Everything I know about being a coachable team player I learned from skydiving

405495_10150499202442479_1504406911_nI was invited to join a team of world-class skydivers as a newbie to sport jumping. Each of my soon-to-be teammates had logged thousands of jumps, and even held world records, making the difference in our experience level massive.  This entry to the competitive arena required many leaps of skill (on my part) and faith (on theirs). These leaps were made possible by an agreement to invest in world-class coaching, and the willingness to fly across the country to get it.

I made my first jump while working on a television show. It was part of a “hurl the host out of plane” for fun. Admittedly, it was a great way for me to cross off a bucket list item, without opening my wallet. And since it was part of my job, I got a few bills in the process!

Before my feet hit the ground on that first jump, I knew I would do it again. In fact, it became an obsession. Soon I had 100 jumps, and it was then that I was asked to join a team.

Through these experiences I learned first hand about the importance of being a coachable team player. These skills permeate into all aspects of my life- at home, at work, and of course, in my current athletic endeavors.

1) Be coachable:

You hired a couch, so learn from him/her. Your coach probably knows you better than you know yourself. (S)he has a much better idea of your capabilities and what type of progression will help you reach your goals the fastest.   Don’t go off-script because you think you know more or better.
2) Don’t Doubt: Trust your coach.

If your coach is asking something of you that you perceive to be simple or easy, your job is to prove that you can perform that one thing flawlessly. Don’t try to “get fancy” to impress him/her. There’s probably a good reason you need to focus on that simple task.

3) Be flexible:

Be open to deconstruct and reconstruct. For me, I was so new to skydiving, so I didn’t have a lot of bad habits to break. So in many ways, I had an advantage. I didn’t need to undo much as I was a blank slate.   But if you have lots of experience at something, you need to be mentally ready to get back to basics and possible unlearn/relearn, if you want to see improvement. This was true for my world-class teammates.

4) Be a good teammate:

It’s not enough to show up- you need to show up prepared. That includes your personal prep time- those things your do in advance to practicing as a team; you did the walk-throughs and visualizations at home, stretching, strengthening. Or simply, you got a good night sleep, are well hydrated, etc. Simply put, you’ve done the homework to bring the best version of yourself to the team.

5) Be accountable:

If something unexpected happened in the air, the whole team would need to adjust and anticipate. Since the scoring in skydiving is based on how fast you build formations and how many formations you can do in 30 seconds, you don’t have the luxury of time to figure out why the execution was off. You need to fix it, and fast. There is no time for pointing fingers. Your job is to anticipate imperfection and plan for it. Doing your job includes not being caught off guard.

6) Debrief the effort, then push the reset button:

Some jumps will be amazing and feel perfect. Some will feel terrible. Don’t carry the baggage of your last jump into your next. Negative thoughts are distracting and possibly self-fulling, positive thoughts can breed over confidence or complacency.

7) Establish training systems

This is more than plan the work and work the plan. This means planning every aspect of your training day. For team jumping we planned not just the day’s jumps, we planned lunch/snacks, time to repack our parachutes, plus time to go through the debrief/reset cycle I mention above.

Following each jump, we would study the video we recorded and correlate it with what we experienced in the air. It always started with something good, using the phrase “I like that….”, plus indicating an opportunity for improvement “I’d like to work on…”. This allowed us to frame the conversation with YOU can do to improve the team (not pointing fingers at the mistakes of others). For example: “I like that I was able to anticipate the build happened on a unexpected angle” Rather than blaming your teammate for failing to complete a turn (being off axis or slightly out of position). During her debrief she can indicate she’d like to fix it (work on it).

8) Trust and enjoy your teammates

In the seven years that I competed, I learned about more than just flying my body.   I experienced what it meant to be part of a team.   We didn’t quit our day jobs, so our training days were nearly every weekend, Saturday and Sunday, from sunrise to sunset.  Our vacation time was used for traveling to competitions or training.  This kind of time (and financial) commitment means you really have to enjoy your teammates. And TRUST them, because in skydiving, you need to feel safe performing maneuvers at high rates of speed while flying in the sky (falling to earth) with them.

9) Train with people better than you

In any sport you currently do, or aspire to do, find the high performers.  Surround yourself with the “best of the best” in your area.  It never ceases to amaze me the generosity offered by true, confident rock stars.  Because I surrounded myself with excellence, I was able to cultivate my own*.   My world class team mates elevated my game.  They didn’t doubt me, even if when I did.

10) Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Ever. Training is hard. Find a way to make it fun, or find something else.

JFTCclouds
JFTC-2005-LOGO*The highlight of my skydiving career was being on the 2005 Women’s World Record Team (151 all-woman formation). Not only did we break the previous record, we raised half a million dollars for City of Hope (breast cancer care facility)

record photo: Norman Kent

Ritual Smooth…ie

Sunshine in a cup.
Smoothie

I have no recipe.  I have no calorie counts.  It’s a bit of practiced improv -which is how I live my life.

Every morning I put fruit in a cup, add spinach, a small bit of pomegranate juice and blend.  Sometimes I add seeds (usually chia or hemp).  Occasionally I’ll add some fruity flavored protein powder.  Often I make myself two and bring one to work.  I could probably follow a recipe, but it feels too confining.   I like being surprised by the taste everyday.  I like how weird the color is, and how the color doesn’t indicate how it will taste.

I’ve always loved fruit, and have come around to greens of all varieties- include kale.  But spinach remains my green of choice.  Popeye was on to something.

SmoothieBeforeandAfter

 

Behind the Album…

Honored to direct and produce the program Behind the Album- The (two-time) Emmy Award winning live music series for Redstar Media.behind the album copy

http://behindthealbum.tv/about.html

Links content of featured artists:

THE BALLROOM THIEVES 

CHADWICK STOKES 

BENT KNEE

HALLELUJAH THE HILLS

MARISSA NADLER 

WILL DAILEY 

GIRLS, GUNS & GLORY 

 DWIGHT & NICOLE 

SHEA ROSE 

MELISSA FERRICK 

 

Love You The Same (Music Video)

When my husband played me this heart-wrenching song, I got a little nervous.  “We’re okay right?” I asked jokingly (and rhetorically). And rhetorically, he asked if I would make a video for it.  Yes! Of course!  Making videos is what I do…Its what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid growing up on MTV in the 80’s.

Living with a songwriter means hearing riffs and melodies being noodled in the house constantly.  I get to hear songs being crafted day in and day out.  Hearing the finished versions of the songs I’ve listened to in fragments over the course of days or weeks is like watching a song be born.  And its a unique experience. Its part snake-taming magic, part architect precision, and part sculptor flow.  Taking in a finished song for the first time is like finally understanding an engineer’s rendering of an electrical system and then walking into a dark room and turing on the light.  Click.  The mechanics melt away and you’re left with (be)holding the light.

When I hear a new song, I get an immense sense of gratitude that this song now exists.  No one knows they (or the universe) needs a song.  Until they hear it.  Its like you’ve discovered a new color or ice-cream flavor.   This song is one of his more stripped down selections.  Its bare and exposing like the sadness it embodies (to me).

He wanted the video to feature our 12 year old dog, Belle.  She came to us from a home of where her owner couldn’t take care of her (see also: neglect).  She came with lots of anxiety.  She made lots of mistakes that would test our love and commitment to her.  We never gave up on her. After a couple years she settled in and her mistakes were few.  She faithfully bonded to us (and especially to Matt).

Any dog owner rationally understands that the life expectancy of their canine family member is much shorter than their own.  Choosing to share a life with a dog knowing we will outlive them is embracing the choice to love; and to accept all ups and downs that come with it.  Because a human who shares a life with a dog knows their lives are better, their hearts more full, with a dog than without.

This video takes a look at end of life from Belle’s perspective.  She visits the path where she has walked with Matt a thousand times.  He’s there, and then he’s not.  She keeps looking for him.  She doesn’t give up on him.  She is old, tired, limping and lumpy.  She finds him, she finds herself alone.  She walks the path she knows.  The path to her favorite swimming hole, knowing Matt is not far behind.

The Adoption of Identity

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Pinpointing your place in the world

Without knowing the beginnings to your own story

Picking up the narrative, disconnected from roots

The island with no compass, identifies only with the horizon

A stain glass image, multi-colored, transmitting light

Beautiful but borrowed fragments,

assembled to make a whole

Merged masks, to amuse, test, and create armor-

Familiar.

Comfy, but all falsely lay claim to the authentic self

That can only be reclaimed by the naked truth of birth.

A mother’s bond…

ECG_heartShe asked me to be “the one”.  It was up to me to decide, whether to “pull the plug”.   When your mom has the sex talk with you when you’re a pre-teen, its devastatingly embarrassing.  When she has the death talk with you in your 20’s its just devastating.

“Please Denial”, I thought to myself  “protect me from the awful truth. And please God, know that I fear I do not have the courage to face this”.  She made clear to me a life on machines was no life at all.  Heartbeats and breaths do not make a life.  I agreed.  I held her hand and reassured her I understood.  And I did.  But I made myself comfortable by convincing myself that I’d never actually be in a situation to make that call.  And that made it easier for me to convince her that I had the internal grit to do it.

About a year before she died, she started talking to me about where she’d like her “things” to go.  She didn’t want us kids fighting over trivial material things after she died. I told her I couldn’t talk about it and I was having a hard time with “it”- I couldn’t even name death.  Denial.  “You’re having a hard time with it?” she asked. “How do you think I feel?  I have to wake up in this body everyday!” And like a glass of cold water tossed in my face, I woke up.  I was feeling so bad for myself; I hadn’t once considered her sadness. I felt ashamed.

My mom had been dying for at least 5 years.  Regular emergency room scares, followed by monitored hospital stays.  They would stabilize her, and then send her home.  As a family we would struggle to regain our footing, recalibrate and resume our lives.  We kept busy and distracted, while my mother fought to keep living.  She bravely masked an illness that dampened her bright & beautiful spirit and confined it in a body that was falling apart from the inside out.

My Dad retired early, trading a big chunk of his hard earned, and already thin retirement, for as many days as my mom had left.  He took care of her day and night.

My brother, sister and I never discussed that she was dying.  In silence, we all suffered that truth. We lived in parallels, traveling on the same path, but never intersecting or connecting.  Collectively, we suffered alone.

Her last trip to the ER she was put on a ventilator.  Connected to tubes and beeping apparatus, she couldn’t talk.  She mimed with her hand the motion of writing, like asking for the check.  She was asking for a pen.  I handed her a black sharpie and stack of yellow post-its I had in my bag.  She scribbled “no life” and looked me in square in the eyes, reminding me of the promises I made.  It was both a plea and command.  With love I nodded and understood.  A day and a half later, she was unconscious.  It was time.  I called my family.  We all stood ’round her bed, holding hands, shedding our tears.  In that moment, I realized she that had asked us all to be “the one”, and by doing so, our paths finally merged.  Together we set her spirit free and put the machines to rest.

NOTE:
This post was written for “Weekly Writing Challenge: I Remember” on The Daily Post.  The prompt was to record the pain, the anger, the shame, the terror, and the hurt of your worst memory.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/writing-challenge-remember/

Summer Storm

Azure blue skies kissed with white puffs-
branches bending to faintly whispered songs.
Choruses carried upon each fluttering leaf.
Darkness looms distant, but marches on-
even as nightfall distant as dawn.
Familiar rumblings stirring omnipresent
gathering in billowing cathedral towers above.
Heeding.
Involuntary isotonic twinges twitch-
juxtaposing fortitude and restraint.
Kindred spirits volly in dichotomy-
lamenting highs and lows.
Myriad of inflections rise, rumble and flash.
Numb.
Overheard from below, mere hearsay-
patient as the tides.
Quietly,
receding.
Stampede of the skies dissipate-
undone but now complete.
Vainglorious sun blazes
waving beams of truce.
X, the missing variable solved for-
Zen.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/daily-prompt-orderly/

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