“Oh, no! Someone’s terribly hurt!” are the words that went through my mind last summer. My husband, Richard, and I had just returned to our campsite after fly fishing on the beautiful Taylor River near Crested Butte, CO and were happily ensconced in our chairs with mugs of strong tea and juicy camp novels. Above an enormous boulder flanking the backside of our site was what is considered to be one of the most challenging bike trails in the Rockies. To get to the top, bikers take car rides up, and then hold on for dear life as they plummet at lightning speed down the steep trail to the bottom, landing right near us.
It was fun to get wind of the biker chitchat now and then, but our attention was really snagged when a LOUD crash permeated the still air. In a split second, I thought, “Oh no, someone’s terribly hurt!” but before I could barely register that thought, I heard a 20-something female voice belt out, “WOW!!! You really know how to fall well!” Admiration was clear but, frankly, it was not what I expected to hear. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the young woman who had fallen said to her riding buddy “Thanks. I’ve trained myself to jump off of the bike in the opposite direction of the fall at just the right moment, so the fall’s not so bad.”
I have to say, being a basically Sunday-afternoon neighborhood biker, it had not occurred to me to put any forethought into how to “fall well.” But it struck me as a smart tactic, not only for this young woman, but also for all of us, especially if we want to push the limits and improve on what we’re already doing in our lives and work.
After “Ring Around the Rosy”
Somehow we had all gone from playing “Ring Around the Rosy” as little kids, happily giggling when we fell to the ground at the end, to, in just a few years, stark terror at the fear of falling while trying to master our first two-wheelers. I remember telling my father (picture a tearful pout), “Daddy, I’ll never learn to ride this dumb bike; I just keep falling. I’m never riding it again!” I certainly had that option: to just park the bike in the yard and never touch it again. Or to saddle up one or two or three more times and give it another try, which, of course, I did. Even though I realized I could never avoid falling completely, the idea of falling no longer paralyzed me. I also liked the idea of going faster and faster, which would inevitably exact the price of a fall here and there. Falls, after all, are just part of the goal of improving.
In the martial arts of Judo, one practices “ukemi,” which is the technique of falling safely. Think about how much more fearless you would be going through life if, instead of avoiding any possibility of ever falling, you practice falling well, and trust that your ability to fall safely and wisely will support you. What could you accomplish or overcome?
5 Positive Fallouts of Falling Well
1. Confidence. The more times you fall and realize it didn’t kill you, the more confident you will feel about risking to fall again.
2. Vulnerability. By being open to showing yourself and others that you are willing to fall, you show your vulnerability and, therefore, your authenticity (highly regarded in this day and age).
3. Resilience. Getting back up and trying again shows your ability to recover from circumstances and keep on keepin’ on. This is gold.
4. Pushing the Status-Quo. Falling, when we’ve pushed ourselves past the status quo, helps us create excellence and mastery in our lives and work. If you won’t try something a little harder and differently (and possibly fall), you––and your organization––will never know the joy and benefits of that accomplishment.
5. Fun. Increase your fun and energy by trying new things, falling a bit, and laughing it off.
I know I’m certainly glad I got back on my bike and hope that you will keep getting back on yours, too. Falling masterfully is an ART . . . and autumn is a perfect time for a safe and artful fall!
Let me know how you are FALLING WELL!