My Compelling Blog: Part 2 (DEF)

Welcome to Part 2 of my Compelling Blog series where the featured letters are D, E and F with the phrase of: Don’t Encourage Faceplants.

Part 1 began with A, B, C: Action, Bold and Creativity.

Here’s an excerpt from a speech I gave on Jan. 29, 2019 at my Toastmaster club’s International Speech contest.

“In these troubling and turbulent times my serious and solemn advice for you is: Don’t encourage faceplants!

Why, might you ask, am I focusing on faceplants?  Well for one, faceplants are not fun.  In fact, they can be quite humiliating and are often times very painful.

Thus, they should be avoided at all costs!

shutterstock_490914016

How do I know this?

Well after 25 years of mountain biking,  I’ve taken a tumble or two and lived to tell the tale.

I also believe that many important life lessons can be learned while mountain biking.

I experienced one of these painful lessons many years ago while biking in the mountains of southern California.  The Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a beautiful area and I was enjoying the warm, sunny weather.  As a young and inexperienced rider, I was struggling to keep up with the older more skilled cyclists in my group and I fell behind and started to tire.  The trail had many climbs, stunning views and numerous fun and swooping descents.  But after many miles, I started to lose my confidence in my technical skills.  My speed decreased and I lost some of my nerve.   And then I came across a new and scary part of the trail- a long, extended rocky stretch.  There were big rocks, small rocks and everything in between.  My experienced husband glided over the section with ease but at the first sight of the rocks,  I seized up inside and slowed to a near stand still.  I was pedaling so slowly that my front wheel wedged between two of the larger rocks and I endo-ed onto a huge, flat boulder to my right.  I face-planted on my cheek and it cracked.  There was a flash of blinding white light and I knew that my ride was over for the day.”

Here are my 3 Tips for a better, smoother ride:

  1. Don’t let fear, uncertainty or hesitation cause you to stumble or fall. Once you decide to go, commit with confidence and don’t look back.
  2. Momentum is your friend. Keep your speed up and you will have an easier time of rolling over rocks, obstacles and barriers.
  3. Keep your eyes ahead on the trail. Focus on where you want to go.  Don’t focus on where you don’t want to go.  Distractions can be detrimental.

In life, not all the paths we take are smooth, flat and easy.  Sometimes the downhills are treacherous and frightening with obstacles and sudden drops offs.  Sometimes, the ascents are steep and seem to last forever.  Remember to keep moving with your eyes focused on where you want to go and you will dramatically increase your chances of getting there unscathed.

It is my hope that this turbulent tale from the trail can help you remember these tips for a better, smoother ride no matter where the path of life takes you.

kermierockpile2014

Learning to Fall Well: Lessons from Unicycle Riding

I dusted off my old unicycle and brought it down to the bike shop where they put on a spiffy new Specialized tire called the Renegade.

IMG_5664

While circling the cul de sac last night on my spruced up one wheeler, my husband Steve encouraged me to put on my helmet.  My initial response was that I didn’t need it since I had never worn one growing up and I didn’t injure myself when I fell.  After a few minutes, common sense and an abundance of caution led me back into the garage to get my helmet.  It was fun to ride on something that I learned to balance on 40 years ago but you can never be too careful.

Strong and vivid childhood memories came rushing back and they reinforced a key concept I recently read in Ray Dalio’s book titled Principles.  Learning from our mistakes is key to growing and developing new skills.

I was reminded that it is okay to try something new and fall down. If we are going to learn a new skill we should not be afraid of failing, in fact, we should look at our failures as the ultimate learning experiences.   This is also the Agile mindset which embraces experiments and encourages doing, testing, reflecting and adapting in an iterative manner.

When I was 10 years old, my eldest brother, Billy gave me a unicycle for Christmas.  It was a shiny steel Schwinn with a black leather banana seat.  I was so excited and couldn’t wait until spring arrived so I could take it outside and ride it. MyfirstredUnicycle

I knew that I had to learn how to balance in order to ride but I was ready for the challenge.  Little did I realize just how hard it would be since my memory of mastering my first coaster bike at age four was that it was simple, quick and easy.

When learning to ride a bicycle, I didn’t use training wheels and was helped by Billy holding on to my sissy bar and running along side me as we traveled on Maiden Lane.  After a few sprints up and down the block, he encouraged me to keep pedaling so I could balance and ride on my own.  In little time,  I was off to the races and just a bit wobbly.

There are no training wheels when learning to ride a unicycle-  just continuous practice and persistence.  You have to experiment and try an action in order to learn what works and what doesn’t.

I had to continually fall and fall again until my muscles and my brain learned how to balance.  I practiced for many weeks by holding on to the side of my brother John’s 1973 blue Chevy pickup.  I went up and down the length of the truck until one day I got to the end of tailgate and kept going.  It was a wonderful feeling of freedom and I remember thinking “What do I do with hands now?”.   In the end, I used my hands to wave hello and goodbye to all my neighbors and friends.

PHOT0060.JPG

A 1973 Chevy like the one my brother John had

I road my unicycle all over Spotswood NJ in the early 1980s and loved the responsive steering it provided. You could turn on a dime and make quick 90 degree turns just by rotating your hips.  It was fun, lighter and so much easier to stow than a bicycle.

Learning to balance on one wheel wasn’t a quick and easy endeavor but in retrospect, I think it helped prepare me for the future challenges I would face in life.  I had to experience what didn’t work, learn from it and try again. Over and over and over.

Sound familiar?

Making mistakes and falling well are part of the process of learning. 

I appreciate Ray Dalio’s reminder of this important principle and for all the happy memories of my Spotswood unicycle adventures!

Remember:  It’s okay to try something new and fall. 

It’s even better when we learn from our failures and do it better the next time!