A few days ago, I was on a bike ride with one of my friends. The country roads and solitude of Zionsville, Indiana provide a great escape from the busy world. As we journeyed along the narrow, wooded roads, we began to reminisce on the beginning days of our cycling lives.
I was reminded of an experience I had had when I was first learning how to ride with clips. For those of you non-riders, this is when the rider’s shoes clip into the bike pedals when riding. Essentially, one’s body feels attached to the bicycle. For some reason, I thought it would be easy for me to learn how to tackle riding with clips on our first team 42 mile ride during the winter. I thought, “I’m a natural when it comes to sports. How hard could this really be?” I had done plenty of long rides before without clips, so I did not see how they could possibly change my riding dynamic that much.
Five large scrapes, a badly sprained ankle, and a bruised ego later, it is needless to say that I did not finish that team ride – I only made it to mile 24. After falling for the fifth time, my swelling ankle would no longer move. My teammates insisted on calling one of our friends to come collect my bike and my wounded self. The entire way home, I was beating myself up for what I thought to be both quitting and failing.
What did I gain from this experience?
It took me a few days to realize that I had achieved something much more than mastering how to bike with clips – I had gained a few deeper understandings:
1. There’s a difference between quitting and failing – President Theodore Roosevelt said it best with, “Do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are.” Although I failed to reach my goal, I did not quit; a quitter would have stopped trying when he/she was capable of moving much further. Fall after fall, I kept riding and trying until I literally had nothing left in me.
2. When one’s achievement is slightly different than originally expected or wanted, the value and importance are not diminished – The decision to try something new is an achievement in itself. In order for me to start successfully riding with clips, I needed to try my best, to make mistakes, and then to recognize that each of these are integral parts of the journey.
3. One must have the wisdom to know when to stop – Although I initially thought it was necessary for me to finish the ride, I recognized when it was no longer in my best interest – I would be putting not only myself at risk, but others as well.
Do you allow yourself to fail?