Don’t Look Down

As I sit with my keyboard in front of me, I recall a story my dad told me long ago about how he learned to type—way back in the days of Remingtons and Coronas. For me, it’s one of those stories that goes well beyond the whats and whys and is nestled in a little corner of my heart.

Of the many typing instructions given in school, my dad’s teacher was adamant that eyes be fixed “on the source” (the paper he looked to for the words he was typing). Once his fingers were placed on home row, he was not to look at the keyboard or the page he was typing. Ever. Period.

The time came for the class’s final test, and my dad was ready. Click-tick-chik-chak-clackety-clack…bing! He was a typist on a mission.

There was just one problem.




His fingers were one key off of home row. Every single word was gobbledy gook. My dad was crestfallen. There was no way this gibberish would get him the grade he had worked for.

As the teacher walked by to collect the papers, she stopped short and glanced at my dad’s work. She knew him as a good student, so she recognized that what she was seeing wasn’t from lack of ability but something else.

“I’m sorry,” my dad offered. “My fingers weren’t on home row.” He sat there waiting for the boom to be lowered on his grade.

“But you didn’t look down,” she responded. My dad gave her a puzzled look. “You didn’t look down—this is clear. If you had, you would have seen your mistake and corrected it. The rest of the paper would be legible. But you never looked down. For that, you are receiving an A.”

He never looked down. He didn’t second guess himself (even though he was a little off!) He committed to his purpose and didn’t waver. And even though he didn’t complete his mission as planned, he still achieved his goal.

He didn’t look down.




If you’ve ever waited tables, you know that looking down at your tray isn’t a good idea. It’s best to walk steady and look ahead. I don’t know what the science behind it is but for whatever reason, it seems that a glance down can result in your brain’s wires crossing signals or something—and…shimmy-shake-topple-smash (this is especially true with martini glasses!)

Don’t look down. Just hold steady, put one foot in front of the other, and reach your destination.

For folks afraid of heights, you guessed it…looking down is a sure way to heighten (pun intended) the fear of falling. It messes with your head and can distort your perspective. Your fear comes up and slaps you right in the face. Thinking about taking any step at all can be paralyzing.


looking down


Of course there are times when a look down is needed and helpful, but looking down often means second guessing ourselves—in both the literal and figurative senses.

Are you looking down when it comes to reaching your goals? Looking down in the figurative sense often begins with a but. But I’m not skilled enough…talented enough…driven enough…smart enough…strong enough…you get the idea.


looking down 2


No matter the goal—whether it’s work, health, or heart related—letting the fear come up and slap you in the face is a great way to let the buts win. (This is a great setup to say something cheeky like “and who wants the buts to win?” or “if we let our buts get too big, then we’ll just end up sitting around letting life pass us by”…but that would detract from the point that I am trying to make, don’t you think? So I am rising above the opportunity to say something like “if you let the buts stop you, you’re ensuring that your life won’t be all it’s cracked up to be.” You’re welcome.)

But I digress.


looking up


Don’t look down. Not when it means second guessing yourself and letting fear win. Like my dad did on his typing test, trust in your abilities.

His commitment overcame his shortcomings. Of course, life doesn’t always present us with teachers who can see past the error to reward us, and failure hurts like hell. But letting fear make sure you never reach the heights you might is a failure all its own.

Don’t let your won’ts masquerade as can’ts. See them for what they are, don’t look down, and remember that even if you’re a little off home row, you still have a mission to complete.



All photos are my own.
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6 thoughts on “Don’t Look Down

  1. Can so relate- never thought of it in this perspective. Of course when I first read Coronas I thought this would be about beer. I applaud the teacher who was absolutely brilliant in her handling of the situation.

    Using the second metaphor- not everyone is able to show such wisdom and grace when someone starts off their efforts going down the wrong path. That’s beautiful too.

  2. Love your dad’s typing story. It makes a great analogy for life and goals. Reminds me of the one about when ploughing a field, where the trick is not to look down or back, but straight ahead to where you’re aiming, then the furrows will be straight.

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