I still remember the first time I rode my bike. I was five years old and I had these amazingly dinky training wheels connected to the biggest blue bicycle I’ve ever seen. I rode and rode that thing and was happy as I can be.
Until I noticed other kids riding without training wheels. Kids not much older than I am. I was flabbergasted. I mean, how did one ride their bicycle without training wheels? The mystery and possibility grabbed me.
So I asked my mom and dad if I could learn how to do it. They made me make all kinds of promises, which I eagerly agreed to. I mean, it was important to learn how to bike without training wheels.
And while I will get to the rest of this story as we go, it occurred to me reading the all interesting facebook, that pretty much all skills are similar to riding a bike. All of them. It doesn’t matter what it is. So with that, dear reader, I will tell you what riding a bike will teach you about acquiring skills.
1. Learn the Basics.
I was pretty confident that I would master this training wheel bike thing pretty fast. I mean, everyone else made it look easy right? I mean, one of my buddies (We’ll say Tim for simplicity’s sake) was even trying to do poppa wheelies. Poppa Wheelies are the epitome of cool bike tricks at five years old.
But I had to learn the basics. Which meant stopping, starting, and being comfortable on the bike. The training wheels didn’t come off when I got the bike and there was a reason for that. I would have fallen. Hard. I didn’t know what I was doing and frankly, that’s okay. When we start anything, whether it writing, boxing, martial arts, trampoline jumping, you name it, we are not going to know what we are doing. Now, some of us have gifts and take to things faster. (Watching a kid six years younger bang on the drums as if he’s always done it is humbling to a ten year old’s psyche, let me tell you) but all in all, we all start at that blank slate of possibility.
We have to be broken in slowly to the more difficult parts of the process.
Don’t worry, I wanted to get to the training wheel phase to end. So on a friday the first training wheel came off.
2. You will fall
So when the first training wheel came off it was the left wheel. naturally the bike inclined to the right hard. It was hard to steer and I fell off my bike and hit the grass hard.
I fell for a few hours with the one training. This was suddenly harder, more real life and it made me question if I really wanted to do it.
But that’s true with anything. Touch typing, learning languages, becoming good takes practice and repetition. It’s the most boring part of the process in a lot of ways. But practice, practice, practice as they say is the path to getting on that bicycle correctly. And you will fall on your butt a few times.
3. Don’t Quit
It’s amazing how often this point comes up in life. Don’t quit. Those two words are probably the simplest two you hear. Good things happen when you try, try and try.
No one ever mentions how hard that is. Sometimes in mastering any skill, bicycle or not, you are going to deal with no, rejection and the temptation to stop. I wanted to stop. Me and the sidewalk were becoming familiar friends. The other training wheel had come off and while I had caught myself most of the time, I still stumbled and feel.
I was afraid. I was afraid that I wouldn’t do it. That I couldn’t do it. Failure breaks you. The question is how. It is a message to stop. But stop doing what you’re doing, or…
Sometimes you have to adjust expectations or your approach. Insanity is the choice to keep doing what you’re doing without adjusting course. Sometimes the adjustment is how you are trying to learn something. In the case of the bicycle I went from trying to pedal to moving the book. I found with the wheels in motion it was easier to start pedaling and keep my balance. Gradually I was able to keep going farther and farther without needing to stop or falling. This approach worked for me.
Expectations is the other major thing we have to adjust. I remember my goal was to learn to ride a bike before Dad came home from the highway. It was going to be his birthday and I thought it would be cool to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels before then. This was my goal. So I worked and worked at it.
Now setting deadlines is great. It gives you a focus and a goal to achieve things. But sometimes the task is more than we realize. Electrical Engineering, Doctors, all take time to learn and master. While the basic skills to learning anything is the same, the expertise, time, knowledge and practice of knowledge varies from skill to skill. We all learn these things differently. We must adjust accordingly.
At the end of the day, I learned how to ride my bike. I learned the basics, I failed over and over again, I adjusted and I didn’t quit. I didn’t quite finish learning how to ride when Dad came home. I did get it by the next day though. So May 2nd, 1986 I learned how to ride my bicycle.
I try to approach all skills the same way. I’ve quit some in the past. I didn’t want to keep going through what was required to do this. But for the most part, every job, skill and bit of knowledge applies to those things.
Now not all these things are as fun as a bicycle, but the principal is always the same. Keep trying and you’ll master whatever it is you’re learning.
Okay, the Queen song is now firmly entrenched in my head. Approach your expectations like you would riding a bike. It may not always work out the way you want it to, but at the very least, you’ll give yourself a shot to succeed. You can do it.