On my last morning in Aspen I had breakfast with my dear friend Weems Westfeldt. We spoke about fear and its relevance to risk and reward. Long ago we met in Tom Crum’s Magic of Skiing workshop when he led me on skis down some steep icy slopes of Aspen Mountain. I was terrified that day and yet I experienced for the first time ever, shutting down that frightened inner voice and getting beyond that and into the grace, flow and letting go that Tom teaches.

Most people fear the feeling of fear itself. The other fear is uglier, the fear of judgment.  The funny thing is though, that no one in my ski group was evaluating my ability, and they were focused on their own process of getting down the mountain. With desire and zeal for practice, fear takes a backseat. Anything that is new requires enthusiasm and consistency before it can be mastered. If I’m to be the skier that I yearn to be, it will need more time and mileage on the mountain. And over time, the fear of higher and steeper has given way to excitement and challenge. It’s a decision. Spend more time in the practice phase of learning and get better faster or stay ‘terminally intermediate’ as they say in Aspen!

My closest ally in this life is my love for learning. I’m figuring out how to live with it and be a content person. I swing from loading my plate with learning guitar, photography, videography, art, writing, dance, singing, cycling (and a few more) and not doing any of them perfectly well, to the other end of the spectrum and disallowing all but one or two. And then I’m hard on myself about all of them. At Magic, Tom reminded us of the joy of discovery and the mystery of skiing and otherwise.

Aspen Gondola

The most powerful part of my week started and ended with the same topic: the limits of perfectionism. Here’s how Tom presented it:

  • It’s all about performance, am I right or wrong?
  • Then I have fear I’ll fail
  • Then I’m afraid to risk
  • Then I judge myself

Geeze, right?  A better way would be:

  • Hungry for discovery
  • Then I want to participate because I’m a curious person
  • Then I’m willing to try whatever’s there for the joy and growth
  • Then I have freedom and spontaneity and then I’m probably way more fun unto myself and others!

I mentioned that my week ended with the Perfection Demon, trying to be a spoiler to my week. My dear son-in-law, David, gave me some tender advice. I run by him my creative questions, my design and web technology questions because he’s a brilliant artist and also savvy in the world of art direction. Here’s what he said, paraphrased: Enjoy the process and don’t try to have everything perfect before you start. If you need to speak perfect Spanish before you do the website in two languages, if you need to play the guitar perfectly and learn Photoshop completely and take Pulitzer prize winning photos, ski double black diamond runs expertly, know all technology fluently…..you get the picture. It’s being too hard on yourself. Just love it all, have zeal in the practice and stop measuring based on perfection.  I couldn’t wait to get up this morning, my first day back from Aspen and feel grateful for my enthusiasm for life and learning and to again think about what Tommy encouraged: grace, flow and letting go!

By the way, read Weems’ book, Brilliant Skiing Every Day, Ancient Wisdom, Modern Skiing and Big Fun! Then make a plan to attend one of Tommy’s workshops where he applies body, mind, spirit and martial arts to sports, business and relationships! Have a fulfilling day!