Today I've interviewed the first athlete for my 20 Questions — Soul-Style series, Chris Cole, the current Street League Skateboarding (SLS) Champion! It was really fun for me to add a guy into the mix, and his answers are delightful.
Aside from being a skateboarding wizard, Chris is also a husband and father, a crazy-talented entrepreneur, and he gives back — in 2011 Chris teamed up with his sponsors and Camp Woodward, a skateboarding camp, to give kids in the Philadelphia Police Athletic League (a nonprofit committed to "cops helping kids") a chance to attend skate camp.
Each year 15 kids are chosen to attend free of charge, AND they get to work with Chris one-on-one. Chris is in town this week for the Chicago leg of the SLS tour, taking place at the UIC Pavilion. Here are his answers to my 20 Questions.
20 Questions — Soul-Style
1. Who are you?
My name is Chris Cole.
2. What do you do?
I'm a professional skateboarder.
3. Why do you do it?
The feeling of riding a skateboard hit me like nothing else ever did. I was hooked once I put my foot on one. The sense of accomplishment after landing a trick you've been trying to perfect, or the wind in your face when you go fast — it has self-gratification written all over it. You always have a new goal, something to work on, something driving you to progress.
4. How did you find your way to it?
I saw a guy skate by my grandma's house when I was 6 and became obsessed. I asked my mom for a board for two years (she was a nurse and was scared I'd get hurt....she was right! Haha). She finally saw that I wasn't going to give up my fight for a skateboard and made an incredible decision that would change my life forever.
5. How do you feel when you do it?
It feels like a rejuvenation. Like a reset for me. Much like you sleep to reset your energy. It's impossible for a skater to not see the world as skate obstacles. Sidewalks and curbs are broken into shapes almost and immediately computed as skatable or not. So when you're actually on board, you get the release of all these hours of thinking about skating — you get the goals,the wind and the accomplishment.
6. What is the joy that keeps you up at night?
Both of my children. I want to spend as much time snuggling them as I can before they don't let me anymore. My time is running out quickly, because no amount of snuggling with them at this age will ever be enough for me!
7. What is one thing you still have to practice every day?
Patience. I am also always practicing task management. With skateboarding being my world, I've hyper-focused on it so much I really let other skills fall behind. Task managment is my big one.
8. What are you always searching for?
Happiness and laughter. You can't have enough. It's not a jar you can fill up and be set — it's a gas tank with a hole in it, and I keep on trucking through life. I have to make sure I have enough fuel. I'll forever search for those things.
9. What have you found after searching?
I have it, but I am always thirsting for more happiness and more laughter. One thing that will bring it is stability. Having a plan that is set for life and knowing it's foolproof (I know that isn't how life works)...but the closer I get to that, the happier I'll be.
10. How do you stay connected to your inner core of peace?
Do I? I find I unravel a lot. But, I suppose I always find my way back because I want to be solid. I want to have a complete and meaningful existence. This life is bigger than me, whether it be my family or fans of my skating — there are people who are looking to me for something I provide them. I take it seriously, and I try to keep a level head. The more I can look at life in a realistic and appreciative way, the more inner peace I'll have.
11. What makes you feel led or guided?
My family, as well as my story. I think of life as a story, and I want to write a good one. It's not a "bucket list" of a few things you do on this journey. It's the whole darn thing! Life is your bucket list. I feel guided by my drive for a head full of great memories.
12. What do you do when you can’t hear God (or the Universe, or Source, or your intuition) speaking to you?
I freeze. If I don't have my intuition speaking to me, I try to logically think about each scenario. That honestly never plays out very well. I end up second-guessing myself and spinning out of control in my head. Gut instinct is real.
13. What is the difference between resistance and fear?
Fear is a feeling that can be overcome. Resistance is holding back because you've gathered information and made a decision to hold back because of that fear. Both take a lot of courage to overcome.
14. Where does the idea come from that we are broken, unworthy or undeserving?
Only one of those adjectives resonates with me — I feel like I am broken sometimes because of terrible and incapacitating habits. I hope that people can accept that they aren't unworthy or undeserving...That's a sad thought.
15. How do you move past that to connect with others on a soul level?
Really listening to another person is the crux of being able to connect. Your own personal shortcomings as you see them shouldn't interfere with your connections. In fact, I think connecting with others on a deep level is what helps a person break bad patterns driven by, say, guilt or a feeling of worthlessness.
16. How do you bring your motto, "Live rad and die proud," into your home and family life, when you're outside of the skateboarding arena?
We make the most of being together. Road trips, bedtime stories, cliff jumping and sharing what makes me happy with my family in order to see them smile... That usually takes care of the rad part. When I say "die proud," I mean that I want to look back on my life and know that I've treated people well and I've done what I can to be happy myself. That is imperative in all aspects of my life.
17. How do you contribute emotionally in a relationship while trying to juggle a successful career, entrepreneurial opportunities and two small children?
Horribly, ha! Even through a busy life, I know that being there to talk or be talked to is super important. Dates and time alone is important, but it's the constantly letting my wife know that I love her even when times are busy or tough that means something. (I hope!)
18. What would you tell your teenage self, right when you were getting into the sport, about the difficult times and the incredibly fun times you've experienced since then?
I'd tell him nothing, only because I'm so happy with what I've experienced in life and wouldn't want to spoil the surprise! The difficulties are far outweighed by the amazing memories. Maybe I would tell myself to take more photos or write things down.
19. What advice would you give to someone like you who is attempting to manage practice time, travel time, the pressure of competition and balancing all of that with other creative endeavors on the side?
Get as many helpers as you can. No one can do this alone. As it turns out, the singular sport of skateboarding takes a team, as they say. Your job is to be good at one thing...Don't start juggling too early. You're not a clown; you're a skater.
20. How do you continue to challenge yourself even today, when you have a whole slew of awards and accolades already up there on the shelf?
I was blessed with ADD and can't manage to sit still, so progressing in skating is just "in me." It would be hard to stay dormant, and I think that would exist without trophies. I just was fortunate enough to be acknowledged for it.
What a fresh perspective! I love seeing the world through the eyes of someone on a skateboard — I've never been on one in my life! — and the joy Chris finds in his kids, his wife, his sport...it's palpable.
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Filed under: 20 questions