In my life, I have cycled nearly 30,000 km throughout the world and have always worked along the way.
As a traveling entrepreneur (or digital nomad), biking through long stretches of land with few people to interact with, I've had plenty of time to ruminate on life and work. I am often struck by the parallels between life and biking, and try to match the lessons I learn on my cycling journeys to things I face in my daily life.
Here are 5 lessons I've learned on the bike that have positively impacted my life.
1. Winds and weather matter, but not as much as your drive
Through my travels, the only thing that I could never really prepare for was the weather. You put on your windbreaker, it gets hot. You take it off, it rains.
You can try to prepare, but coping with the weather is more about your reaction to it than your preparation for it.
As I was biking on the coast of Portugal, heading from Porto to Lisbon, the winds were blowing at 55kms per hour. What looked like a flat or downhill trail felt like an uphill trek. What was supposed to be a small hill felt like a mountain. Oh boy, was it demotivating.
But it was the drive that pushed me, not the wind.
Drive should never be dampened by the situation or environment we find ourselves in. We shouldn't allow the overwhelming power that hits us in the face to derail our dreams and hold us back. Neither should we let it be an excuse to give up.
Trees grow through buildings. Plants sprout through solid ground. Countries rise from the ashes and ruins of destruction.
Don't let the wind affect your drive, determination or will to succeed.
2. Take it one pedal at a time
Coming across a particularly long and steep slope while biking can be discouraging. But cyclists know that what matters most is the next pedal. If you can focus on that, you can overcome the slope.
At the bottom is not the time to think about the full effort of getting to the top. It's the time to get your butt off the seat and start using every ounce of energy, every cell in your body to push that next pedal. And the next. And the next. And the next. Until you've pushed yourself up that hill.
It's the same in life and work.
Most of us get discouraged when we see where we are in relation to where we want to be. Too many people get off the bike at the first sight of a steep slope. They don't even try that first pedal. They give up on their ideas and dreams because they're too focused on the full mountain of effort involved.
Stay on the bike. Ignore the mountain. Focus on the next pedal and you'll get there.
3. Shift gears to suit the path
As a cyclist, you switch to low gear when going uphill. Faced with a downhill, you switch to high gear. If you are going on a long ride, you find a gear that suits your comfort and endurance.
You are constantly shifting gears based on the situation, urgency and environment.
The same goes for your daily life and work. You shift to high gear to meet a deadline. You go on low gear to relax a bit. Above all, you need to find a combination that suits you in the long run. A gear that is balanced and sustainable for you. Pay attention to your gears.
4. Always have your tool kit/spare tire and be ready to get your hands dirty
Every cyclist knows that a tool kit and spare tire are must-haves. Even if you are going on a short ride, you never know what to expect. Better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.
In life, it is always good to be prepared for any situation and to accept that there will be times when you just have to get your hands dirty.
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
5. Keep moving forward
Einstein once said, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." What he didn't say is to that you must keep moving forward.
It doesn't matter your speed or how far you go each day, as long as you are continually moving forward and making progress.
Always move forward. Make progress every day, even if it's something small. Make progress a habit, not an occasion.
See you at the top of the slope ;-)