Lessons From the Mountain Top

This is an edited and updated version of a work blog I wrote last year:


For those who may not know, I flew to Denver in February 2009 to shoot some commercials for the firm.  The kids have recently continued the family commercial enterprise by appearing a new set of commercials for the firm. Their commericials will air starting tomorrow (9/1/10) in eastern NC.

Anyway, the trip last year was a work trip and a family vacation.  After my column on balance (see earlier blog entry), I made a commitment to take off one week every six months.  That was big for me.  In my previous sixteen years of practice, I had only rarely taken off an entire week at a time.  And I have gone years in which I didn’t take off a week total, much less at once.

But this seemed like a great vacation opportunity, so I talked Maggie into making a family trip of it.  After the shoot, she, I, and the kids (Alyson, 11, and Eric, 10 at the time) planned to take a ski trip at Breckenridge.  As a bonus, my brother (Keith) would fly in from Reston, VA to spend 3 days with us.  I had never skied.  Maggie used to ski a lot, but that was almost 20 years ago.  Keith skis frequently.  The kids had never skied and sometimes seem prone to random surges of gravity while just standing – so, we had some concerns about strapping skis to their feet and pointing them downhill.

After I was done with the commercials, Maggie and the kids and I had a quiet dinner and then walked around Denver until pretty late.  As an aside, Ally still wants to move to Denver.  It is a pretty cool city.

We got up the next morning, rented a Jeep, and made the 90-minute drive to Breckenridge.  I had never been to the Rockies before, but I have always loved the mountains.  Seeing the mountains just feels like a spiritual experience to me and always fills me with wonder.  This was certainly no different.  The Rockies are amazing.   That’s why we went back again this past February for more skiing.

Anyway, we checked into the condo that afternoon (the condo was right at the base of Peak 9 and was very close to the ski lift), arranged private ski lessons for the next day, and then my brother arrived later that night.  We got up bright and early the next day for our first ski lesson.  It was wonderful.  By midday, we were off the bunny slope, on the lift, and skiing down greens.  At the end of the day, we tackled a fairly steep blue.  It was on this run that I actually mowed Maggie down (seriously, it was like a football tackle on skis – but she was ok).

In case you don’t know the nomenclature, the bunny slopes are practice areas for newbies.  Greens are the easiest real slopes (you take a chairlift up anywhere from a half mile to a mile and then ski back down).  Blues are next; these are typically either steeper or more narrow than greens (width is important because less skilled skiers – like me – make wide loops going down the hill to keep their speed in check).  Then come blacks – the hardest slopes.

After a day and a half of lessons, I felt very comfortable on greens and could handle blues ok.  Maggie and the kids could zip right down blues with no problem.  Eric seems to be a natural skier.  It was amazing to see how well he and Ally did.  They were both certainly far better than I was.

While we learned to zig and zag our way down the mountain, lots of moves were going on back at the office, too.  I generally take several hours per day on vacation to check in and get some work done.  I did not do that this time.  Well, I did sneak a logon a couple of times to do a quick check, but I probably spent less than four hours logged in during the entire trip.

We got back in one week to the day from when we left.  I believe the trip was a success in many ways.  I stepped out of my normal routine by doing the commercials.  I learned that I can take a break.  My family got some quality, fun time together.  We all learned to ski.  We recharged batteries.  I came back determined to approach work with the same enthusiasm that I approached vacation with (since work is enjoyable, that actually wasn’t such a tall order for me).

As I look back at the lessons we learned while skiing, I think some of the same principles have life applications, too.  For instance:

1. Inertia is a powerful force, but it doesn’t always take you where you want to go;

2. Control is often more important than speed, but speed with control is even better;

3. You have to stay focused on where you are going – not where you are or where you’ve been (look up, not down at your feet);

4. You have to trust those around you to do their part;

5. Even just a small adjustment can make a world of difference in efficiency and can reduce stress and the amount of effort required to achieve desired results;

6. Taking time to recharge makes you more effective.

I’d bet you can find a way to apply these lessons in your work, your ministry, or even your family time.

In addition to these lessons, we found a great family activity we all enjoy.  We’ve since been to Snowshoe and back to Breckenridge again for more ski trips, and we hope to take many more.

Oh, and one last thing:  I learned that my body is naturally on Mountain Time rather than Eastern Time.  It’s two hours later there, and that works much better for me!

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