This year, I started skateboarding. Not a common hobby to pick up in your 30s. I found skateboarding because of my 7 year old daughter, Bo. She likes to ride anything with wheels. Bo has autism and finds the movement regulating. She started with a scooter, then moved to roller skates, but it was at her cousin's house that she discovered a skateboard, and that has become her favorite way to roll. As someone who didn't grow up skateboarding, if I was going to be keep up with her, I needed to learn ASAP. So I watched some Youtube videos, bought a deck from my local skate shop, and went to a nearby parking lot. The first few times out were brutal. In short, I was horrible at it. But in spite of my scrapped knees and tarnished pride, I quickly fell in love with skateboarding.
To improve, I knew I needed to log time on the board. My strategy was get at least 30 minutes of skating in each day. So for the past 195 days (~6.5 months), I have skated everyday. When it is nice out, I push around the neighborhood. When it rains, I push around in the garage. If I have a work trip, the board comes with me. It doesn't matter what form it takes, as long as I find some time each day to be on the board. The consistency has started to pay off. I'm by no means an expert, but I have come along way. I can now drop into a half-pipe, grind on a ledge, board-slide a small rail, and do some basic flat ground tricks—all things that seemed impossible for me a few months ago.
One of the elements of skateboarding that I love is the community. As a dad in my late thirties, I don't epitomize cool. And my novice skills aren't impressing any experienced skater. But in my daily pushes—in skateparks across the country with skaters of varying skill, from pros to fellow beginners—I've felt accepted and encouraged. From my experience, the only requirement for acceptance is that you try. If you attempt a trick around other skaters, whether you land it or fail miserably, you're likely to the skaters applause—when skaters hit their boards on the ground to show appreciation. Skateboarding is physically demanding, but the mental aspect of it is what's most challenging. And I think that is why skaters are so effusive with encouragement. Skateboarders refer to the development of skills as 'progression.' Whether you're Tony Hawk trying to land the first 900 at the X-games, or a frumpy dad trying to complete a lap around the parking lot without falling, progression is about pushing your personal limit. And it's the willingness to push that limit which garners respect. Trying is everything.
It is easy to look at the obstacles in front of us, see them as insurmountable, and give up. But often if we take a closer look, the obstacles we face can be broken down into smaller bits. Bits that are a little less scary, and that, with effort, we can overcome. Little by little, if we keep at it, each small hurdle we overcome starts to add up. And eventually that once insurmountable hurdle, looks more like a speed bump.
It is important to recognize that how our brains react to mistakes depends heavily on our mindset; this means that the mental state we are in before a problem arises has a major impact on how we cope with it. If we can cultivate an attitude of openness and curiosity towards what lies ahead, expecting hurdles and setbacks, then our reactions will not only be more constructive but also more creative. Failure is uncomfortable, but it's vital to our growth. The U.S. Navy SEALs have a saying that encapsulates this well: "Get comfortable being uncomfortable."
Accepting discomfort as something natural within the learning process can help us remain focused on finding solutions when things get hard, rather than spiraling into self-criticism or feeling overwhelmed by what needs to be done. Mistakes allow us to grow, but only if we take the proper mindset. A growth mindset isn’t about avoiding mistakes, it's about embracing them. Understanding that they are the stepping stones on the path to progress can make us more resilient in moments of failure. Accept the discomfort, embrace your progression, and keep pushing!