I wanted to start this blog with kindness and care but, sod it. Stop telling me and your friends and your family and strangers on the chairlift and folks in the pub how to ski.
Unless I’m in a lesson, that I paid for, I am just not interested in what you think of my skiing capability, no matter how well meaning you think that negative feedback is. Like you I’m here to go skiing. Of course compliments are always welcomed. Unsolicited critiques are not.
It’s not just me either, I’ve overheard friends of friends telling friends (who didn’t ask) they are lazy skiers or not aggressive enough or too fearful. Really? Is that necessary? How do you think that’s going to help improve that person’s skiing ability let alone your friendship?
As for partners, lovers, spouses. What are you thinking! You may be first down the hill, you may huck cliffs, you may charge your big bad ass fat rocker skis through the powder but does that make you better than your partner and his/her considered turns done with technique? You’re not heading for the podium in your glorified mind, you’re heading for the divorce court.
Every one of us has a bad turn, a better turn, an excellent turn, then a bad turn again. No two turns are the same. But do you hear me pointing out your Q angle, your trunk not facing down the hill, your dropped hands, your wonky turn?
No, you don’t. But I could, a lot. Because if you’ve had any level of quality instruction over the years then you can see everyone else’s mistakes and flaws as though you have none of your own. They call that projection.
I sat next to a guy on a plane last week who is clearly proficient in both skiing and snowboarding. I asked him what he prefers out of the two? He said when it’s a powder day he prefers the snowboard because he simply floats and rides and doesn’t think.
Silly me said but can’t you do the same on skis? He responded by asking me if I ever make a turn without thinking about how I could have made that turn better?
I thought about it and he was right. I am already critiquing every one of my own turns, even in powder. And I do that thanks to a gazillion hours of professional ski instruction that drummed so many elements into me about back seats, big toe little toe, hips, fall line and more. So clearly I don’t need another voice doing it too, because last time I looked I didn’t see any level 4 ski instructor certification on your LinkedIn profile.
Speaking of Level 4, one of the most delightful ski days I have had this season was with a friend who happened to be a Level 4 Ski Instructor – on his day off. Not just any Level 4 either, a Level 4 in three types of skiing – alpine, tele and Nordic. In short, he’s more than ‘very’ qualified, he’s an expert and that’s before they put him in the Canadian Ski Instructors Association Hall of Fame.
I was fully expecting to either stack it in front of him or for him to offer that unsolicited advice we all crave (not). But I didn’t stack and he offered no advice, even though he is more qualified than anyone who has offered me that unsolicited advice in the past. We simply skied and had a good laugh, no judgements, no critiques, just connection through a shared love of skiing.
If he can hold back on pointing out my flaws, then, well, you know the rest. Truth is, if you’re seeking connection with your ski mates then critiquing their skiing, without them asking, is going to have the opposite effect because here’s what happens when you offer it up like a FIS World Cup judge.
The research of Harvard Professor, Teresa Amabile, reveals that humans feel blocked from making progress when they perceive a setback. So that set back you are pointing out has the opposite effect. Setbacks or negative feedback increases frustration, anger and fear and creates disconnection.
Positive feedback increases progression without blocks. If you’re not learning with flow then you’re not progressing in skiing.
I have always said you can learn a lot from skiing. Stay positive, have fun, see the best, not the worst, in people, look after your own stuff and let others look after theirs and most importantly, be kind.
Read more: Finding your purpose in skiing
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