So imagine the scenario: I’m with a client and friend of mine in Deer Valley. Years before, he’d bought the house of a former NFL star on the side of the valley facing the resorts and we were staying there working on his book.
He’s a great guy and thoughtfully wanted to make a fun visit for me by including some ski time. So there I was on the back porch of his house looking out over the breathtaking view of Deer Valley on a bright morning. Bunny Slopes were promised so I could “remember” my skills…but as luck would have it; in order to get to those nicely groomed slopes, I would have to navigate a pretty treacherous ravine of Black Diamond switchbacks off his back deck.
I was adorned in mostly borrowed ski attire and some odds and ends I’d rented or purchased in town. I hadn’t been on the slopes in over a decade and even then I wasn’t a highly proficient skier. To make matters worse, I’m not known for my coordination or athleticism and in my oversized hodge-podge gear, I felt very much like I must have looked - like homeless skier about to commit suicide.
In business as in skiing (apparently), even the most conservative, risk-adverse players can sometimes face monumental obstacles. As small business owners, we face financial issues, competitive risks, the loss of key people, and the strategic miscalculations that come from doing too much too quickly. It’s part of the risks and part of the fun…but it can sometimes be deadly. So how do you attack the hill when the risks you take can put the people you’re responsible for in harms way?
And so there I was, weighing my options. This little ravine of skiing might leave me with a broken leg or a broken back and I knew it. I could feel the fear creep in and it was paralyzing me. My host saw the look on my face and gave me advice that I’ve never forgotten:
“Your skis will follow your eyes. So if you see something you don’t want to hit like a tree or a rock and you focus on it, you’ll ski right into it. Put your eyes on where you want to go and your skis will follow.”
Today I ask myself routinely: “What am I focusing on? Where are my skis headed?”
Sometimes worry can feel like mental prep for managing a bad situation in the future. Sometimes, though, it’s just plain lazy. Keep your mind focused on what you DO want and stay vigilant about the worries. If you find that you are fixating on negative scenarios, you’ll attract them like gravity.
So yes, I skied down the ravine. I lived. I’m not proud of the sounds I made while I was doing it (something akin to a baby deer being separated from its mama) but I lived. I kept my skis facing downhill, my gaze on the path ahead and it’s a lesson that’s served me ever since.