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What I Learned About My Career While Learning to Ride a Bike

Someone riding a bicycle past a sunset.

I’ve always found it uplifting to spend a few hours in the great outdoors. My mood improves and my energy level increases. I have even found myself creatively inspired while taking in my surroundings.

Sometimes my outdoor pursuits have led me to lessons that may not seem applicable to other areas of life at first glance. Insights into enhancing my career and improving work performance actually made it to the list.

One of my recent outdoor excursions involved riding a bicycle for the first time. While maintaining my balance on the bike, I gained some useful insights into my world of work. Keep reading for the career nuggets I captured while engaging in my outdoorsy adventure.

Be open to learning something new (even if it might embarrass you)

While learning to ride was on my mind for a long time, it was finding a (free!) class with Bike New York this past summer that helped catapult me-at 36 years old-into action.

I was excited to learn something new and put the focus on that desire to learn (rather than my fear of falling off and breaking something). I knew that once I learned to ride and became comfortable in my abilities, it would open up my world, allowing me to experience the great outdoors in a way that looking out a car window- or even hiking- would not.

How can being open to learning help your career?

Also be open to learning new things at work. Recognize that you can be proactive in creating opportunities for stretching yourself. Whether you are a new employee or you’re newly-promoted, learning a unique process (and spearheading its implementation), developing your skills, or understanding the intricacies of the organizational culture and approaching it with finesse can all have beneficial results. Being open to learning opportunities can streamline your workflow, enrich your output, and even identify you as a “trusted expert” on the topic.

Be an observer

When I was on the bike, I had to be mindful of my fellow classmates, some of whom were close enough for potential collisions. I had to figure out how to move far enough away from them yet stay on the curved path. It took a few tries but eventually I was navigating around them with ease–no more sudden, jerky motions.

I also had to be mindful of my inner dialogue—what was I saying to myself that might increase feelings of doubt? To get through those moments, I thought of one skill I already possessed that could help me while learning to ride a bike. I chose to start my bike lesson by reminding myself how well all those yoga classes have prepared me for the balancing necessary in riding.

How might being an observer help your career?

Simply put: observe. Avoid filling your thoughts with negative comments about yourself. Let’s say you want to build your personal brand and gain recognition as a leader in your field. Keep your strengths and achievements top of mind. Use them to present yourself confidently as a capable and valuable resource, one to whom your colleagues will come to for advice.

Observe a little more: What else might you be doing in your career that is preventing you from success? Take inventory and and start making adjustments for a more positive approach.

Identify your biggest fear

My bike-riding fears were all of the physical variety: falling down, getting hurt, and breaking bones.

These are valid concerns. Any (or all) of those could very well have happened. I could have avoided the experience entirely, but if I wanted to stretch myself, staying off the bike was not going to work.

How might identifying your fears help your career?

Remember that exploring an area that draws out your fear can be an opportunity for growth. Perhaps it’s time to discuss your candidacy for a raise/promotion with your supervisor. You may want to see first-hand your organization’s work in the village it serves, even if the conditions include rough terrain, harsh climate, and windstorms. Either of these might be scary propositions.

Take inventory of your concerns. For each one, identify a solution that will make you less fearful of what you will be taking on. Then take at least one step towards it.

Set boundaries for safety

Being adventurous is one thing, and being reckless is another. Whenever I am engaging in a new adventure, I like to put a few safety constraints in place.

For me, having the opportunity to take a bike class met two criteria I didn’t even realize I had: group learning (with other adult first-time riders) and having the guidance of an expert. This made the prospect of getting on a bike a lot less scary yet still had enough “adventure quotient” to fulfill my own vision of what “adventure” is.

My instructor was well-equipped with details for having the safest biking experience possible. She covered the basic mechanics of riding as well as checking one’s bike to ensure proper functioning. She served as my go-to expert.

How might setting boundaries help your career?

Consider finding a mentor, an expert who can give you insights and support. You don’t have to go it alone. Read the “how-to” when necessary. Make educated, well-thought-out decisions about your career path.

My bike riding allowed me to physically get from point A to point B. Metaphorically, it served as a vehicle for facing a fear. I was able to draw from my strengths in order to ride successfully- a zest for learning, ability to identify and utilize resources, and observe both my surroundings and internal dialogue- all of which I can use to enhance my performance at work.

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by Victoria Crispo

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