“How old can I get and yet still act young?”
Neal Unger is 60 years young and is a “killer boarder” (at least that's how my 12 year old Matthew puts it). To say Neal is an inspiration is an understatement. Neal Unger is turning the word “aging” on it's head, which may be metaphorical given his passion for skateboarding and mastering the tricks associated with the sport.
Kids with nowhere to go – end up going nowhere. – Vina Tinoco, founder Next Up Foundation
Neal Unger's work with kids doesn't go unnoticed. Whether he's working with the Next Up Foundation (a non-profit organization offering a “cool” alternative to traditional after-school programs) or just hanging out at the local skate park, Neal's goal is to inspire kids to keep reaching their dreams. Check out the video below.
“A permanent stoke…”
The Senior List reached out to Neal courtesy of our friends at HooplaHa and asked him about skateboarding and about life (not necessarily in that order). Here's what he had to say:
What keeps you going at 60 years old?
“It's a mental thing – I'm very excited about how life works and believe and feel that life goes on forever – and we continue to grow and expand in wisdom and experience. What that feels like when going out on my skateboard is that I need to be in a very certain state of mind, and then I can trust that my body will know what to do in dangerous events. It's almost like you become a witness to the magic of your body's abilities. This can be quite enjoyable – and of course love and passion create strength, I believe.”
And how do you stay safe out there? “I skate within my skill level to keep myself safe. As always I feel like there's so much more that I could be doing that might enhance my experience. I do a lot of stretching and I wear shinguards to protect my shins from the skateboard hitting me there. I stretch, I hike and I walk and balance on hand rails and spend a lot of time riding my motorcycle.”
You have such a great attitude about life in general. How do you stay so positive, and do you have any advice for young people (or aging adults) about staying in a good frame of mind?
“The question about my positive attitude brings up the issue of confidence. Using skateboarding as an example, when doing tricks on your skateboard – More often than not you fail and you fall. Always you get back up unless of course you find yourself in the hospital. Confidence requires many, many failures as well as successes – and that builds confidence. After a while you just know it. You just know that it's going to go well no matter what. Even if it's a wipeout. Many times a good wipeout is a great thing in fact that's how you progress.”
“It seems like I could go on and on about this so I will jump to my advice for young and old alike, if you have any negative ideas about yourself, my advice is to question that. I have found is that there is something lurking inside of me, and also inside of everyone. This something is so bright and hot it could easily burn me to a crisp, and yet somehow it's a loving thing that has my best interest in mind. It seems to know me better than I know myself, which equates to trust. I trust it.”
So boil your advice down for us, how can we stay as optimistic as you? “I will say again my advice is to question your thoughts of weakness. This brings to my mind one of my favorite phrases. “If you knew who walked beside you on the path that you have chosen, fear would be impossible.” I think I read that in A Course in Miracles.”
If Neal's story inspires you, share it with others. Also, tune-in to Part 2 of our salute to 60 Year Old Skateboarder Neal Unger – An inspiration to us all.