Life Lessons From The Ziplining Tortilla

by  Paula Kiger  |  Everything Else
Life Lessons From the Ziplining Tortilla

When my son and I arrived on a North Georgia mountaintop several years ago for our first zip-lining outing, I did not know quite what to expect.

I had read many people’s accounts of the zip-lining experience; I had speculated about how I would feel about the heights and the speed. I had wondered if my son (or I) would love it or freak out.

Nowhere in the information I read or the expectations I had developed did I run across Mexican food. You heard me: tortillas, tacos, burritos.

As it turns out, the zip-lining guides utilize the names of these foods to represent zip-lining stopping techniques. Since I’m usually thinking about how my life experiences translate to the business world, I couldn’t help drawing some parallels

Prior to zipping, each participant has to take ground school in order to acclimate to the procedures. Ground school is taught on a mini zip-line that is only a few feet off the ground. In zip-lining, the brakes are your gloved hands.

Are you wondering when we are going to get to the food analogies? Break out the salsa – here they come…

The Tortilla Brake

The best brake is the tortilla. In the tortilla brake the rider watches for the guide, who is standing at the arrival platform. When the guide begins making braking motions, the rider is supposed to take their gloved hand, keep it completely flat, and apply it to the steel cable to slow down the rider.

Parallel: It is important to pay attention to the signs ahead of us in order to avoid reacting too soon or too late. In addition, utilizing a slow, steady, methodical approach to an upcoming change can make the process easier on everyone.

The Taco Brake

We were warned to avoid a taco brake. In a taco brake the hand is no longer flat on the cable, but rather folded over the cable like a taco shell. This is bad because it may make you stop too fast and may make you more susceptible to injury.

Parallel: When you are hurtling toward a desired destination, it is sometimes hard to trust the lessons that others who have been down the same road tried to teach you. Until you have personally lived the experience, sometimes the voice of experience just isn’t quite enough.

The Burrito Brake

The guides advised us most strongly against the burrito brake. A burrito brake is where you grab onto the cable and surround it with your hand, like a burrito. Why is this bad? One reason is that you could pull your shoulder out of joint. A zip line rider reaches rapid speeds, and you don’t want your hand to be affixed to the steel cable while your body tries to continue on its trajectory.

Parallel: Practice is good. When you watch people zip line but you haven’t experienced it yourself, it’s easy to say, “Oh, I’d never do a burrito brake.” Reflexes and adrenaline can do funny things to your judgment. Businesses have Continuity and Contingency Plans (BCCP’s) in case disaster strikes, and they are supposed to test their systems periodically. We would be wise to do the same as individuals.

When Braking Fails

If all the Mexican-food themed strategies in the world fail and you find yourself short of the platform, you get to self-rescue. Another technique practiced at ground school, you turn so that your head is facing the platform and your feet are facing the origination point and pull yourself back up the cable, arm over arm.

Parallel: You may find that you end up looking back where you started, having to work a lot harder than you anticipated to get to your destination. And you’re going to need help in the form of a teammate to finish.

A version of this post appeared previously on Perspicacity.

Have you ever drawn a business conclusion from an adventure experience?

About The Author

Articles By paula-kiger
Paula believes her Twitter bio says it best: Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. She is a communications professional who provides writing, editing and social media services through Big Green Pen. She was the community manager for the Lead Change Group for two years. Paula has a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Human Systems from Florida State University. She is an active advocate for many causes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Kelly  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Love the parallel lessons. So much of what we do can be applied in other areas. I never would have connected zip lining terms to life lessons, but then again, I have never been zip lining. :-) Great post!


Paula Kiger  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Thank you, Kelly!! Definitely explore ziplining if you have a chance. I am not big on heights but the guides helped us all work through our concerns and it was so exhilarating that the fun prevailed! That, and thinking of tacos. :-) Thanks so much for your comment.

Mary Hinkle  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Great article and good advice Paula! I now have a craving for Mexican food! LOL

Paula Kiger  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Thank you, Mary! I get a little burnt out on Mexican since our Toastmasters group meets at La Fiesta every week BUT we should do lunch! Even Mexican!

Carol Cassara  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

“Tortilla brake.” Who knew? ;-)

Paula Kiger  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

I know! And once you’ve learned it once, it’s so easy to remember! (As long as there is good salsa nearby!).

Jonathan Moss  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Great article Paula!! Love the lessons! Thank you!

Paula Kiger  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Thanks much!!

Paula Kiger  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Thank you, Jonathan!

Jon Stallings  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Great post Paula and great visuals for leadership. – Tortilla all the way. The only bad thing is I read this right before lunch and all I have is a PBJ sandwich

Paula Kiger  |  27 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Oh no! Note to self: add culinary disclaimer to future posts that have food tie-ins! :-) Thanks for your comment.

Michelle  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

I thought this was going to be about ‘not eating Mexican food before zip lining’

your actual article was MUCH better.

Paula Kiger  |  24 Oct 2014  |  Reply

I’m not sure how well it would work to consume a bunch of tacos before ziplining! I am glad you enjoyed the article.

Bodynsoil  |  25 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Ziplining is fun, you have to embrace your fears and put your trust in the ability of that cable to support you. We went in Puerto Rico and loved it, I’d definately do it again now that I have a better idea for how it works. I liked my tour company and that they had a double line for safety.. The tour guides, jokingly, said that the second line was a back up; if both lines went down that meant Karma was reaching her hand out to bitch slap whomever had been bad.. bwahahaha..

Paula Kiger  |  25 Oct 2014  |  Reply

I agree on the fun part! At one point, the line took us over a deep ravine — it was all so beautiful and exhilarating there was a spiritual feel to the experience. The course also involved a 40 foot rapel. Even though we were just as secure and harnessed/clipped in as we had been for the ziplining part, the first time I looked down and thought “I’ve gotta do THAT?” was scarier than the ziplining! Glad karma treated us both well on our experiences!!

Jane  |  01 Nov 2014  |  Reply

Love the whole tortilla to burrito analogy. I’m sharing with people who actually run zip lines at summer camp but are otherwise leaders who might have some pretty unique takeaways from your article.

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