The Bridge to Courage
When I was growing up we lived about 10 miles out town (I was a country mouse) and I rode my bike everywhere. I thought nothing of pedaling the 7 miles each way to my best friend’s house to hang out, after her family moved closer to town. I did what a kid had to do to get around.
When I went to college I hauled my bike from Montana to Arizona, zipping around campus and through Tucson’s neighborhoods like a message girl on a mission. I was fearless.
Somewhere along my vagabond journey, my bike was sold when I went off to do summer stock, and that was the end of the simple cycling days of my youth.
Fast forward. Years. Lots of them.
I meet this guy who loves to cycle. We date. Get married. He does all of these long-distance bike rides. I smile and wave, like a good cheerleader. You go!
Six years into our relationship he talks me into buying a bike. I discover that the old saying “It’s just like riding a bike” is hooey. Getting back on a bike after more than 20 years was not as easy as I thought it would be. I ride twice, terrified for my life (and I tend to be a bit of a potty-mouth when I’m scared). It wasn’t pretty.
Then I find out I’m going to be a mom in 8 months and do a little dance inside my head because all the books tell me that riding a bike isn’t a good idea. “Sorry, Honey!”
Fast forward again.
My kiddo is four years old. Cycling-dad buys one of those fancy trailers that hooks on the back of his bike so the two of them can ride tandem. He dusts off my bike and pumps the tires. We’re going on our first “family-bike-ride” and I’m scared but I don’t want my son to know. With a four-year-old in tow I can no longer justify using bad language to cope with my stress, so I’m white-knuckling it through the neighborhood. Like a granny. I’m mortified by myself.
They gleefully pass me, Jeremy with a huge grin on his face, loving every minute of it. I plaster on a smile and continue along behind them. Swearing internally. What happened to me??!
They’re a few paces ahead when my little boy, with his flame-painted-helmet and big green eyes, turns around and earnestly says in his little-boy-voice, “Believe in yourself! Believe in yourself, mommy!”
It’s a moment frozen in time.
We’ve since been on hundreds of family-bike-rides and I now remember what I loved so much about riding “back in the day”. The feeling of freedom! Celebrating the outdoors! Being together and having fun! It’s awesome. But getting back to experiencing the awesomeness of bike riding took something.
I’ve tapped into that memory more times than I can count. When I’m feeling unsure. When I’m holding myself back. When I need to overcome my own self-doubt. I hear that sweet little voice in my head, “Believe in yourself, mommy!”
Nelson Mandela spoke of courage as not being an absence of fear, but rather the triumph over fear. And what I’ve come to learn, after having the privilege of working with hundreds of leaders whilst working on myself, is that we’re all far more capable and resilient that we know. We just need a little voice to bridge our courage when we’re not feeling it.
As a leader, you can be that bridge for others – making it possible for them to move through their fears and into their courage. Because it’s there, our bravery. Sometimes we just need a reminder.