In my last post, “All 5,” I introduced you to what I called “Story #1: The Recorder Consort,” a lesson in perseverance that I learned from my son, Ian. There is a second story that I would like to share along the same lines. Again, I ask for your patience as I tell the story which I believe can provide encouragement and motivation for each of us.
So now, I present Story #2: Brand New Bicycle.
A few weeks ago, Ian came home from school with his third quarter grade card. Straight A’s! Marc and I beamed. We wanted to do something special for him. We decided to surprise him with a new bicycle.
Now, here’s the deal: Ian is nine and has never learned to ride a bicycle. For his fifth birthday, he received a shiny red bicycle from his great-grandparents. Though he was excited at the time, he was embarrassed by the training wheels and, even when we removed them, he was unwilling and seemingly uninterested in learning to ride. That said, of late, he’s made a few fleeting comments about a renewed interest in being able to ride a bike. We decided to try again.
So we went for it! We told him that Marc needed a new helmet and that we were going to quickly run into the bicycle shop. When we entered the store, we were greeted by a clerk, Tyler, who asked how he could help. I said, “Tyler, this is Ian and Ian came home with perfect grades today. He doesn’t know it yet, but to celebrate, he’s getting a new bike today!” Ian’s jaw dropped, he flashed his prize-winning, dimpled smile and he threw his arms around us with appreciation and sincere enthusiasm.
He picked out the bicycle, a gorgeous green number, got it home the next day and, sadly, found ourselves back where we’d left off over four years ago. It was difficult for him to master riding. He was having trouble with his balance. He shouted. He cursed. He screamed. He kicked. He fell. He ran into people. He was mad, mad, MAD. His legs were covered with cuts and bruises.
At one point, I said, “Ian, let’s just call it a day and take the bicycle into the garage. We can try again tomorrow.” That comment, unappreciated, was met with an angry, “NO! I AM NOT GOING BACK INTO THE HOUSE UNTIL I CAN RIDE THIS BIKE!” The ire continued. Eventually, I got frustrated and stomped back into the house. Marc took over, becoming the recipient of the abuse…. At some point, Marc and Ian put away the bike. It was a quiet night. We were all emotionally and physically exhausted.
Around 7am the next morning, Ian was up, dressed and wearing his bicycle helmet. He called out, “I’m going out to ride my bike now.” And so he did.
Like a pro, he hopped on that green machine and zoomed back and forth on the sidewalk like he’d been riding a bicycle his whole life! As I watched, he called out, “I can do it!” The joy emanating from my boy was palpable. I was choked up. He had stuck with it – not giving up, not letting his bruised legs get the best of him.
The next week, he taught his younger cousin to ride a bicycle, too. What a pro.
I’ve heard it said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Another oft used quip is “It’s like riding a bike… once you learn, you never forget.” Ian has proven both.
And so, what does learning to ride a bike have to do with networking. Quite a lot, it turns out. Have you been trying to master something and you just can’t get the hang of it? Have you been trying to connect with someone and for one reason or another it isn’t happening? Have you been interviewing for a new position for so long that your confidence is shaken? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It’s okay to scream and curse and shout and kick (a door, for example… not a live creature, please!). You may need to endure a few bruises. You may feel beaten down. Then, however, you must decide you are going to keep at it until you do succeed – until you do master it, until you do connect, until you land the job. You must stick with it. You only fail if you quit. You will have your moments of defeat, but when viewed over the long term, they will lead to a lifetime of successes – successes made sweeter, richer, more meaningful as a result of your effort. Recognize and celebrate each mini-success along the journey; it’s part of learning and will lead to the confidence that achieves ultimate success.
Thanks, Ian, for helping us to discover our inner stick-tu-it-tive-ness!