10 Things the Monkey Bars Can Teach You about Risk


I’ve recently made a decision to live in my actual body.

Surprisingly, this has been quite a challenge for me.

Truly. I used to joke that my body was just a transportation vehicle to take my brain from one interesting activity to another.

I didn’t play when I was a kid. That’s because I was watching. And thinking. And planning. And thinking (I realize I said that twice, but I’m trying to be exact about the ratios that were true then.)

So, now I’m getting all into taking care of my actual self, in its physical incarnation.

Truly. I’m drinking water and EVERYTHING!

The other day, I was taking Gump the Wonder Writing Dog for a walk – because I’m all about being physical now.  AND because he makes “sad face” until we go.

We walked past the school playground at the end of the street.

I stood there and watched the kids play for a little bit, and I have to say it made my stomach get just a wee bit sick.

They were playing.

I was having grade school flashbacks.

Oh the drama. There was the Queen Bee, the Top Dog, and Miss Last Picked for Basketball – er, me.

(Shake it off, baby.)


So, I turned to my “works every time” knot-reducing technique – I started thinking.

And THEN all these really cool ideas came to me.

Like how play is a metaphor for life. And then, on a more micro level, about the intersection between the monkey bars and risk.

I never much liked the monkey bars when I was a kid. I realize now it’s because, in mid-swing, I would often get afraid – about if I could make it, and what it would feel like to be seen failing by the kid behind me.

Everyone else was just swinging.

I-I-I was creating failure scenarios with backup plans and turnaround strategies.


Anyway, this lovely image of Monkey Bars and Risk came to me. And then Risk and Your Big Dream.

So, I’m sharing my little sketch with you.  If you like, it might be fun if you shared with us your small sketch about play and life in the Wisdom Circle Comments below.


Here’s mine.

10 Things the Monkey Bars Can Teach You about Risk:


  1. Once you get going, don’t stop. Take advantage of that swing. When you stop to think about things, you lose your beautiful momentum. Stay in motion.
  2. Take one bar at a time. Baby steps, love. That’s what works with respect to creating this beautiful life you want.
  3. LOOK UP, not down.
  4. Don’t worry about falling. The ground is MUCH closer than you think.
  5. If you do let go, you can get back on with the tiniest ever little reach.
  6. Trust that the next bar will be there within your grasp. In fact, it is the PERFECT distance in front of you. Don’t overthink it. Just KNOW.
  7. Don’t look too far ahead. It makes your arms tired. AND it increases the likelihood you’ll miss the bar in front of you.
  8. If you’re more nervous than feels comfortable, get a spotter. A coach.
  9. Welcome the callouses. It’s okay to be a little tough. Your callouses, protect you.
  10. BUT, you DON’T need callouses everywhere. Just on that one smallest of parts. Avoid getting hard everywhere.

So, as Gump-a-Lump and I stood there watching those kids (who may or may not have been worried about the torture of growing up human), we resolved to just do “the next right thing.”

Well, I-I-I resolved. Gump just wagged his tail, so I figured that’s what he was thinking, too.

And so, back home. To the page.


We’re swinging with you today, love.

Have fun. Make good choices.

Love, Jennifer

Photo:  Flickr, stevedepolo


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to 10 Things the Monkey Bars Can Teach You about Risk

  1. Beth says:

    Great article! another thought came to me: you and the monkey bars may not be a match, but you’ll never know if you don’t do it. Choices (whether they turn out good or bad) are all good- choices are all learning and growing experiences. Choose to do it!

    • Jennifer says:

      I like the seesaw, by the way. It’s kind of static but every now and then you get a really exciting bump to your butt!

  2. Jenny says:

    Thanks, Jen! I always hated the monkey bars as a kid. Never much cared for rock walls, either. When we visited my son on base last week, they had a rock wall set up for the kids. I watched for about half an hour as my 9 year old (and the least physically inclined of the 4) struggled to make it higher each time. He would not give up until there were no more knobby things within his grasp. He made it about 3/4 of the way up. I was so proud. So–now the rock wall is my metaphor for teaching the boys that the only failure is to stop trying.

    Cheers to your health & making good choices!

    • Jennifer says:

      Rock walls terrify me, but I’m so darned proud of your kid, too!!! Thanks for sharing that mom moment with us!

  3. Chantal says:

    I am so happy to be reading your posts because they always make me smile, think and just plain realize I have a right to be…ME.

    I just turned 43 so having all this LAT wisdom is very useful. Today’s Monkey bars list is especially appreciated. I did take some risks in the past but probably never enough to move forward the way I wanted to. So NOW is the time to take those steps, one at a time, and also give myself the right to shine without being worried of what others might think about it.

    Thanks for all your wisdom. It makes being over 40 so great!

    • Jennifer says:

      You’re welcome, beautiful. What risk did you take today???

      • Chantal says:

        I spread the word about an article I was interviewed for as a presentation expert. Instead of being afraid of “naysayers”, I am finally giving myself a chance to shine. 🙂

        …and got a call yesterday for some presentation training info!

  4. Shawn says:

    Can I tell you something… I was the kid who was awesome at the monkey bars. I was picked first for races because I was the fastest kid in my grade. At recess I was free, free at last. Because in that building behind me, I was known as the dumb girl. History bored me to death, I never understood the reason behind science and when it came to math I would get physically ill because I was so scared of being called to the board to work a problem. As an adult I can say that we had the same problem just in different circumstances and if we could of understood that as children it probably would of made both our lives easier.

  5. Lynne Spreen says:

    Apropos of nothing: when I was a kid, I saw some Cool Girls do a move on the swings, and I watched and then when they were gone (because I was painfully shy) I copied them. It was AWESOME!!!! If only I had a picture. Here’s the move: swing to the highest place in front, JUMP OUT, FLIP OVER in the air and land on your feet. I kid you not. You only do it in sand so if you mess up, you don’t break your neck, but as a kid I didn’t think of things I’d envision today, like getting one foot caught in the swing on the downstroke, but I actually did this move and I am so bitchen in my own mind right now, 58 and arthritic, old broad living in her memories!

  6. Colleen says:

    Can I just say that I love it here?????

    I was the kid who swung upside down on the monkey bars, jumped off everything (I thought I could fly), fly the highest on the swings. And then somewhere along the way reality and my own mortality reared it’s ugly head. Fear took over and I stopped doing anything that was remotely risky.

    So, here I am at 48 hating all of those years that I played it safe and trying to figure out how to let go of that fear and live. Thanks for the monky bar analogy!

    BTW – that lovely pink and green poster from the sidebar has been printed and plastered everywhere that I look at home and at work! Those words are me, I am a Maverick and I have always been a High Horse Rider! LOL!


    • Jennifer says:

      Oh, lovely, you — one day at a time, let’s both try this —
      “we will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.”

      And thanks for the note about our current wo(manifesto). That was designed by the awesometastic Rachel Follett of Ironwooddesignstudio.com.

  7. This is great! I think you’re onto something about the body being the thing that leads us into play.

    The body knows so much! It’s frickin’ amazing!

    Yoga has taught me a lot about play and risk taking. It’s a great place for me to stretch myself physically and then I have that knowing that I’m safe when reaching in my cells. In my bones. So when I’m stretching in work and art I know I am safe and can go further than I think.

    Dance, yoga, biking, tennis, rolling on my ball, all play that helps me feel strong and safe taking risks.

    Keep playing and sharing with us; I love it!

  8. Carole Cross says:

    I only remember that I had to wear shorts under my dress to play on the monkey bars. When the school allowed girls to wear shorts under our dresses, the playground and monkey bars meant FREEDOM!

  9. Sarah O says:

    I can really relate to this. I spent most of my childhood in my head with adults screaming at me to ‘get outside and play!’ But at the time I much preferred burying myself in a book. Hated monkey bars, hated being laughed at and failing. (Also, always the last one picked for teams!)

    Now, it’s time to take some risks – because who the heck cares if I fail? Still sucks to be laughed at – but the imagining it part is way worse than the actuality (which doesn’t happen nearly as much as i think it will.)

    Your description of how to swing on the monkey bars is something I want to carry with me next time I am out dancing. As a lifelong uncoordinated person I always worry about how poorly I am dancing – even though I love it and just want to enjoy myself. I end up feeling self-conscious instead of just being in my body. The key is not to ‘overthink’ – just trust that I will know what to do.
    Aah, this quest to get out of my head and into my heart – at least a little more often.

  10. Laura says:


  11. Vickie says:

    Turning 50 next month and I do ballroom dancing and backpacking, cross country skiing, sing in a band…..when the kids grew up and it started being MY turn, I just did whatever looked like fun!! And it sure is fun!!!
    So my advise………GO FOR IT (whatever IT is for you!!).

  12. Vickie says:

    Oh….and I was always picked last in sports at school too :-))

  13. helen says:

    i don.t do monkey bars, never 😛

    but i love swings … even now i am the first on the swing and the one who is swinging highest.
    up in the sky, the wind in my hair :)…… hardly nothing better.

    and the slide… how great is that …

    hating the sings “playground only for kids of 12 years or younger” … or maybe we all never turn older than 10 in that regard?

  14. Great analogy Jennifer….I was waiting for the part where you dropped the dog’s leash and ran over and jumped on the monkey bars with the kids….but I mean literally!

    My play analogy is the seesaw. Whenever anyone talks about balance in life, I think of the seesaw. How boring I always thought it was when it was balanced. Didn’t we all really love the part where we were high in the air screaming, “Mr. Brown, let me down”, our hair all flying and feeling a bit out of control but truly loving life at that moment? That’s my MO for life. (though it can be exhausting and yes, the super highs come with the time that you sit on the ground watching others up there wishing you were there too).

    Two years ago I rented an apt. in TX for a short time with 22′ ceilings and I put a swing in it. Yep, indoors… and I would crank up the stereo and swing as high as I could in the apt. It was so “freeing”. We should never stop playing don’t you think?

    • Jennifer says:

      OOOOH, I LOVE the swing in your house. And the seesaw was my thing, too.

      • Louise (from Thelma & Louise) says:

        An indoor swing…..Now that rocks! I love this article as well as the whole site!
        I loved the monkey bars and swings when I was younger. I still love to swing!
        I’m not sure why we forget these things when we age from 20 on?
        Over the last year I have taken my life back and I hope I don’t miss a chance to play on swings now.

        • Jennifer says:

          You know, Lousie, I did the swings with my 11 year old a month of so back and got so dizzy. Also, the last time we all went to an amusement park, the same thing. It took HUGE acceptance to get to the place where I had to admit to my family that I don’t think my body wants to go upside down at fast speeds anymore. However, parades and show tunes? I’m all about that!

  15. Dawn says:

    Hi, Jennifer! I wanted to let you know I nominated you for the “Versatile Blogger” award. Do with it what you like – you can pop over to my blog to pick up the details. Mostly, though, I just wanted to share your insights with my readers. Thanks for giving me something important to ponder each day! 🙂

  16. Bonnie says:

    I just found your site and absolutely love it! I am 54 and had to sneak to use “bars” that allowed me to hang from (right at the side entrance of a church). I loved the sensation. Fast forward 35+ years and I took up rock climbing to re-embrace that feeling of adventure, freedom and strategy building skills that traditional climbing gives. Now my new “climb” is the birth of my own business. So yes, the callouses I gained from rock climbing has helped to toughen me up for this journey. So has the ability to “let go” of perfectionism and analysis paralysis. It’s getting easier and now I will visualize those monkey bars thanks to our post! Can’t wait for the next posting!

    • Jennifer says:

      Soooo coool! You’ve got to stay in touch with all of us and tell us about your business, your dream, your progress, the whole thing!!!! Can’t wait to know you better! J

  17. Julie says:

    I was at the playground last week with my 4 year old (yes, I am tired) and he was struggling with those monkey bars. So he asked me what he was supposed to do with those bars at the side. The ones that look like if you were a gymnast maybe you would do some acrobatics on? For the life of me I couldn’t remember or figure out what to do – you can barely reach them and then there’s nowhere to go from there. I know there’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere!

    • Jennifer says:

      The kids keep asking the tough questions. I haven’t the first clue, either. Will you let us know, love, when you find out?

  18. Laurie says:

    I was not much of a monkey bar person. At recess I played games I was good at, and in the evening since I lived 1/2 block from the school, I’d play in the playground. No line ups. I could go where ever I wanted and play on anything I wanted. Hard to see saw that way, but then I’d just stand in the middle and try to make it balance.
    I had a thought the other day, not really anything about living life, but more about catching up on the things I missed out on. People like to call it mid-life crisis, but in reality, it is just more like catching up to your dreams. I decided for my next birthday..which will be #45…I want a princess party. A little girl came into my work the other day all dressed up to go to a birthday party with a princess theme. I never really had birthday parties, so, I want one. I work with many young girls in high school and early 20’s. It reminds me to not lose the passion for life that I had at that age. Passion is not an age thing, it is a life thing. Just like this body…gotta live in it for this life, so might as well enjoy it. 🙂 Sorry, I really digressed on that one.

    • Jennifer says:

      I don’t think you digressed. Your brain sounds like mine. What an ADVENTURE to see where it takes us!!!! J

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *