When I was in high school I decided to become a skater because it looked fun and cool. I bought ↑ this skateboard, excitedly drove home, and attempted to skate down my driveway and off the curb.
I ate shit.
It was like someone had replaced my legs with left hands. I could barely stand on the board. As I’d later learn from reading up on neuroplasticity, I actually lacked the neural networks, the brain power, to skate. So I said “I guess I wasn’t born with the talent for skateboarding,” threw my board away, and became a pro World of Warcraft player… not!
As soon as I picked myself up from the asphalt I got right back on my board and attempted a simpler mission: just skate around the street a little bit. “OK Matt, one leg on the board, one leg pushing, there we go… holy crap I’m skating! I’m a badass! I’m a bada-CRAP!” and then I crashed again. It’s no embellishment to say that I slammed into the ground over 1000 times in my skating career; I got cuts, bruises, scrapes, sprains, hand rails to the groin, and even fractured my left arm. Believe it or not, all that failure didn’t diminish the fun; it was actually part of it! “I am SO going to pop shove it over that curb now!”
I never once thought “at this rate, with how many hours I’m spending per day on the board, I’ll be able to do trick X on March 30th” or “I should be able to grind rail Y by now, I’m behind on my daily reps, I’m a failure, God I should just give up.” Yes, there were metrics, but only in the shortest of terms: “I am going to keep practicing kick flips until I can do them.” Learn trick, rinse, repeat, forever.
That’s right, forever. Because there was never an ultimate goal, my friends and I practiced every day just for the fun of it. ~80% of the time we just screwed around, and ~20% we consciously worked on a new trick. I always stayed present-minded, and thus always had fun. Before I knew it I was dropping into 12 foot ramps, grinding down hand rails, and fathering children with all of the local supermodels, all without any emotional stress whatsoever.
I think skating unconsciously taught me to take baby steps towards my goals. I never felt frustrated biting off more than I could chew, because I learned tricks in a logical progression (e.g. I learned to ollie, then to kick flip, then to nollie, then to nollie kick flip, etc.). I learned that when you’re truly enjoying what you’re doing, not thinking in terms of shoulds, dates, responsibilities, expectations, or deadlines, time truly flies by. How many times did I suddenly realize that the sun had gone down and I was late for dinner? Sorry about that mom…
I stopped skating about ten years ago, but for the last couple of months, every day, I can hear a high school kid skating on my street all by himself; the sound of the wheels popping on and off the concrete, the sound of the metal trucks grinding a waxed rail, and of course the hundreds of grunts and shouts when he biffs it and slams into the ground. He’s out there for two or three hours every day, entirely living in the moment, in a flow state, strengthening the connections in his skate-brain in a joyous never-ending state of improvement.
I was going to say that we can learn a lot from skaters, but really, we can learn a lot from anyone who still knows how to have fun (i.e. kids who haven’t been crushed by the establishment yet). To me, having fun means staying in the present. The only long-term thinking I did at all was the first three seconds when I chose my goal: “I’m going to be a skater.” From then on out, it was a long, slow, totally fun journey.
tl;dr – Have fun, ya dingus.