As a man in midlife, I’ve noted how you immerse yourself into mastering both the slopes, and your business practice determines when you will reach your professional pinnacle.
What I’ve learned even though I’ve never skied
I recently spoke to a mom of two young boys who had for the first time, gone skiing in upstate New York. She shared the excitement on their faces as they journeyed to their destination. On the way, they stopped at a deli to get a quick bite.
Seeing small piles of snow on the ground, they did what most small boys and even some adults seeing snow for the first time, would do…they made snow balls. All smiles and giggles as they threw snowballs at each other and at whatever else they were allowed, you can imagine the scene and the delight on their faces. Onlookers would think they had arrived at their destination.
>Once they got to the slopes, they were fitted with skis. Their mom made sure the kids put on the correct size and that they were bundled up with all the accessories they needed for their first skiing experience. The kids listened carefully to all the instructions that were given and another pep talk by mom.
Having being fitted with the skis and with ski poles in hand, off they went.
Walking slowly through the snow around the base of the slope, they began to experience what it felt like to one day become expert skiers. They had a taste of what was possible.
As I listened to their mom tell the story, I came away with four lessons that I believe would be beneficial to you as a man in midlife.
1. You must go to the slopes
This may sound almost absurd to mention. However, most men in midlife get overwhelmed by the big picture—the slope, that they overlook this very basic step. What is your slope?
My slope was that I had to go back to school to pursue my Masters Degree. I was 47 years old. This seemed monumental for me at this stage of life. I thought about being the oldest person in the classroom and how it would look. It made me somewhat embarrassed.
However, I realized that another year would come and go and I would be one more year older anyway. Making the decision to return to school and what to study, was my slope.
2. You must put on the right size skis
Having completed the two years of required schooling and an additional two years of an internship, I was now qualified to see clients without any supervision. I was on my own.
I had to now start thinking of how to build my therapy practice. To start, I did a lot of pro bono (still do some) and “gave away” my services for a minimal cost.
This was my way of trying to see what size ski fitted me. I learned quickly that I could not treat everyone. So I had to narrow down my niche, and focus on those clients I felt most comfortable in seeing. I had to gingerly walk around the base of the slope without hurting my practice or the clients. In choosing to wear the relationship skies rather than the mental health ones, I found a more comfortable fit.
Putting on the right skies is of utmost importance. What’s your ski?
3. You must start at the base of the slope
It is quite tempting to want to attempt skiing down the slope from the top. It looks so impressive. However, without the practice at the base, we could seriously hurt ourselves and others.
The base of my slope meant treating clients who did not have any severe issues. I would stay away from those whom I would consider beyond my pay-grade at the time because I didn’t feel as adequately prepared.
This is the idea of starting small. Don’t try to take on too much too fast. When that happens, you are setting yourself up for possible failure.
As I look back, I realized I moved too quickly on some occasions. I made horrible mistakes in my opinion. I gave advice that causes me to cringe in hindsight. But thank God I took it slow, which minimized the damage. I must say that no one complained I gave them bad counsel. At least not to me. It’s just that in hindsight, I knew I did.
4. You must get used to the skis by walking around
Walking around in your new skis gives you an opportunity to get adjusted and to make sure the fit is just right. The last thing you want to do is try to make this adjustment coming down the slope.
My getting used to the skis was simply taking steps in my counseling practice, making sure each counsel that I gave or questions I asked, were helpful to my clients. I tried not to take another step until I felt that what I shared was understood and that it resonated with them my clients. This was my walking around.
Being patient during this stage is crucial. The temptation is great at times to rush the process. To do so, I found that the less I compared myself with professional “skiers” (therapists) as they skied down the slope in flawless fashion, the better it was for me. This will be true for you as well.
These four lessons, if followed carefully, will enable you to feel more confident skiing down your slope.
I am now much more comfortable on the slopes, shushing with the more experienced skiers, but I had to start gathering knowledge at the base and then commit to learning the practices sure to lead me to success.