Daily Inspiration: “Dare to do the things you’ve never done before – because it’s the only way to discover what it is you can do!”


“Dare to do the things you’ve never done before – because it’s the only way to discover what it is you can do!” – Futurist Jim Carroll

So that’s me in 2006, standing on a ski hill in the Swiss Alps, at the age of 45. I had just learned to ski – at the age of 42!

Just 4 years after I first started throwing myself off of steep hills with two planks on my feet, my good friend Dennis Craig took this picture of me; specifically, in the ski region of Grindelwald in the Jungfrau region. I never imagined I would be a skier, let alone ski the Alps, so let’s put some context on this achievement – this was me in the first week of January 2002, as I took it upon myself to try to master this sport, somewhat late in life! LOL!

As I write this post, it’s early Tuesday morning, October 18, 2022, and I’m coming up over the coastline of France as the sun rises in splendor out the window of the 787 that I’m on. Zurich is about 45 minutes out; once there, I’ll head to a mountain town outside Lucerne for a keynote for a group of senior executives for 100+ major organizations, for a talk that involves the issue of risk. With that, my crazy little adventure into the world of the risk of skiing has come full circle.

Taking on risk is critical to moving forward. We all know that we are surrounded by people who dare us to get out of our comfort zone, push ourselves, and achieve impossible things. I certainly do that here in my Daily Inspiration post. And yet. I think it’s important to note that we shouldn’t just push ourselves to pursue some sort of challenge for the sake of doing so – it can lead us to many other opportunities. In my case, for example,  I came to realize that the entire process of learning to ski while being middle-aged led to many stage stories through the years about innovation and risk, not to mention future trends.

For example, I found myself on that ski hill the day after my keynote for the Swiss Innovation Forum in Zurich; the fact I would soon find myself on the slopes in the Alps (!) was weighing on my mind, and in fact, formed the closing moments of my keynote with the point that risk-taking is all about innovation.

And yet, back in 2002, I was determined that this was something I needed to do. All I knew at the time was this – post 9/11, business was in a funk, damaging my optimistic world, and we needed something to do in the winter. As a Canadian dad of two young boys, the path to ‘hockey dad’ seemed inevitable, and my wife and I agreed we did not want to go down that road and sit in cold arenas! So, why not take up skiing? We joined a private ski club north of Toronto – Georgian Peaks. Imagine the surprise of the general manager when he asked us how long we had been skiing – and we said, we didn’t! Therein began a life of going up almost every single weekend for the next 20 years. And indeed, we’ll start going up again in a month or so to get ready for our short season. It’s a lifestyle thing!

For me, skiing didn’t just become the activity of skiing, but the mindset of the sport. For me, skiing provides a wonderful metaphor for innovation; it involves taking risks, trying to do things you haven’t done before, and always seeking improvement. When you ski, you are constantly exploring new territory, examining new methods of doing things, and making discoveries that lead to something new and unknown. That’s all about innovation. Then there is the fact that skiing involves constant skills upgrading; there’s no end to an opportunity to explore new ideas by examining what others are doing on the hill. The same type of thing you do when you instill an innovative mindset, either on your own or within an organization. And so sometimes, I took it upon myself to talk about trends, innovation, and creativity – while coming down a hill!

While in the pandemic lockdown, I spent a lot of time in my virtual broadcast studio – and for a Leadership series that I ran for a time, I told the whole story of my relationship with skiing from a personal and business perspective.

Here’s the thing – you can take anything you do in life, and turn that activity into insight! Some years later, I opened the National Recreation and Parks Association annual conference in Salt Lake City and told a story about the trend of interactive sports technology – based on the idea of smart, hyperconnected ski equipment.

I needed to take up skiing to give some clarity to how I thought about innovation, risk, creativity, and the future. The Swiss Innovation Forum. Here’s a clip from that event some 16 years ago.

I think that the commitment that we made to skiing, is comparable to the commitment you have to make to innovation. We didn’t know how to ski. We wanted to learn, wanted to become good at it, and wanted to make it a part of our life. So here’s the linkage between “becoming a skier for life” and becoming an “innovator for life.”

  • you need to be relentless in your focus
  • you need to commit
  • you need to stick to your goals
  • you need to consistently and regularly mark and acknowledge your progress
  • you need to admit that while you might not know anything about the subject at hand, you are willing to spend the time to learn about it
  • you have to conquer your fear that you might fail
  • you need to be prepared that there are a lot of others who are better at it than you are, but perseverance will eventually pay off with their respect
  • your first attempts might look pretty unpolished, but success will come over time in an incremental way. It’s not all about having a home run right at the start!

If you are willing to take on a challenge, you can accomplish great things.

Bottom line?

Try to do things you haven’t done before – and you never know where it might lead you!


THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.