‘How hard could it be?’ I asked myself as I was contemplating buying and riding a bike again after decades of dormancy.
At seven years old, I was the Queen of my Schwinn hot pink Barbie bicycle. I pedaled and rode for hours until it started getting dark and I’d have to come home for dinner. Is riding a bike like ‘riding a bike’ as the saying goes? I’m fit, I’m athletic, and I’m motivated. I can do this. How hard can this really be?
I am here to answer this question. Deep breath: one broken clavicle; six stitches in my left elbow, four big falls; two bike shop repairs, one arm sling; scores of black, blue, purple, and green bruises over every appendage of my body so I can now report unequivocally, getting back on a bike after decades of not riding is PRETTY… FRIGGIN … HARD!
But here’s my dilemma.
I never shy away from a challenge. I always take on an annual ‘Holy Grail’ to keep me learning and growing in some way. I was determined to master this bike with the ultimate carrot dangling at the end of the bike trail. A biking buddy and I signed up for the 60-mile ‘Ride for The Living’ in Kraków, Poland months ago. It’s a fundraiser to assist Ukrainian refugees and I raised 450% over my stated fundraising goal, so I was really committed with no turning back.” Sixty long, overwhelming, intimidating, scary miles through Poland’s back roads were waiting.
My son’s farewell words to me as I headed off on this great adventure were, ‘Mom, I’m telling you now. If anyone calls me from Poland asking me to bring you back home in a body cast, I AM NOT COMING.’ He went on to elaborate. ‘You are half badass, half out of your mind. And, by the way, yes, I’m proud of you and also afraid for your life!’
The truth is, this journey has never been about the bike. It has been about affirming values and beliefs which are important to me. It reinforced humility, learning, perseverance, tenacity, reflection…and at times, my stupidity. It magnified my determination and reminded me that I can absolutely do hard things and not give up. It provided proof positive that the world is filled with kind and generous people who consistently showed up to save me each time I stumbled or fell. And that is the strongest message taken away from this experience. It also confirmed that without a doubt, spandex biking shorts are not a good look for me.
Because I’m from Philadelphia, I internalized the spirit of Rocky Balboa in his first boxing match against Apollo Creed in the film Rocky repeating over and over again, ‘I just want to go the distance.’ If you’re wondering how this turned out and if I crossed the finish line, a picture is worth a thousand words. Sixty miles and 97 degrees Fahrenheit later, there I am crossing the finish line!
Next year, I’m hiking Mont Blanc!
The Man in the Arena
Former President Theodore Roosevelt’s Speech at the Sorbonne, April 23, 1910
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Fran’s Five Reflective Questions:
- Recall a time in your life that was very challenging and you weren’t sure what the outcome would be. How did you manage through it? What did you learn about yourself when you came out on the other side?
- In what ways do you challenge yourself in the present tense?
- What is something that you want to “get smarter about” that you can take on as a new project?
- What was difficult to learn that now feels like second nature to you?
- When were you ‘the man in the arena’ described in the excerpt above, and what did you learn about yourself by being there?
5 of My Favorite Quotes About Doing Hard Things:
- “I think that all of us are 5-year-olds and we don’t want to be embarrassed in the schoolyard. I’ve gone through things in my life. People say it must be so hard to do it in the public eye, but the truth is, when you go through hard things, it’s just hard.” – Helen Hunt
- “If you would only recognize that life is hard, things would be so much easier for you.” – Louis D. Brandeis
- “It hasn’t always been easy. There are a lot of hard moments. Sometimes you learn from the end of the bench. Sometimes you learn from injuries. Sometimes you learn the most through the hard things. If you can keep a good attitude and keep working, you can put these new skills to use.” – Kyle Keever
- “Your life’s course will not be determined by doing the things that you are certain you can do. Those are the easy things. It will be determined by whether you try the things that are hard.” – Sheryl Sandberg
- “And what some people don’t understand was that bleeding wasn’t a sign of weakness; it was a sign of strength. It demonstrated to the world that you were vulnerable and ordinary, but when you wanted something enough, and fought hard for it, you were capable of doing extraordinary things.” – Natasha Ngan
5 of My Favorite Books About Doing Hard Things:
- The Hard Thing About Doing Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
- Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown
- Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed
- A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
- I Can Do Hard Things: Mindful Affirmations, by Gabi Garcia
July 1-12, 2022
Re-cooperation from “The Ride for the Living” at the beach
July 13-15, 2022
Leadership Training Institute Camden County, NJ
July 18-19, 2022
Leadership Training Institute. North Little Rock, AK
July 26, 27, 28, 2022
Mid-Level Leadership Training. North Little Rock, AK