Just Say "What The Heck": On Taking Action

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

My 9-year old son and his friends have recently become obsessed with skateboarding. Like many who practice the sport, they are teaching themselves and are, so far, not so very good.

One particular and basic skill in skateboarding is “dropping in.” You’ve seen it if you’ve ever watched a skateboarder—it’s the act of starting at the top of a ramp with your board, and then skating down that ramp to the bottom. 

Many of these ramps are small enough in stature—some no more than three or four feet in height. So, to fall on the drop-in would not cause catastrophic injury.

But it’s terrifying nonetheless.

The other day I took my son and one of his friends, along with my 12-year old daughter—also a casual skateboarder—to a skate park.   My son and his friend were contemplating a ramp. They had the idea of working up their courage by sitting on their boards and dropping in, just to get the feeling of it.

My son’s friend was sitting on his board, rolling back and forth at the top, peering down the ramp, when we heard him mumble “I don’t know why I’m so scared.” And my daughter, standing next to me on the other side of the park, yelled “Just say ‘What the heck!’ and GO.”

And he thought about that for a minute, repeating her words to himself “Just say what the heck. Just say what the heck.” And then he went.  

It was one of those moments where I felt time itself slow down as I heard her hurl that remarkable advice across the park to him, watching him absorb her words, and then seeing him move past his fear and into action. It genuinely took my breath away.

How often are we peering over the edge of something, absolutely paralyzed with fear? How often does our rational mind tell us that the drop off the edge is absolutely no big deal at all… while our irrational mind binds us with the terror of the ‘what if’s?

What would happen if we more often said “What the heck?” and just went, ‘what if’s be damned?

Holy moly, I don’t know, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

Another remarkable thing about skateboarding to me is that you absolutely will fall. There's no getting around it. You will get hurt. Repeatedly. In fact, the only way to learn the tricks is through falling, and falling, and falling again. So, it’s of particular fascination to me that to say ‘what the heck’ and GO in skateboarding is to essentially say “I know I’m going to get hurt. But I’m also going to get better.”

So whatever you are contemplating? Whatever edge you are peering over? It might totally and absolutely suck if you go for it. You might mess it up completely, and you might get hurt. But! You also just might land it.

You’ll never know until you drop in.

To what can you say ‘what the heck?’ today and just GO?

Just go


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.