I love this quote from T.S. Eliot— “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”
It reminds me of this quote from Mario Andretti— “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
There’s a common theme here, right?
The other day my buddy Paulo threw a backflip off a jump in Vail.
He landed it near perfectly but he blasted off the bindings on the backs of his skis, which apparently weren’t built for his type of crazy.
Now, truth be told, while it is pretty nuts to throw a backflip on skis, when you understand the process behind it, it’s not that crazy.
Some years ago Paulo and I were hanging out in Manhattan with his buddy Nick who is pretty handy on a motorcycle.
Both guys were having a good laugh about how Nick used to jump his dirt bike over one of the neighbors houses.
“WHAT?” I said to him. “I used to ride dirt bikes, but I never did anything that crazy.”
He went on to say that it’s not that crazy when you simply build up to it over time, a notion he called Raising the Baseline.
He said, at first you start with small jumps, then you get to bigger jumps, and before you know it seems quite normal to be soaring over the neighbor’s house.
Doing a backflip on skis works the same way.
Paulo started jumping with skis on a trampoline, then down a ramp into a pool, then into an air bag, and once he built the confidence and competence to not kill himself, he raised the baseline to go vertical on snow.
While these two examples are extreme, we all have plenty of our own experiences of just how far we can take it when we are first willing to get in over our heads.