I heard someone once say that “in order to be the very best at one thing there can be no balance.” In many ways, I agree. There was a time in my life that I was competing and trying to win the CrossFit Games. As much as I made an effort to have some kind of balance in my life, admittedly, things were quite skewed toward me accomplishing that goal. I never achieved it but the sacrifices made were necessary in order to pursue the goal.
I’m grateful for that, along with many other experiences that have helped me gain perspective on what I want out of life. While going through the process of trying to decide when I should retire from competition, I saw an ESPN 30 for 30 on the Manning family. There was a segment that talked about their dad, Archie Manning, who played in the NFL for 13 years and was named to the Pro Bowl team. He has two sons, Eli and Peyton, who both have impressive careers in the NFL. When interviewed, Archie talked about how he would sit in the stands with headphones on and often dressing so others would not recognize him when watching his sons' games. Why? He wanted to make it about his boys, not about himself. He had his time.
This was a pivotal moment for me. At the time my son had just turned four and my daughter two. I realized that I could continue to work toward simply making it back to the CrossFit Games at that point in my career, or let go and make it about my kids. I chose that latter and have not regretted it for a single moment. Even though I still struggle to keep that perspective at times.
Why are we talking about football and CrossFit when we are skiers? I know how it is to want something that you are passionate about. I know what it takes to try to be the best and I have an “all or nothing” mentality. It can be a great asset or a terrible enemy if I let it get the best of me.Before kids, I worked in a ski shop fresh out of college. I was all about getting the first chair, throwing and dodging elbows to get the first run of fresh powder, and waiting for the rope to drop at Jupiter for an hour plus for the shot at the run of a lifetime. I had time on my hands, a passion for powder runs and didn’t mind trying to spend less than $5 a day on food. Now as a dad of two, husband and small business owner, things have changed a bit. The passion for powder still remains and there are still few things in this world that I believe match the feeling of skiing it! Life does require more of my time now. Despite my love for skiing I am limited on how many days I can get each season.
A little bit is better than none at all: I find that even if I can only get out for a handful of runs it’s pretty much always worth it. Especially when you hit those mid-week days, avoid the crowds, and get in some hot laps. If your work allows, knock out a few emails or calls on the lift and be “that guy” for a day.
Family Ski Day: Ski rule #1 in our family is that we ski as a group at least once/week. No whining, no questions asked, it is what it is. We laid this out after our kids chose not to pursue any of the local ski programs offered in Park City. We are a fan of supporting our kids but also helping them find their passion. Skiing competitively is not one of them. So, the rule was instead of ski school or a program, it’s time as a family. While we can still get some whining here and there it’s generally worked out great. We don’t set a time limit or location on the day. Just roll with where it takes us.
Provide the Experience: Rule #2 in the family when it comes to skiing is that if it snows more than 12” overnight, kids are out of school and we go skiing. Yep, powder days can still happen with kids and school can wait. We may need to change that number to 16” on a good string of storms but I’ll tackle that when we get there. I LOVE this because I have yet to take my kids out on a powder day and have them bummed to be there. They ALWAYS enjoy it once they are on the mountain and we have a blast. More on my son's first true powder day here.
It’s about the journey, not the end result: I know, this sounds super cliche. Truth is that when you have little ones there is a season in life when it is VERY much about their experience on the snow, not yours. Embrace this. These days and times aren’t something we can get back. I still remember skiing with my daughter on my shoulders, holding her in my arms for the final run when she was too exhausted and having her fall asleep, and even the temper tantrums…still happen.
Maybe you were hoping to hear of some way to “hack the system” or get in 100 days/year, never miss a powder day and always enjoy the après ski. While I’m sure there is a way to get there, I’m reminded of the balance. If I want to be the very best at one thing there is no balance. I will miss powder days, I won’t ski 70 days a year every year, and I’m not as good as I was when I was 22. I’m not claiming to be, but if I’m making the effort to be the best dad I can be there’s a lack of balance. What am I banking on? That time now establishes a lifestyle and habit that allows my kids to have those same experiences I did when I was fresh out of college and just moved to a quiet mountain town. The only difference is this go around I’ll be able to join them.
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mark hagen \ 1.1 years ago
Great piece! Advise can be used in a number of different outdoor passions (biking, climbing etc) . Inspiring and I’ll use this with my 3…Thanks!