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it is like learning to ride a bike – we never forget, we rarely remember

October 2, 2014

There is always one.

The one in front and the one behind.

One who appears to be more skilled. One who is trying their best to keep up.

There are at least two in every neighborhood. Two kids on bikes. And a hill. (Because they are connected at a level that we cannot understand. Where there are kids and bikes they will find a hill and they will ride down it. Or they will make one.)

If you watch them ride down the hill you will see the ones. The one in front and the one behind.

The one who rides with confidence and the one who tries to look confident. One who is leading and one who is trying to follow.

I identify with that one. It didn’t seem to matter what the vehicle was – bike, skateboard or go-cart – I  recall always trying to keep up. (Perhaps it could be considered as an early demonstration of leading from behind?) That is why there was an instant feeling of empathy when I saw them riding down the street. My street, the street that like them, I grew up in and on. Two of them. Riding across the footpaths and driveways of my childhood. I remembered. Fear played a big part of it. And joy too? Avoiding fear is a source of joy and it may be in those early experiences that we set ourselves up for the patterns of our later life.

A lot will depend on those early successes. And the failures.

We may learn that fear can be overcome through practice, by mastery of whatever skills we need to ride down hill or up hill or swim or jump or run or lead.

We may learn that danger can be avoided and fear can be sidestepped by following after others who have made the path safe(r) for us, or by watching from the sidelines or from the safety of our home (“I think I can hear mum calling, I gotta go…”)

Both outcomes are sources of real joy for us. Both are effective and valid ways of reducing fear in a particular context. We rarely remember that when we grow up. We forget that we were all once kids holding too tightly to the handle bars.

We forget that the lessons we learnt then are lessons that we learnt well and they are the lessons that we never forget.

We ask others to move beyond their comfort zones, to ride a little bit faster, to head down a new track … and we are surprised when they step out to take a quick call from their mother or partner and then don’t return.

We wonder why life doesn’t present us with the same opportunities it seems to present to others – all the while letting others go on ahead to explore the new path, declining offers because we have something to do at home, or turning up late to the pivotal meeting because we had to take a call…

And we will both be happy in our own way. The one in front and the one behind. Because we have both found ways to deal with our fears. We both found ways to navigate down the hills and across the footpaths and driveways of our neighbourhoods.

Except that now we are not. And neither are they.

The context has changed so maybe it might be time for us to change too?


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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2014 7:54 am

    I can relate to this story so much. Interestingly I’m also relating it to my siblings, cousins and children, and the leadership qualities that develop (whether you like it or not) with being the first or second (or fifth) born in the family.

    I think I like this post so much because I have developed habits and practices that I have learned from my first social place in this world – first born, and second in the line of close cousins – that have provided safe practices and a long list of reasons to never change those practices.

    I have over simplified this a bit, but your post has connected me to another vantage point through which to view my leadership style.

    • October 6, 2014 8:28 am

      I am not sure you have over simplified Megan. We forget where (and when) we developed many of our strategies for navigating through life. They served us well then but do they serve us now?

  2. October 6, 2014 6:39 am

    Thanks for a fresh perspective. Hadn’t prevously thought of ‘Avoiding fear’ as a ‘Source of Joy’. Food for more thought!

    • October 6, 2014 8:30 am

      It is a perspective that comes from the work of Silvan Tomkins. For me it provides a new way of understanding behaviours in myself and others.

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