Whether you know how to ride a bike or not. Whether you’ve ever been on a trail, let alone a Mountain Bike in a forest. There are a few things I have learned from 20+ years of Mountain Biking that I think align quite closely with what we all deal with in our everyday work environments. Everything from dealing with difficult people or situations to interviewing for that next plum role.
1. Obstacles are learning experiences
In Mountain Biking obstacles are often called hazards. Everyone has their own perspective on what constitutes a hazard. For some it might be going over a log. For others it might be crossing a stream. The point is to be aware of what your “hazards” are and to be cognizant of what others consider hazards.
Knowing your own hazards or risk areas can help you at work because you will know when you need to ask for help and you’ll know when you can fly solo. You will also be able to be on the lookout for when you see a great potential role or task that your skill set can tackle and make into a reality.
I say … Ride the Hazards. If you can’t ride them, walk them. There are times where you will need to crawl around some hazards. That’s OK. As long as you get around them.
It’s only when you confront the hazards that your skill level increases. Be warned: It might take you a few times. Be prepared for the bumps and bruises that might be a part of this learning experience.
2. Hills are hard – in both directions
- Some people have a hard time going up hill
- Some have a hard time going down hill
- Recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each rider / team member
- Use situational awareness to head off potential issues…before they become an issue.
3. Everyone has their own perspective
This is obvious, but needs to be stated. As mentioned in points 1 and 2 … everyone has their own view on what the challenge is and how they might react in order to tackle it. Keep their perspective in mind when planning the ride. If you get to a section of trail that might be a challenge to them … let them take it on at their own pace. Perhaps even by showing them it can be conquered by you showing them it can be ridden. Just like at work there are things that are scary for some and old hat easy for others.
4. Everyone brings their own experiences
Use this to the benefit of the group. Some people may be great navigators. Some might be great medics (yes, sometimes people get hurt on rides. Usually nothing serious, but having skilled riders help). Everyone can boost the ride by being positive and bringing their skill sets to the forefront. If something needs to be done and you have the skills to handle it … Handle It! If you don’t have the skills and you don’t know who might … ask. Of course, these same skills apply to work situations too.
5. Not everyone can fix their own stuff
When you ride Mountain Bikes … Things Break! Chains snap, tires go flat, stuff happen. Expect it.
You wont know what’s going to fail or when. Much like a typical day at the office. However, having the right tools, the right skills and the right people can make quick work of many of these issues. See Team Work on Point 6.
6. It’s easier to work as a team
When planning a ride knowing where you are going … even in general … is a good thing. What time you will start, where will you start (what trail head) and what time you expect to end. These are all things that apply to work too.
Mr. Fixit – I have fixed dozens of flats and repaired many chains in my years of riding. Most of the time these are NOT my issues. They are when someone else in the group has an issue (called a “mechanical”). It’s easy to jump in and deal with it (Point 4). I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and the person I’m doing the work for is happy they don’t have to deal with it.
7. It’s more fun to ride in a group
There are some things you need to do for yourself and by yourself. However, for bike rides and a lot of work situations there are chances to combine your energies and get more done together. Brain Storming sessions with multiple people can be very productive. The same can happen on a group ride. Some people know the trails and know the way. Others might know the way, but prefer to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Again, the same thing can be applied to work situations. You might have a great set of skills and want to lead the way. Other times, perhaps you are training a new person or perhaps you just want to see how others will kick off and run with a project such that you may want to hang back and observe.
8. The best experiences are where you make them
While this might be fairly obvious. You own your experiences. Sure, you may not choose every trail the ride takes, but you are in it for the whole ride. Just like at work. You may not agree with every decision you typically will tough it out for the good of the team. There are many times I’ve thought we were going down the wrong path … only to be proven wrong in the end. Learn from these experiences and make them your own.
9. Sometimes the best experiences are right in your backyard
I am fortunate in where I have lived over the years. I have always lived within a few miles of great trail riding. There are times where you get lucky and can ride right in your backyard. There are other times where you need to travel for miles and miles to get to a good spot. Again, there are parallels to work here. Sometimes there are incredible projects right at the end of the hallway. Other times you might need to make a big move. Don’t ignore the projects just down the hall just because they are close in proximity. Who knows…you might find your next gig or your next ride just a short distance away.
10. Letting the brakes go
I saved the best for last. Sometimes you just need to let it all hang out and go for it. Sure, it might be scary. Sure, you might crash and burn. But sometimes you just have to go for it and let the brakes go. Sometimes you just have to make that leap of faith and hope for the best.
Of course, I’d like to think that you’ve built your skills (point 1) and have taken on a lot of experiences (points 4 and ‘8’) before you do this.
However, as the old saying goes … Nothing Ventured. Nothing Gained.
Sometimes you just need to let the brakes go.
These are 10 observations I’ve made about Mountain Biking and how it can parallel business skills. If you are a mountain biker or even if you don’t ride I’d like to hear from you about your experiences and how they may have shaped your business perspective. Drop a comment here and let’s start a dialogue.
Also, as I’ve told people for many years…if you ever find yourself in the Pacific Northwest and want to go for a ride let me know.
Jeff is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.