“Rich are you still awake?” I whispered to my brother. “Yes, I’m still awake,” he replied. Back in my teenage years, my brother Rich and I shared a bedroom together. Most nights we discussed about everything and anything you could imagine; from girls we had crushes on to sports talk and school drama.
Regardless of what we were talking about, we made sure we kept it quiet because my parents’ room was right on the other side of the wall. When you have a mother who is a detective, you have to speak quietly.
On this particular spring night, it was the eve of the most exciting time of the year for our family. Every year, our family and some friends headed out on a day-trip to Six Flags Great Adventure. This was the highlight of our childhood, and it was the kick off to spring and summer.
“What ride are we going to go on first?” I asked Rich.
“I think Nitro should be our first ride,” he replied.
I knew he was going to say that. Nitro was one of the rides that terrified me most. Every year I told myself I would face my fears and tackle the beast of a roller coaster. And, every year we arrived at the entrance gate to Nitro and chickened out.
That night, I fell asleep with Nitro on my mind.
The big day
Before I knew it, the sound of birds chirping, the warmth of the sun and the smell of fresh cut grass filled my room and waking me up. I slowly opened my eyes. Six Flags! I jumped out of bed and began to get ready for the big day. It was 7 a.m., and everyone in the house was awake and excited for our family trip. Before we knew it, we were all loaded up in the minivan and on the road to Jackson, New Jersey.
It was about an hour ride to Six Flags, but it always felt more like four hours. The best part of the morning was always when we arrived at the Six Flags entrance, the huge sign out front with the flags waiving in the air.
“Nitro is the first ride guys!” Rich yelled in excitement as we entered the parking lot to the amusement park.
My nerves began to build as I looked out my side-window and saw the very top of Nitro in the back of the park. “I don’t know guys, I may have to pass on Nitro again,” I said quietly.
“What!?” everyone yelled back at me.
“You have to conquer your fear and just get on the ride! Grab the bull by the horns, Sean, and face your fears,” my younger sister said.
I nodded with uncertainty and said, “I must conquer this ride.”
After waiting in line to enter the park, we were on our way to the first roller coaster. After a five-minute walk to the other side of the park, the huge sign for the roller coaster appeared in the distance. There it was. My stomach began to turn.
“Let’s go, Sean!” Rich said, as he smiled in my direction, knowing full well I was petrified.
I reluctantly followed everyone, weaving in and out of the line. Finally, we were up next. My heart began to beat fast, and my palms were extremely sweaty.
“Rich, I don’t know about this,” I said.
“Sean, you’ll be fine. Trust me. It’s safe, and you will have a lot of fun. It’s the best roller coaster in the park,” he replied.
“Seriously? This is the harness that holds us in the seat?” I asked nervously once we were seated. “This is insane guys, I don’t think I can do this.”
The harness restraints were like a bicycle seat sitting on your lap. Just as frantic thoughts crossed my mind, the operator snapped the harness down on my legs, and there was no turning back. We started to make our climb up the 200-something-foot lift. Eerieclicks of the roller coaster train were the only thing I could hear.
I began to look around and saw the other rider looking over the side and commenting on how high up we were. As we reached the top, I noticed a small sign that read, “You are currently higher than the Niagara Falls!”
“Well that’s settling,” I thought to myself.
Finally at the very top, there was nothing but complete silence. Next, came the screaming, cursing and praying as we plummeted to what seemed like our death. As we dove through twists and turns, I felt as if I was going to fly out of my seat.. After what seemed like an eternity, we were safely back in the station.
Learning the lesson
“Good morning, Sean,” my dad said, as he answered the phone. “Why don’t you shoot by the house, and we’ll have some breakfast.”
“Sure, sounds good dad,” I replied. As I started my truck up, I immediately cranked up the air conditioning. The temperature outside was already reaching 85 F, and it was just 7:30 a.m. I arrived at the house, walked down the hallway, and immediately felt stress exuding from my dad who was in the kitchen. He was making eggs and toast and murmuring under his breathe.
“Hey dad, how are you doing?” I asked, already knowing something was wrong.
“Ah, I’m OK. Not bad,” he answered.
He continued to make his breakfast, clearly preoccupied in his thoughts. He paced around the kitchen as he tried to make conversation with me. I grabbed a hot cup of coffee and sat down on the couch to browse my phone and return some emails. I looked at the date to realize it was the last week of August. “I knew it!” I thought.
Every year around the end of August, the phone calls always seem to die down a bit at work. People are scrambling to get in any last-minute vacations and getaways before the start of school.
“Dad, has it been kind of quiet lately?” I asked.
“Yeah, the phone hasn’t been ringing much the last couple of days,” he replied, as he rubbed his forehead in frustration.
I’m sure everyone reading this right now, knows exactly what my dad was going through at that very moment. Every company is going to have their highs and lows. Sometimes, things are going so well that the phone calls just won’t stop flowing in. Other times, things take a nose dive and the phones are silent. We all encounter this roller coaster ride in business. When this happens, we have two choices in how to deal with this fear. We can put our tails between our legs, turn around and walk away. Or, we can face the fear and ride out the ups and downs.
My dad and I now use down time to brainstorm for upcoming heating specials we can run, and begin discussing our uniforms for the fall. It’s very rare in this industry that we actually have some downtime to brainstorm and be creative on how to improve our company. So when time allows, lock your harness and learn to just go for it. In the end, everything will work out just fine and return to normal. The moral of this story is that in any business there are times when the sun doesn't shine, making you nervous. But, you must learn to control the nerves and endure the dips, turns and dives that come. In the end, you will appreciate the courage gained and lessons learned.