This post first appeared here in August 2010, back when only my mom read my blog. Since there’s a few more of you now (thank heavens!) I thought I’d re-post it, especially in light of the fact that today I’m speaking to a large group about improv, my book and all sorts of other scary topics.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
I think she was onto something here. I recently spent a weekend in Whistler Blackcomb Resort, where the opportunity to scare yourself lay around every corner. Surrounded by so much outdoor enthusiasm, it led me to wonder about the draw, even during the summer, of ski resorts, which are planned communities of adventure, fun, and well, yes, scary things.
While one woman’s bone-tingling ride of death might be another woman’s walk-in-the-park, I think Eleanor Roosevelt would have approved of this kind of adventure. So I ask you, dear reader, what scares you? What activity really puts you “out there”?
As John and I rode the Peak 2 Peak Gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb, riding 1400 feet above the valley floor, we pressed our noses to the Plexiglas windows, amazed at the huge support towers, the thickness of the haul rope and the sheer design of the thing. As a ski area operator who has built countless chairlifts, both big and small, John can truly appreciate the specs on this one–with only four two hundred foot towers, the cabins ride across the longest expanse of any lift of its kind.
While we awed over the engineering feat, I noticed a woman clinging to the aluminum bar within the gondola car, her eyes squeezed shut and her forehead beaded in sweat.
She told her friend that she “was scared of heights”.
Before I could wonder why she’d chosen this particular lift, her friend asked her for me.
“Well, I dunno,” she answered. “Because it’s thrilling!”
That’s the thing about resorts such as Whistler. They offer that thrill. Some find it jumping off of ladder-width bridges onto a dirt track on their downhill bike, while others find their thrill flying down a zipline through the trees. And then there’s the cadre of brave souls down the valley in Squamish, perhaps wired just a little bit more loosely, who walk a slack-line (essentially a not-so-tight rope) between peaks with only a thin strip of webbing between their feet and the valley floor several hundred feet below. But some don’t even need to go that far. They can find their thrill riding the world’s highest gondola, their eyes squeezed shut, the windows curving away towards the floor, their bodies and souls protected by Dopplemayr engineering.
Any way to look at it, I agree with Eleanor. We need to be scared every once in a while.
Challenges are like electric shocks that keep us focused, creative, self-confident. They’re nature’s little reminders to pay attention. Fear pulls us out of our protective coating and lays us bare again.
And that’s when we do our best work. That’s when we are most creative, most ourselves. I’ve always found my trials in the outdoors. Maybe that’s why I like ski resorts so much, where challenges lay around every corner.
But it doesn’t matter if you’re dressed like a gladiator, getting huge air over dirt jumps, or just riding a chairlift, designed and engineered by the world’s best. Ask yourself today, what scares you. Then go and put yourself out there!