In 1968, my mother drove my sister and me about 15 miles to swim lessons at the Parkersburg City Park Pool. We knew how to paddle around already, so it was an opportunity to get certified at “Dolphin” level. (No sissy “Tadpole” status for this six year old!) The hardest requirement was diving off the dreaded high dive. I can remember how impossibly tall it looked from the pavement. I would watch kids climb up and up and up, then dive off. One poor plump kid did the biggest belly flop ever, and came up sputtering, brilliant pink all over!
I passed every other requirement, and only had the high dive between me and Dolphin fame. At the appointed time I used all my willpower to force my wobbly legs to climb up the ladder toward a dizzying blue sky, and edged out on the board. The board was slick from water dripping off bathing suits. It wobbled as other kids came up behind me. I crept closer to the edge and peered over. It was something like this:
I refused to be one of those little kids that sat down and sobbed, or had to have an adult come up and retrieve them from the lofty windswept perch. After about twenty calls of “Jump!” I closed my eyes and…jumped off. I was completely unashamed to jump feet first. It hurt a little bit and I experienced a momentary panic when it took so long to get back to the surface. No matter! Having accomplished my lifetime quota of diving from the sky I was certified as a “Dolphin.” I still have that faded certificate today.
Recently I looked at some old pictures of Parkersburg and found that the actual high dive is a mere 12 feet high. Twelve measly feet. Here’s a postcard from that same era with the high dive circled in red:
Erik Tyler says
I love teaching done through anecdote as you’ve done here, Glenn. Three pieces of advice in The Best Advice So Far come from my best friend’s mom. One that didn’t make it in this book (but may make a future volume) is this: “Nothing is ever as bad – or as good – as you think it’s going to be.” For me, the latter part of this isn’t negative at all. It’s a reminder to live in moments, neither dreading nor idolizing ahead of time. Just as we can psych ourselves out of those “high dives” in life if we dwell on them too much before it’s time to climb that ladder, we can actually miss enjoying good moments for what they are, by building them up as elaborate fantasy of what they “should be” when they arrive.
As the sage souls of yesteryear passed on to us, “Don’t count your chickens until they hatch.” This doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll have fewer than we expected; we might wind up with more. It’s a tricky balance to have hope without set expectations; but I believe it can be done with consistent discipline, patience and resolve.
Thanks, Erik! One of the things I mention to other parents is that we need to remember that many of the experiences our children have will provide lessons and insights soon, and ALSO later on when they have a different perspective.
Adam Smith says
Great story, Glenn. This is a great post to read alongside my post from last week about quitting. Forging ahead is an important discipline to create in our lives if we will ever accomplish what we set out to do in the first place.