Your Gravity Assist Awaits!

There was a point, relatively early, as my dad used to tell, that I realized Earth’s molten iron core and everything wrapped around it was a very good friend.

Dad put me on skis for the first time at age 2 ½.

Evidently I wasn’t much for turning in the early days…

Gravity, like so many other natural forces, can be a pal or a nemesis, all depending on how one sees or experiences it.

On one hand, our home planet has a way of tugging at one’s aging body – and Sisyphus might argue that it added a certain level of inconvenience to his divinely assigned work.

On the other hand, that same tug makes lifting weights and walking up and sliding down mountains worthy pursuits.

Regarding the sliding down bit, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment of my own gravity assist epiphany, but it was likely during the winter of 1978 and ’79.

Without getting too esoteric, the magical move involves throwing one’s body downhill across a perfectly good pair of skis in a way that:

A: is a little (or a lot) counterintuitive…

B: requires a whole lotta trust in one’s abilities…

C: only works at higher speed…

D: involves a weightless phase…

D: is ridiculously fun.

This is one of the cool bits from the world of physics that gets filed in the “special sauce” section of my “Recipes for a Good Life” box.

One of the amazing things about this gravity assist is that it makes getting down the hill not only faster, but easier, smoother and more elegant. (If you’ve ever seen me walk or, for that matter, move at all in any non-skiing way, you’d know that “elegant movement” and I seldom appear in the same sentence!)

Another cool thing about gravity assists in general is that, until they’re discovered – until you actually experience them for yourself – they’re somewhat invisible.

At the same time, in a manner similar to Dorothy’s emerald slippers in “The Wizard of Oz”, they’re right there, waiting to be used.

I had a few things going for me that made it easy. A couple of great mentors, a tight gaggle of passionate, playful, focused ski buddies, a mountain that invited and practically demanded constant up-leveling of skills.

It was an ideal environment for discovery.

But let’s take a quick turn toward the metaphorical side of things, because while they make things easier and more elegant, gravity assists can be easy to miss.

The first thing that comes to mind, and I think the most important, is help.

Help is something that is almost (almost…) always right there, waiting to be invited to play.

I’m not entirely sure why asking for help is such an uncomfortable stretch for people – particularly men – in our culture.

We do seem to have our collective knickers in a knot over just about anything that sniffs of compromising our perceived freedoms and (at times) our not-entirely-realistic notions of fierce independence.

As I often point out to students and clients, “no one does it alone. Even the lone cowboy had his horse.”

Asking for help gets a bad rap for too many distorted reasons. I can’t say for certain that the interweb age has made things better or worse, but I do have my suspicions.

To me, asking for help is about as slam-dunk as a gravity assist could ever be – close proximity, easy to access, makes things easier sometimes even elegant and, of course, invisible until you discover how it works.

Every Olympic athlete and successful team has coaches and other support. Every successful executive has assistants and folks reporting to them. Every profitable business has suppliers and customers or clients.

This stuff, the very essence of interdependence, is so ubiquitous that it’s remarkably easy not to see.

The good news is that help is an awful lot like that skiing gravity assist I started with.

The even better news is that you don’t have to throw yourself out into space over your skis and onto your downhill edges to grab an early start – through that delicious weightless phase – on your next high-speed turn…

All you have to do is ask.

Oh, wait…

There’s one thorny little detail…

You also have to be willing to receive the help you ask for.

That willingness is the other part of the secret sauce.

And yes, it’s also what makes the high-speed turn so magical.

Now it really IS your turn.