Lessons from the (melted) snow

The arctic cold that hit us earlier this week has passed!  The last few days has been much warmer (around -5’C to 2’C), thanks to a warm front.  And that is good! :)

With the warmer temperatures, the snow is melting (when it gets warmer) and at times refreezing (when it gets colder).  And that is not good! :(

Why not?

For friends back home who’ve not experienced winter, when snow melts, it turns into water (i.e. liquid).  We know how liquids have smooth surfaces (picture the surface of a lake).  When this smooth surface refreezes, it becomes a thin but hard layer of ice that’s very slippery (because it’s extremely smooth!).  There’s a name for it, called “black ice“.  It looks something like this:


Black ice is so slippery that wife had a fall the other day, and she is hurting :(  I had a few near falls too :(

At the same time, I was puzzled how the locals could walk quite easily on it.  It can’t be the shoes, because wife and I have good quality boots (that have good grip).  So we thought, maybe they are just more experienced walking on ice…?

This afternoon, as I walked Rusty I decided to try a different way of walking.  What if, rather than fight the slippery ice, we stop resisting and instead go with it?  That is, we S-L-I-D-E.

Turns out, sliding is a lot easier than walking on ice :)  Well, this is not a new discovery: when we go to a skating rink, we skate (i.e. slide). But when we encounter ice on the road, it is less intuitive (at least to folks like us) that we can slide on it.

I need to think more about why it is easier (and perhaps safer) to slide rather than walk on ice, and it’s probably down to physics.

But my instinctive thought is that it’s probably easier because we are not trying to apply an old method in a new environment.

When we walk, we are using mechanics that work well when the ground is full of friction.  On a slippery surface, where the friction is low, we need to put in a lot of effort to try and “find the friction”.  When we expect to find friction but do not get it, we slip and fall.  However, when we slide, we do not expect to find friction. We expect to go along with the slide, so there are no surprises!

The same may be said with some other things we encounter in our lives or in our organizations.  Often, we become used to old and familiar ways that worked, that when the environment changes we end up “slipping” and “falling”.  We find ourselves using a lot more concentration and effort just to get by in the new environment, almost like walking on ice.  But if we stopped fighting the environment, stopped seeing it as an enemy but instead as a friend, if we learn to “slide” we may do much better.  And have fun at it too ;)

Sometimes, we may feel that it has become a lot more difficult to do the same things.  Perhaps another way to look at this is: It is not more difficult, it is just… different!


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