The Wisdom of a Crowded Rink

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Over the weekend, the weather finally broke a a bit in NYC and the sun came back out.

Perfect day to go ice-skating, so we all headed off to the rink. It was packed, mad skaters of all ages whizzing, whirling twirling, crashing, smashing, plodding, screaming, zipping. Total mayhem. My first thought was, somebody’s gonna get killed, maybe we should come back during the week when nobody else is around.

But, hey, we were there and my daughter was itching to get on the ice, so we all hit it.

As we skated around, I noticed something kind of cool happening. Rather than being terrified by the craziness, my daughter was tracking and adapting to it. Openings would close, gaps would open, people would fly or crash into the path and she’d just find a way around them and keep on keeping on. It was like a game to her. Real-time, fast-paced problem-solving.

And this all made me wonder…

How much do we sit around waiting for clear ice before taking action.

How many times do we wait for everything to set up just right, rather than showing up, taking the rink as it is, stepping onto the ice madness and all and rising to the challenge of figuring it out along the way, knowing we may get a little dinged up, but we’ll also be moving forward, learning, adapting and growing.

I’ve become increasingly convinced that in life, there is no such thing as the perfect time.

Looking for calmer waters or less frantic ice may serve you well, but the perfect swell or an open rink? Could happen. But how much might you miss waiting?

So, I’m curious, are you waiting for the ice to clear?

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24 responses

24 responses to “The Wisdom of a Crowded Rink”

  1. Jonathan,

    I think I wait a little too much for clear ice, myself. But the times that I do go for it, I find that it’s worth it in the endβ€”I have a better experience, and oftentimes more success. Tell your daughter thanks for the example!

  2. Irina Avtsin says:

    It depends on how crazy it is, and on our ability to assess the craziness in a realistic way πŸ™‚

  3. Kristina says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Clear ice isn’t so much the issue as is knowing how to skate! I tend to want to be accomplished in whatever I do, instead of trying something new and looking like a fool in the process. However, I’m starting to realize that it’s important to enjoy the firsts in life, as they only come along once and they allow me to be perfectly imperfect.

    • TomC says:

      I was thinking along the same lines. Except for me, the first thing I said to myself was; I would do better if I had skates.

      There’s certainly a time to jump in and I think its as soon as you get your skates.

      For me, I am doing business to business sales and I can tell you that you “want” to jump in and just do it. But I need some kind of presentation prepared and it needs to be something that is at least good enough to show. So for me to just start skating isn’t the best way to go because my skates aren’t ready.

      All that said, I still wait too long to just get started. It’s hard because when you’re the graphic designer, web designer, secretary, marketing specialist, salesman, delivery guy and head dishwasher and diaper changer, making a wrong step is precious time lost. Plus it’s hard to use up your will power (because most of the day is filled with stuff you really don’t like doing) on something you’re not sure is going to work. I’m trying to just forge onward. Plus with a baby you have maybe 4 or 5 hours to work when most entrepreneurs would tell you, you should be working 14 – 16 hours to get through the start up. If I can condense those hours into 4 or 5, then I will have a good story to tell. The only way to do that is to just get out there and do it.

  4. Heather Holm says:

    You can only navigate your way through the crowd once you’re in it. And once you’re in it, even if you’re on faltering feet, the momentum of the crowd will keep you wanting to move forward. There’s something in there about the theory of relativity, too. It doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Your position in the crowd, and the potential holes to move into are more obvious to you when you’re moving than when you’re standing on the side. If someone speeds past you, they leave a hole in their wake, a path you can follow.

    The parallels with life and business go on and on. I’ll think about it more when I next go skating.

  5. Hiro Boga says:

    Love this. It reminds me of crossing the road in Bombay.

    Honking cars, taxis, bullock carts, handcarts and sacred cows all somehow sharing the road; traffic lights and driving lanes mere suggestions; giant potholes in which you might disappear forever; pedestrian crossings where drivers speed up in a hilarious game of chicken.

    And somehow, it all works.

    When I’ve been there a week or two, the old instincts kick in and I weave my way through the melee like a fish through a polluted stream. πŸ™‚

    Lovely analogy, this. And so very apt in this sometimes-crazy entrepreneurial life!

  6. Irene Ross says:

    Wow, this is the story of my life! I constantly have to have conversations with myself to not wait for the “ice to clear” and to just get on with it. In fact, I just had to have a conversation with myself this morning! Thanks for such a great post, Jonathan.

  7. Sam Fiore says:

    Thanks Jonathan. I recently went ice skating and realized the same thing. It was amazing how easily it became to navigate through the crowds if you throw yourself into the mix and sort it out on the fly. Reminds me of an article William H Macy said about skiing. He said if you hug the mountain and worry about falling it will probably happen. Let go and trust yourself to stay up on two feet as you thrust yourself down the mountain. Chances are you will adapt, make it down the mountain just fine and have fun while doing it. Again thank you! I enjoy your work πŸ™‚

  8. wilson usman says:

    crazy how those little things in life can teach us something great. I sometimes find ideas from experiences just like this from children. especially my sisters. the other day Mia my 4 year sister, would not stop persisting about watching a movie, until she gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse…

    …listen closely.

    Do you want to watch one movie or two movies? LOL I could not stop laughing, I had to watch one movie, it was a win-win situation.

    Oh going back to the question. I was waiting. waiting for to long, but now I’ve been taking action.

  9. Sarah says:

    It’s certainly one of the things that gets in the way of exercise. We wait for that perfect hour to go to the gym – and it never comes. I’ve found it works much better for me if I work out in spurts during the day – ah! one of the advantages of having a home business. I can do jumping jacks between emails and no one is around to look at me like I’m crazy!

  10. I’m Canadian. Ice? Skates? Whipping around and doing instant problem-solving on the fly? Bring it. πŸ˜‰

  11. Dave Rowley says:

    I love this analogy, and have to admit to waiting for the ice to clear sometimes.

    What I’m finding,though, is that the ice is rarely clear. It’s always pretty safe and un-chaotic at the side of the rink, but that’s not where I want to be. Getting into the thick of it is exciting, that’s where the juice is, and that’s where you learn, as your daughter illustrated.

    I wonder if the clear ice is even meant for learning, maybe it’s the part where the people who learnt their thing in the chaos get a brief chance to shine before everything crowds over again.

  12. Jonathan–Thanks for the push. I think that I struggle with a combination of waiting for clear ice and trying to feel competent skating. But I also have experienced my greatest freedom from just taking off. I appreciate the reminder. And I love that your daughter had that problem-solving, empowering experience!

  13. I LOVE IT. It reminds me of my time spent in university – it always felt as though my life was put on hold. I remember thinking that ‘Life will begin as soon as I’m done school’…but who knew I would spent 10 years thinking that way? Upon reflection, I didn’t realize how much I held myself back from ‘the ice rink’…waiting for the ‘right’ time to start LIVING. I like to think I know better now. πŸ™‚

  14. Ryan Yokome says:

    Awesome Jonathan. And nope, not for me. I’m all about taking action and jumping right in. Love the analogy man. \

    But I’ve got to agree with James too, I’m Canadian. πŸ™‚

  15. Jonathan, nice analogy. It immediately reminded me of traffic in Manila (my new home). If you wait for a clear shot you’ll sit all day. You have to just shove your nose in as soon as there’s even the tiniest gap.

    I’ve already started pushing forward on my next big thing even though I have a lot interruptions and a limited amount of time available. Time to go πŸ™‚

  16. Sukhi says:

    Love it Jonathan. Grew up playing hockey!

    And… How I do anything is how I do everything. As a result I’ve failed way more than I’ve succeeded. But I keep getting back up after I’ve wiped out.

    Another fellow Canuck!

  17. Randy says:

    These kinds of posts are why I continue to return to your blog. I dig your writing style! Have a great week.

  18. Certainly an excellent example of learning from life, what is there right in front of us. There are teachings available to us anywhere, anytime, with anyone.
    That being said, there are no hard and fast rules here: learn what you need to learn, get out, implement, see what works, try again, repeat.
    Thanks, Jonathan!


  19. Peter Mis says:


    Thank you for the post. As a parent of three young kids, I know that one of the most important things I can teach them is to expect adversity, to expect things not to go exactly as planned, and be prepared to adapt. There is never a perfect time to do anything. The conditions will never all be perfect. Accepting chaos as the new reality keeps expectations realistic and forces us to accept what is and work within that framework. Kind of like driving through Boston…

    Thank you for this post and sharing your gift with the world!


  20. Mark Freddy Farrell says:

    Reminds me of a Billy Connolly saying when its raining outside, – “There is no such thing as Bad weather, we just need to put on a sexy Rain coat and live a little”. I think its the same with everything in Life, ” Just gotta turn up, put one Foot in front of the other, and see what happens.

    Cheers Mark.

  21. JenP says:

    Great analogy!
    Even when the ice is clear, I don’t always skate onto it myself. Too afraid of falling over, looking stupid, getting injured etc. etc.

  22. […] The Wisdom of a Crowded Rink It always looks like the wrong time to change your life or to do something outside the norm. If you spend all of your time waiting for the “perfect moment” to exercise or to change your personal finance habits, it’ll never happen. (@ jonathan fields) […]