“You’re only as good as your last trick.”
This could easily be a metaphor for life in general, but in this case it’s pretty concrete advice that skateboarding legend Tony Hawk imparts to his pro skater son, Riley Hawk. (You can see a photo of Hawk with young Riley below.)
At 48, Hawk is best known for his vertical-skating prowess. Riley, 24, is known as a street skater. In 2013, Riley was awarded the Best Am [Amateur] of the Year award from the Skateboard Mag.
Business Insider spoke with Hawk at the Success Makers Summit, hosted by American Express OPEN, and he told us that his “best piece of advice to stay relevant is to just keep challenging yourself and not rest on your accolades.”
“You’ve got to keep trying to do something new or something better. Even if you’re on top of the competition circuit, because that only lasts so long.
“If you rely on the tricks or the style that got you there in the first place – the judges are very harsh, and they expect you to keep improving. You’ve got to to challenge yourself in other ways, too.”
Hawk said his son grew up practicing skating different styles, and has kept that up.
But Hawk learned the importance of variety from experience. Specialization probably helped him become the first skateboarder ever to successfully complete a 900-degree aerial spin in 1999; it may also have worked to his detriment.
“I’m mostly known for skating the bigger ramps, and so when my popularity started to rise, people said, ‘Well, he’s just a vert skater,'” he told Business Insider.
“So I learned how to street skate to an extent, because I wanted to do everything, and to skate pools, and other terrain. If I go to a skate park, I know there’s something that I can do there that hasn’t been done or is good enough to impress a crowd. Those little tricks are important to be a relevant professional.”
Hawk’s advice may be just as useful for non-skaters: Recent research suggests generalists – people who have bounced around between different roles and even companies – are more likely to become top execs than specialists are.