“Next to a leisurely walk I enjoy a spin on my tandem bicycle. It is splendid to feel the wind blowing in my face and the springy motion of my iron steed. The rapid rush through the air gives me a delicious sense of strength and buoyancy, and the exercise makes my pulse dance and my heart sing.” —Helen Keller
I went on vacation this week, spending some time under the bright blue skies of the Sierra with some friends and family. I traversed an alpine lake on a stand up paddle board, orchestrated a BBQ dinner for ten (including one vegan and one who doesn’t eat carbs), and slept in a house a black bear had broken into the week before.
But my greatest challenge? Riding as the second person on a tandem bike.
I hopped on the back of the bike thinking, “No big deal.” Then, careening down a pine-lined street, unable to steer, brake, or even see where I was going, it occurred to me that riding a tandem bicycle is a lot like running your own business.
Believe it or not, in that moment I realized I could use the same skills for tandem bike riding as I use for my business. Check it out.
1. Trust Others
As soon as we began riding it became very clear to me that my position required absolute trust in the person at the controls. Ezra, my nephew, is strong and fully capable of steering, judging speed, and braking a two-person bike. The thing is, I had a hard time being capable of not doing any of those things.
I had to “let go” (mentally not physically) and let him do what he was good at. And that was hard.
In business I trust my contractors, employees, and vendors to do what I have hired them to do. And like Ezra, they make my experience all the better for their skill, their knowledge and their vision.
In other words, I have to trust that they’ll dodge the potholes, and steer us where we need to go.
2. Trust Yourself
I knew that I wanted to ride around a bright blue lake, under a bright blue sky, beside a pine-scented forest without worrying about the lack of control I was experiencing.
When working to grow your business, you put in a lot of effort before you know the outcome. You have to trust that the client or customer will show up, and that they are going to find value in what you offer. You have to trust the inner-knowledge that what you are doing is right for you and right for the world.
On the tandem, all I could do was pedal and trust that I was in good hands.
3. Combine Power with Perspective
On the tandem, you relinquish power to the person at the front of the bike. I could neither choose the speed nor brake when I wanted to! But you know what? Once you relax and “let go” (again, mentally not physically), you can actually look at your surroundings and enjoy the ride. Your power is in peddling, so you are part of the effort, but your perspective changes.
Sometimes, the most powerful move you can make lies in not using your own power fully for everything, but instead relying on what you’ve already put in place (your team, your systems, your vision). This allows you to move to the “30,000-foot view,” and really see what’s happening and where you want to go.
Like the ride on the tandem, your perception shifts.
4. Accept What You Can’t Control
On the tandem with my nephew, he controlled the steering, speed and balance perfectly. All I had to do was let go of all the resistance I was feeling and allow the ride to unfold.
Similarly in business, we don’t always have control of all the factors that come into play. We focus on what we want to create, doing the best we can, but honestly the control we feel is often perceived and not even real.
It’s when we stop trying to control everything, and instead focus on how we respond to different situations, moment-to-moment, that we get where we want to go. And that’s as true on a tandem as it is in our own enterprises.
5. Be Open to New Things
Going down a big hill, I found myself trying to brake with my brakeless pedals. “Pedal hard Auntie, we’re gonna go through some gravel!” We ground through the gravel. I pedaled hard as we pushed up over a bridge that arched over a rushing stream. “Good job, Auntie!”
Hanging onto my handlebars that did not turn, I looked to my left at the huge white fair-weather clouds over the lake. I looked to my right at the towering firs like giant Christmas trees glistening in the sun. I realized this was the first time I could ride a bike while staring at the sky.
Letting go of wanting to be in control, relinquishing the power of being the driver, and trusting in Ezra and my Inner Knowing gave me an experience that was priceless. Just as in business, it’s when you’re open to possibility that the magic happens.
Let us know if you’ve had any similar experiences when doing something new.