I have never learned two simultaneously. Moreover, the best riders are always doggedly persistent in there learning of new things. Some are clever enough to do this subtly while others struggle so hard it becomes a bit of a spectacle. All athletes learn the value of persistence, but what is cool about skateboarding is there is usually no coach to push you and most skate almost solely to learn new tricks or apply them to new things. You have to learn how to keep yourself to a difficult task for no good reason other than to get it. I think artists, surfers, and musicians probably get this similarly, and the derivative sports get it too.
Lastly, there is the realization at some point that many fun things are a bit of a gamble, and often we need to block out the reality of the loss to enjoy it. When skating a handrail for instance, sacking ones testicles on the railing is much more bad than landing the trick is good. But if we were perfectly rational and never took risks, it would be no fun. Life is similar. Loving someone truly is a great risk. Going into business is a great risk. Building wealth in a litigious and envious culture is a great risk, and I didn't know what real fear was until I had a beautiful son and daughter to protect and provide for. All of this holds the potential for a hard fall, yet I still feel like the luckiest guy on the planet to be out there in it.
So get your head straight, get stoked, focus, persist, and try something big. Thank you for reading. Next time I will share how I found a endless spring of reasons to use these lessons learned.