Steeps Separate

Ski racing like many sports where time is the measure of performance has not just the final time but interval times. These are measures of performance along portions of a racecourse. In a one-minute event, for example, there may be three interval times prior to the final finish time. The shorter the interval in terms of physical distance, the closer the times tend to be amongst competitors. They simply have less space within which to differentiate themselves.

It’s also the case that portions of a course that are flatter seem to provide less opportunity for competitors to separate from each other. Watching performances in an easier or flatter section, the only difference appears to be the shape of the athlete or the color of their clothing. A video of one overlaid over another would be virtually indistinguishable. So, too, it is with times. The differences between athletes are miniscule. The times stack up like the videos one on top of the other.

It’s on the steep sections where skill shines and is seen as separation in skier times. The steeps are where success is showcased. The true differences in abilities materialize where conditions are challenging.

Skills are shown as technical prowess manifests. Will is shown as psychological determination and grit. Tactics like seeking a more aggressive line can be seen. Physical strength that’s behind the technique, grit, and tactics becomes apparent. Equipment, too, may be a separator on the steeps.

Any and all of these are performance variables where differences aren’t discernible until on the steeps. Under duress, the best are wildly different than the rest. What is seen when conditions seem mean? Difficult environments allow differences to be demonstrated.

As Seth Godin has written, “No one gets paid to eat chocolate cake.” There’s no value in doing what’s easy. Everyone looks good when conditions are perfect. There’s no skill in doing what everyone else is doing. As Jim Rohn encouraged, “Don’t wish it was easier wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge wish for more wisdom.” You don’t want things to be easy and problem free, that will prevent you from becoming all you can be. Challenging circumstances are where the work you’ve put in (or haven’t put in) shows. It’s been said by several about both sports and stress that challenge doesn’t create character, it reveals it. In a tough time, we don’t miraculously materialize into a new version of ourselves, we showcase the root of our character.

Learn to seek and bear a burden and you’ll be bestowed with benefits. Reward lies beyond the responsibility you can shoulder. More responsibility, more reward. That’s a goal to move towards. Perhaps, struggle and sacrifice can be viewed as things that are nice. Make your practices difficult so that your performances appear easy in comparison. Seek struggle so that you can showcase what skills you’ve developed through your sacrifice.

Rigour reveals and therein lies its appeal.