When I was a teenager I used to love riding my road bike. Most evenings after school I’d get out on my bike in the Victorian countryside. Enjoying the hills, the landscape, the wind and often the sun. For a short time I even raced with a club in Ballarat.
One of the things that pushed me, both on my bike and doing other activities that required effort, was that I was always concerned about what people would say if they saw me stop.
I worried that they’d think I wasn’t trying hard enough, I had quit too early or I was weak.
Growing up I also played a lot of team sports, like basketball, netball and even football. Or soccer as they call it back in Australia. Part of why I think I managed to be competitive in whichever sport I played, was that same concern about what people would think if I didn’t appear to be trying hard enough.
How and why I did things came down a lot to how I thought I would be seen by others. Whether what I was doing was right for me or not.
After I closed Copper I bought a mountain bike, and it’s been great getting back out on two wheels. I attempted to start riding again a few years back with a road bike but thought I would end up dead, given how dangerous car drivers are around our area. So, this second attempt with a mountain bike has got me back out on two wheels and avoiding cars. Although I still have uncontrolled dogs to contend with.
Being out on mountain bike trails I can mostly avoid people, but a couple of weeks back I went for a ride in Essex at a trail park I’d not been to before. I started a conversation with a guy who offered to show me the runs. After going down three or four trails he took me over to a run called the Volcano. The trail dropped into an almost vertical side of a deep canyon, perhaps 30 feet from top to bottom.
Having seen me on the other runs he was pretty confident that I would be fine. So he gave me some tips and showed me which line to take, where to place my weight on the bike and said follow me.
And then he just rode off the edge.
I got a run up, rode toward the edge and stopped right on it, looking down to see some stones trickle away over the edge.
Bad idea. It looked steep.
I turned around and then tried again. I tried this a few times, each time I’d stop at the edge, look over and my brain would tell me that I couldn’t do it.
After a few attempts I told him I’d go for another few runs down the other trails and then try again. But he gave me some encouragement, a couple more tips, explained what I’d need to do – and how unlikely doing major damage was. I had another couple of attempts and then got a run up and rode right off the edge.
And it was incredible.
Such an amazing buzz. And something my head wouldn’t have let me do had someone not been there to see that I was capable and provide encouragement.
Had he not been there giving reassurance I wouldn’t have done it and I would have given up. But, if I had have stopped I wouldn’t have experienced something that’s made me a better rider.
What I’ve come to learn over the years is that most of the time people who see you stop, or ‘fail’, have only witnessed a fraction of what you’ve gone through. They don’t know where you’ve come from. What it’s taken to get to this point. Or what you’ve endured before you stop. Yet they feel like they can judge.
But, as well as these people, there are the ones who see what you are capable of and want to help you to be better. Despite you thinking differently.
Quite often I don’t think we’re the best judge of our own capabilities. As humans we learn from past behaviour and apply our own flawed logic or rationale to situations and think we know best. In fact, so do many animals, as we sometimes see in behavioural research.
Perhaps someone laughed at us once when we danced, so we don’t dance. Despite maybe being a great dancer.
Thinking about my recent decision to stop working, had I been given the opportunity even five years ago I don’t think I would have stopped. I don’t think I could have stopped, because I cared too much about what other people thought of me. People who don’t really know me.
My decision to stop was entirely mine, supported by those around me who understood why I was stopping. It wasn’t a reaction based on fleeting feelings.
It was a decision.
I’ve seen this quote by Warren Buffet appear a few times lately:
“You’ll continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. “Warren Buffet
I had a conversation recently with my son, Sebastian, about someone who said something that wasn’t nice. I told him that more often than not when people say things that aren’t nice it says more about them than it does you. They will never see a situation through your eyes. They’ve not had your experiences. That doesn’t mean there’s never any truth in what they say, but your first response should be to think about whether there’s any truth in it and then decide what to do. A well thought out, tactical punch to the face is much better than emotionally swinging your fist hoping to connect. The same can be said of words.
As a human, not responding emotionally to something that hurts is pretty hard to do. Because we instinctively react, to protect or defend ourselves when we are made to feel a certain way. We change our behaviour and stop doing something. Or we continue doing something we shouldn’t.
I wonder how many more people would be doing amazing things, and be happier, if we cared less about people whose opinions are unwarranted and more about those who’s we trust?
So, surround yourself with the people who have your best interest at heart and help make you be a better human. And trust them.
What have you not done because of something someone once said, or because of a way you felt?