Risk Taking As Fun

Wisdom gained at the roller rink

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Illustration by Katie Lee
Hero image
Illustration by Katie Lee

I’m pretty lucky because I have a roller rink in my neighborhood. My kids and I have been regulars for close to a decade now. Some of my fondest memories happened at the roller rink decades ago. Despite the learning curve, awkward collisions, and minor injuries, I go back for more.

During my last trip to the rink, I indulgently sipped on a soda and watched the skaters glide along and move to the music. Smiling. Holding hands. Some stumbling. Some showing off. I wondered to myself, just exactly what makes this place so magnetic? There are so many different people on the floor—sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies. They all adore it.

And why do I find such a feeling of stress release when I go? Being there is a guaranteed escape from the stress of the world outside. It’s almost like going to the spa, but with dance music, junk food, and arcade games.

As I sat there, I made a connection between being on the roller rink floor and being my best self at work. As a creative leader, part of my job is to make work fun and to inspire a what if mentality, no matter how unattainable the idea may seem. To be truly creative, we must embrace a risk-taking culture.

As I joyfully watched the skaters on the floor, I made these observations that I try to bring to work every day.

Pretending to skate is not possible. We all have to make the investment to learn. Skating is a completely unnatural act that puts us out of our comfort zone. With the learning curve comes a feeling of mutual respect. We all know to stay out of a neophyte’s way to give them space. They will fall and get back up. No shame. Only learnings.

Embrace the awkward.

Effort is ageless.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s definitely easier to learn if you’re younger—you’re more resilient and have less mental baggage. But you’re also never too old to learn. There are folks of all ages who take to the floor for the first time. They look like Bambi on ice. Sure they’re nervous, but they’re also smiling. Because they can feel what it’s like to be a kid again, trying something new, daring, fast, slippery, dangerous. It’s a risk worth taking.

Be present.

Keep your eyes looking forward and be aware of your surroundings. Look out! There’s overly-confident tween. He’s about to cut you off. Oh and there’s a couple of little girls holding hands skating backward. Be wary. Can you learn some smooth skate moves from those little girls? Is there somebody who needs a hand up? Make sure you’re not inadvertently an obstacle for someone else. But most of all keep moving forward and having fun.

Trust your instincts.

Even if it’s been a while since you were on the floor, you’ve got this. If you overthink what you’re doing you will falter. Just get out there. Go with the flow. Enjoy. You’re getting better with each revolution. If it gets too easy, learn a new trick. It’s true that there will be variables beyond your control (i.e. overly-confident tweens). Again, be aware, and then have faith in yourself. You’re making progress.

We are family.

The diversity on the floor is a beautiful thing. Each skater has their own approach and style. And there’s support all around. With each push of our skates we enter another real moment of progress, building confidence and burning stress. The feeling of accomplishment, for the individuals and the group, is palatable. We’re a beautiful murmuration of flying risk-takers, united by this daring need to be free and express ourselves. We love the risk. Look at where it takes us together.

I’m not at the rink right now. I’m at work. But I’m trying new things like writing a POV about something I’m passionate about. It feels awkward. I am exposed. I’m not a writer and my skill level has probably made that obvious. Though I must admit that putting myself out there has been fun. I tried a new trick and I am improving.

Thanks for moving forward with me. Hope to see you on the floor.

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