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Failing in Public
Last night, we finished watching “Until the Wheels Fall Off.” It’s a documentary about the journey of one of my heroes, Tony Hawk.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Tony Hawk is widely considered the greatest skateboarder to ever live. In addition, he pioneered the sport and brought it to the mainstream.
I can not explain how influential skateboarding has been for me in my life. It was everything to me. It was my saving grace.
I was never exceptionally good at skating, but I was decent. I practiced every day. School felt like prison to me. I would quite literally state at the clock and wait for school to end so I could skate.
I would spend hours on the black top, slamming on stairs and soaking my shirts with sweat and gravel. When it got dark, I would skate underneath the dim yellow lights at the Oreland train station or at 4 stair behind Holy Martyrs.
What people don’t realize about skating is that most of skating is falling.
Landing tricks is rare. As soon as you learn a trick and master it, you immediately move onto the the next trick that you can’t quite do yet.
Skating is falling, over and over again. Skating is failing.
Towards the end of the documentary, Jules looked over to me and said “I wonder if that’s where you get your mindset of failing in public.”
I doubt it’s that literal. I don’t think the act of skating gave me some epiphany about how to build online businesses, but I do think it set me up to enjoy the process.
I’ve written many times about the Protestant Work Ethic, and how American’s have an unspoken cultural quirk which dictates our behavior. It’s a broad concept, but in short, The Protestant Work ethic is a method of worship where the work itself is the path to salvation, as opposed to repenting towards the end of life to be resolved of your sins.
That’s what skating is.
You don’t skate because you think landing the trick will earn you some sort of salvation. You skate because the process of falling and getting up, is within itself the salvation.
If you can succeed on a skateboard, you can succeed anywhere.