Forget the Last Fall

I've fallen down a lot over the years.

I've fallen down stairs.

I've fallen down hills.

I was jumping on the couch when I was five, fell off, and cracked my head open on the corner of a glass table. Much blood was spilled.

I've fallen off my bike who knows how many times. On one fall, I landed on my head, on some rocks. Much blood was spilled again. (I've hit my head quite a bit, so keep that in mind as you read anything I write.)

I've fallen off the swings at the playground.

I've fallen off skateboards and scooters.

I fell off a moving car and slid on my chest several feet across the pavement.

Once, I fell over sixty feet from a cliff into some water. No, the water was not soft.

I've fallen just because my feet didn't want to work right.

I've fallen enough by now to have learned this about moving on post-spill:

You have to forget the last fall.

This comes up often in snowboarding. Recently, I went to Lake Louise in Banff National Park to snowboard in the Canadian Rockies. I fell down a lot there. Once I've picked myself up after a particularly brutal tumble, it's bad news if that fall is still in my head. The next time I come up on a steep trail, the fear of falling again messes with me. As I go downhill, my legs and feet react slower than they normally do. My stance and posture is all off--I'm in full-on protection mode. I don't want to fall again.

Inevitably, because I'm afraid to fall, I'll fall again. And again. And again. It won't stop. The fear trips me up. If we don't forget our last fall, we usually end up with more bumps and bruises because fear throws us off our game. It makes our legs shake. It makes us act out of balance. It keeps us from being ourselves.

Or worse, fear tempts us to give up. Our instinct after a fall, especially a bad one, might be to think, I'm done with bikes. I'm done with skateboards. I'm done with snowboards. Never again. Not worth it. 

You know we're not talking about bikes or snowboards anymore, right?

The falls I want us to think about are the kind we go through in the process of doing something necessary--something we love, something we desire, something that makes our lives richer and fuller, something that if we did not have or did not pursue, would harm us in the long run.

These are the falls that happen when a project we're working on fails, when an idea of ours doesn't take off, when we make a mistake at work or in our relationships, when our hearts are broken by someone we love, when a person or life says "no," but we desperately wanted a "yes."

When that happens, we need to forget the last fall.

Which is not to say, "Forget everything about the last fall." Take this guy, who tried to do a gainer off a cliff into some water, hit his head on the way down, and because he didn't check the water before his jump, landed on a log. That fall cost him a broken L1 vertebra, 14 broken ribs, broken shoulder blades, and a broken right shoulder socket. When I say, "Forget the last fall," I don't mean, "Hey, be a moron and do the exact same stupid thing you did before."

Learn what you can from the last fall. Did you lack the necessary preparation or skills for that project? Was it because you were moving too quickly in a relationship? Did you ignore the warning signs (such as, hey, this guy was pretty much a jerk from Day One--I shouldn't be shocked he kept being a total jerk)? Is there an unhealthy tendency you have when presented with conflict that led to your fall?

And once you've learned what lessons there are to learn, move on and forget it so you can do what you need to do.

Step up to the edge of the cliff and get ready to jump again. If that cliff matters to you, if it's something you know in your heart is worth it, you're going to have to move past your fear of falling. Shake the fear from your head, shake it out of your limbs, exhale the fear from your lungs, and breathe in this thought:

I'm going to jump. I have to jump.

Do it like you've never tasted the fear of a fall before.