5 Life Lessons on Success from the Mountain Bike Trail

Just you and the trail....enjoy the journey that lays ahead

Just you and the trail....enjoy the journey that lays ahead

One of my favorite active lifestyle (as there is no “cardio” in my life) hobbies is going out for a mountain bike ride. I’m lucky enough to have a nice 6-mile technical trail near enough that I can go out for a quick 30min ride without needing a whole day to drive to the mountains. It is full of many hills (up and down), quick turns, and obstacles to overcome. All of which got me thinking about how the lessons I learned while mountain biking over the years and how they can apply to all other parts of life (I won’t even count the lesson of learning how to break into my car with a screwdriver and long tree branch after locking my keys in the trunk).

Lesson #1: Going too cautiously out of fear will actually make you crash more

Everyone when they first start something usually will take it slow and careful. Same applies in biking, as I would go slow down the hills while clamping on the brakes because I didn’t want to get out of control. But the real reason was because I was afraid of not being able to take a turn or bump and landing on my butt (or head). I look back now and realize that I crashed more because I went too slow. It made it harder to get over the obstacles and I didn’t have confidence that I needed. Nowadays, I go faster downhill and just hold on knowing the bike can overcome anything (it’s just me that can mess it all up).

Take home point: You don’t want to always go too slow because of having no confidence or fear of failing. On the flip side you don’t also want to cut the brakes and never be able to slow down when needed. The balance is in finding how to embrace your fears, overcome and turn it into confidence. It may be that same fear daily that is holding you back or causing you to make the ride (life) harder than it needs to be.

Lesson #2: You are going to crash, accept it, and the more you do…the better you will get at getting back up

Fall down just means you are out there doing something....don't play it too safe. You fall down and you get right back up.
Falling down just means you are out there doing something….don’t play it too safe. You fall down and you get right back up.

I think my first biking nickname was “crash” from some of my clients because they wanted to see all the cuts and bruises I got after every weekened of biking. I did my fair share of crashing, some really stupid and some glorious in their own right. But something funny happened, the more I would crash…the better I got at it. By that I would mean I would just hit the ground softer, tuck and roll and just get right back up and on with the ride. I no longer feared crashing and now crash very rarely (knock on wood!).

Take home point: We all have set backs or “crashes” in life, but there is no reason to fear them. The more you can just get up, brush yourself off and get right back on your way…the sooner you will get to where you are going. Those that just sit there and whine in self pity or quit altogether out of fear, will never get there. Like Coach Lombardi said “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up”.

Lesson #3: Don’t use the easy gears too quickly and embrace the challenge

Most bikes come with many gears (like 18-24) to use as things get harder. The problem is many people use those easy gears too quickly, end up just spinning their pedals and going very slow. A while back I had all those gears, and then one day while riding my derailer (which allows all the shifting of gears to happen) snapped off. Instead of spending another $300 for all new parts, I had the bike shop make my bike into a single speed for $15 (which basically means I went from 24 gears to 1….yes 1).

That was 2 years ago, now I love riding my one gear bike up and down the hills. The main reason being, I can’t bail out into easy gears and mentally talk myself out of it….when the hills come I have only 2 choices: to just start peddling hard and fast or end up walking….and I am not planning on walking any hills.

Take home point: What kind of “easy gears” do you have in your life? The things you use to bail out when things get tough. How about instead you just buckle down and attack that hill, you’ll get over it much quicker that way and be stronger for it.

Lesson #4: Don’t look at the things you want to avoid, or too far ahead

Where are you looking...at the trees or the path? You will go wherever you focus on.

Where are you looking...at the trees or the path? You will go wherever you focus on.

I learned very quickly that if you want to hit a tree or rock, just keep staring at it and the bike magically seems to go that way like it was stuck in a tractor beam. While you want to know where the trees are, you don’t want to focus directly on them…instead you want to see where you want to go down the path. When I go over wooden bridges/platforms that are elevated, if I look at the bridge I am fine…but if I look over the side at where I don’t want to go, I’ll be falling very soon. Also there were some trails a while back that I would dread a certain point (whether a long hill climb, or a drop off that scared me), but what good did it do me to focus on something that I wasn’t even at yet? I found it would ruin my ride that I was doing right now.

Take home point: Don’t focus on the things in life that you do not want to have happen, instead focus on where you want to go. If you focus on failure (hitting a tree), guess what…you will hit that tree. If you focus on where you want to go (down the path) then you will go down the path. Also don’t worry about things that you can’t even do anything about right now. If there is a big hill coming much later on, deal with it when it comes. Otherwise worrying about it for the whole time will just ruin your daily journey.

Lesson #5: Be prepared but not overly so paranoid

I was just reminded recently that I am not so invincible, when I was biking and blew out my tire. Funny part was (sarcasm) that it was about a mile from the parking lot and my pump was in the trunk of the car. So my humble lesson began with a nice 1 mile trail hike out carrying my bike. Let’s just say I will take the small pump and spare tire on rides from now on. On the flip side, I once rode a long trail with a 40lb (felt like it) backpack full of everything I could think of….I never used any of it and it wore me down just carrying it with me.

Take home point: It’s ok to be prepared for things that may go wrong. But you don’t have to be overly burdened with it. A small pump and spare tire is nothing to carry with me, but a backpack full of medical supplies and tools for every possibility would just weight me down and tire me out. So be prepared for the small things you can take care of, and ditch the excess baggage that is just slowing you down and wearing you out.

So there you have it….in life, as in moutain biking, if you want success (whatever you may define it to be) then just:

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