The value of falling off, a short story.
My husband got a dirt bike a couple of years ago. I wanted nothing to do with it. My first caring job had been with an ex RAF fighter pilot who had been turned into someone who could now only blink, due to a motorbike accident. I can never forget his face, or the photos of his beautiful wife and 2 little ones.
But I went out with a group of us into the mountains after many months resisting. There is, of course, still an element of danger but it is far lessened, in my opinion, compared to road riding. We hardly meet other vehicles so the risks are decreased, in that respect at least.
The scent of wild herbs, jasmine in someone’s country home garden, the pine forest, the damp of the valleys, and the dry arid air of the 40 degree heat all lured me into experiencing the mountains on a dirt bike.
My husband spoils me (because I’m a brat) and bought me a 4-stroke 125cc bike. Not really a dirt bike but something to get me going. Discovered, despite my shaking, that I’m something of a natural and love being in control of my own motor compared to going pillion.
The first ride I did in a group was with our German friends having only been out once before on the bike. I fell off 6 times without wearing any of the protective gear.
As I was new, I just didn’t have the understanding of clutch control or effective braking. The sharp bends of the mountain tracks are not to be taken lightly and the 100ft drops over the edge, with no barriers to help, almost call to you.
One called too loud, in the wind and the drizzle. I panicked and whisky-throttled the thing. (That’s when you turn the acceleration full on and the panic keeps you in full “go” mode when you often want the opposite to be happening.) Luckily, I threw myself off into the mountain and not off it.
My friends picked me up off the floor, calmed my hysterics and put the bike on its stand.
A strong gust of wind took the bike off its stand and down, down, down the mountain it tumbled. Its brand new plastics snapping as it smashed against the rocky terrain.
It survived its fall and most importantly, so had I.
The bruises bloomed and I wore them like a badge of honour, proud I had done something I would never have dreamt I would do.
That was about 18 months ago and I haven’t fallen off for a while. Our trail rides have been fun, sometimes fast, sometimes sedate, and now I have clutch control and the correct protective clothing.
Today, I fell off.
I wasn’t trying to do anything particularly difficult but I saw a rock and somehow focused upon it. Boom, down I went like a sack of potatoes.
As I have a different bike than before, I was able to pick the bike back up by myself and without feeling like the weakest of the pack. I got back on and rode off.
I’m glad I fell off today. It reminded me that it’s not that scary to come off and it hurts far less than your memory leads you to believe.
This is the same in business. Making a mistake is inevitable. Don’t fear it. Don’t become paralysed by it. Acknowledge it as part of life and roll with it. Albeit, hopefully less literally than I had to today as I tumbled onto the mountain terrace.
Also, if you can see a pattern in the mistakes, change the things you can to minimise those going forward. I couldn’t be better at biking any quicker and I couldn’t change the mountains. So we looked at the bike.
My first bike was heavy and tall. When I fell off, I was dependent on everyone around me to change their activity to sort me out. Disempowered much?
My new (to me) bike is now the right height and the right weight. I can do so much more now I’ve changed the things I can.
Think about how you can adapt your home and work environment to minimise mistakes, burn out, or loss of work/life balance. Just like we did with my bike.
💧Change your habits: put water by your bed so your first action each day is to nourish yourself, not doom scroll or read work emails.
👕 Get your protective gear: this will look different for everyone but it could be booking “you” time, exercise, therapy, a coach, kicking the Wine Witch, volunteering, spending quality time with special people. Whatever will keep you protected from the nasty, sharp, pointy bits of the mountain (i.e. life).
📖 Change your processes: create manuals, stick to them, update them, check them. Allow no excuses from yourself or your team. The only way you’ll achieve improvements is by consistently trying and tweaking.
👥 Change the people: are your friends, family, colleagues inspiring, supporting, and motivating? If not, make different choices to keep your boundaries and priorities respected. That might mean getting a new hobby. It might mean always having an escape. It might mean facing a difficult conversation like “we’re going to have to let you go/here’s my resignation.” Choose your discomfort.
😌 Change your mindset: accept mistakes as natural. You’re not perfect, you’re human, that’s how lucky you are. The mistakes don’t hurt as much as you fear they will. You can learn from them. You can adapt from them. Don’t wallow in the pain; welcome the lessons.
The value of falling off is that it reminds you that it isn’t as bad as you thought it would be. And to improve, it’s simple but it’s not easy.
You will find the sweet smell of success, like jasmine on the breeze, if you can just be brave enough to get on the bike and ride.