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Lessons From Shreddy Nate

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Have you ever watched American Ninja Warrior (ANW)? My son Nate, LOVES ANW and always has. I used to think it was just the spectacle, but as we’ve watched him grow, it’s clear it is something else. I think it is the “all-in” attitude. They have to be 100% IN IT TO WIN IT, even when they are bouncing off the spinning wheel-spider, somehow you know, they’ll be back.

Since I met him, my husband has been an active outdoorsy guy - a surfer, snowboarder and lover of adventure. From the early days of our marriage we dreamed of having kids, and growing up as a family participating in active vacations, all experiencing adventure together. After trying a few, we settled on snowboarding. We bought the passes, the gear, and my husband reminisced about “that season I spent in Tahoe”. Everything was great, except…neither myself nor our kids knew how to snowboard (or ski). So, simple plan, we’ll all take lessons

Nate was five years old when we started. He completely expected to be a pro by the end of day one. He visualized his success on a visceral level. How awesome it would feel, how cool he would look and what a phenomenal time he would have gliding down the mountain with agility and speed. Of course, he was terrible. However, no matter how many times he fell or had a near death experience, he got right back up and kept after his dream. He may have yelled in frustration, punched the snow, pouted and even cried, but he still got back on the lift and kept coming down the runs. Year one passed, he still struggled. Year two and year three passed, Nate never quit. Now, when the snow starts falling, Nate has a new name - “Shreddy”. Shreddy Nate is now 12 years old and my husband has to ask him to take a break from any more runs through the half pipe and “dropping in” from the cornices at the very peak of the mountain.

I, on the other hand, stayed terrible. At first I was so sore and having my kids literally snowboard S turns around me was brutally humbling. I was also the oldest person in my snowboarding lessons. I found myself getting incredibly frustrated at my lack of ability so much and so often that I didn’t look forward to waking up early and hitting the slopes. In fact, I was miserable. I told myself I would try other things while my family snowboarded and that’s okay. Eventually, while awkwardly snow-shoeing through the backcountry, I had to admit I was disappointed in myself.

I still had the family adventure dream–that hadn’t gone away. But instead of being the new “top-pro”. I visualized getting hurt and looking like a moron. The worst part - those awful things I envisioned happening - didn’t (at least not that I’m aware of, no one stopped and pointed their finger at me, laughing and hurling insults). In fact, the opposite had happened–plenty of encouragement even from random strangers. I had self-selected myself out of my own dream.

When I was honest with myself and acknowledged my negative mindset, I reconnected with my goal. I wanted mountain adventure time with my family, have lunch together and cheer each other on, be in the most breathtaking nature imaginable. Then, something clicked in me too and I was able to put it all together. Within a surprisingly short period of time, I was snowboarding down blue runs with my kids. I felt amazing to achieve my dream and push back on a toxic negative outlook that was suppressing me in so many ways.

When I look back, I thought I knew a little about goals. Making hard decisions and persevering through my life transitions was my “thing”. First, leaving Alaska and becoming a Marine, then spending more than a decade as a military spouse and, now, as a professional; I’ve lived the alternate Marine Corps motto: “Semper Gumby,” Always Flexible. It’s like American Ninja Warrior: Life Transition Edition.

Through those times, I have seen over and over how critical it is to have total commitment once a decision is made. Only if thoughts align with a clearly defined vision do you get total buy-in. Oftentimes we begin the process of transformation knowing deep in our gut that there is more to do and accomplish–a greater purpose. We don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out, but we’re willing to take a few initial baby steps and admit something has to change. The easy part of change is the decision. Taking actions is a whole different thing. And then taking action again…and again.

So, what drives a person to continue persisting? There has to be an emotional connection, a strong desire, driving our actions, otherwise it’s nearly impossible to maintain momentum through the setbacks and obstacles. Sometimes we are our own biggest barrier; our mindset is powerful. The key difference between me and Nate was I was focused on what I didn’t want, where Nate was 100% driven by his dream. Once I adjusted my mindset, my focus immediately shifted to what was possible, motivating me to persevere and eventually realize my dream. What dream is waiting for you?

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