I’ve interviewed a lot of folks in the past 15 years and I have to confess. I always look at the very bottom, usually under “Personal Interests” or “Hobbies” for a very peculiar item — skateboarding.
Yes, I skated as a teenager for 6–7 years and, yes, I’m a fan of skateboard culture (even as a 35 year old, that stands)… But I did have a belief that skaters would make great colleagues. Here’s why.
They Understand Delayed Gratification
Skateboarding is the ultimate 10,000 hours sport. You practice the same trick — over and over again, with nothing to show for. You bang your shins, you look incompetent, and you are years (possibly decades) away from the glory you idolize in Thrasher Magazine (or I guess YouTube today).
The first trick most skaters will learn is the “Ollie,” a jump, that involves slamming hard on the tail (the back) and carefully, but quickly, dragging your toe towards the front of the board to level it out horizontally.
You start by first ollie’ing over tiny things, a can, a piece of wood, then working your way up to trash cans, benches, etc. For me, it probably took me a year to Ollie over a “deck” (5 inches) and at my prime (maybe 5years later) I could ollie over a horizontally laid garbage can.
Think about that — 5 years, to master one trick (albeit at greater “scale”) and countless failed attempts of the same repetitive motion, over and over again.
This reminds me of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, where the experimenters were offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. They tested the kids later in life, and those who waited who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes.
After 7 years of skating, I had basically mastered 3 tricks: the Ollie, Kickflip, and its tricky cousin, the Heelflip. 7 Years for 3 tricks!?!!?! Thousands of hours of practice — yet I look back at those times fondly, I remember the determination, grit, and elation once you were able to successfully land one.
Like any skill, be it athletic or mental we know that “practice makes perfect.” But distilling these down to simple (almost binary) outcomes, where the reward can be years in the making teaches kids valuable life lessons. In fact 5 years ago, I found an old skateboard and landed a kickflip after a few attempts. No one saw it , that didn’t matter— but I basked in my own pride for the rest of the day.