My skiing age is not the same as my biological age and while I wouldn’t have complained had I took the world by storm, made an Olympic fresh out of college and then been fighting for medals from that point on, that’s not what happened, and I think that’s the more important story to tell. I have had a number of people ask me recently why I kept going or why I have seen so much improvement in the last few years and every time I respond with the idea that I didn’t start skiing until I was 14 (skiing birth) so at age 31 when I won my first World Cup, I was only at skiing age 17, a perfect time to start seeing the work pay off. Everyone has the same response “hahahaha” they laugh and then jokingly say how that means they are at golf age 3 or something to that effect.
But, I don’t see that as a joke, it’s true. Mastery takes time, it takes many hours of skill building, learning, making mistakes, reflecting, trying again, and finally perfecting.
It’s hard to not see life as a race in today’s go go go world and there are amazing humans who accomplish incredible things at very young ages, but why hold ourselves to an age standard that we have very little control over, why not hold ourselves to a mastery standard and embrace everyone’s unique path to find mastery?
I am anything but patient, but luckily, I am stubborn and that resulted in me relentlessly pursuing the path of mastery in skiing despite the many bumps along the way. In turn, I have had to learn a small amount of patience to give myself the space to develop in my own time, to master the skills needed to be competitive on a global stage, to develop the fitness to race a full season, and maybe most importantly to develop the perspective and mental skills needed to face failure down, learn, and continue on.
Without this space, it’s hard to ever be creative, to see what you’re made of, to take risks, or embrace challenge. Without this space, we live in a constant pressure cooker life, trying to meet others’ expectations about who to be and when to be it. I struggled a lot as a young girl wanting to meet what I perceived as everyone’s expectations for myself and this put me in a place where I was great at getting A’s, but didn’t actually master any skills because I know people expected A’s and that was more important than the skill itself. This isn’t mastery and doesn’t lead to big and meaningful successes. If we can push back, even a little, give ourselves a little space, a little self compassion, and a little patience, we can really surprise ourselves. Starting the process of learning a new sport at 14 was difficult when almost all my peers started at 3, but maybe that path brought me other skills, others perspectives, and other strengths. By giving myself that space, I was able to see where my strengths were while finding ways to build the specific skills I lacked. Again, mastery takes time and consistency and without time, we might be able to check some boxes but we won’t experience the incredible joys of taking the path to mastery.
Embrace in the path your on, it’s unique, it’s yours, and it can lead to mastery no matter your age or background.
Winning my first World Cup at 31 was worth the wait, not because winning is fun or brings happiness to my life, but because it was proof that the journey I had taken towards consistency, skill building, and reaching towards mastery was working. Mastery brings purpose, satisfaction, and immense joy.