Tag Archives: bike

Embracing Mistakes, Pain & Failure

Lexi BikingNobody likes to make mistakes, feel pain or experience failure. But that’s how we learn, grow and succeed. It’s something we’re losing today.

A 2004 article in Psychology Today explores this phenomena, and if anything it seems more relevant today. The article bemoans the way parents over-protect their children, keeping them from experiencing the mistakes, pain and failure that will teach them important life lessons. Kids are coached through play and never learn how to skin their knee and get back up again. Parents swoop in to resolve every playground conflict and kids never learn to handle their own disputes. Parents fight with teachers, trying to gain every advantage for their child. In the end, kids learn how to work the system instead of how to overcome challenges.

If allowed to, learning how to get along with others would actually make kids smarter: “Social engagement actually improves intellectual skills. It fosters decision-making, memory and thinking, speed of mental processing”

The article points to college as the time when the “emotional training wheels come off,” but now kids totter and crash. Relationship problems used to be the biggest issue for college students, a developmentally appropriate concern. But since 1996, anxiety has overtaken relationship woes. Now 15% of college students nationwide are depressed. Those relationship woes haven’t gone away, but worsened, with stalking on the rise. Anorexia and bulimia now effect 40% of women at some point in their college career. Binge drinking is a steadily growing problem.

Yikes. College students don’t know how to cope. And in some ways colleges have caved. At one point 94% of seniors at Harvard were graduating with honors. It reminds me of one of the conflicts in the Pixar super-hero film The Incredibles: If everyone is special, then no one is special.

It’s not just college students either. Adolescence has extended into the 30s.

“Kids need to feel badly sometimes,” says child psychologist David Elkind. “We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope.”

Get Up Again
It’s a hard thing. Nobody wants to see their kids hurt.

I think about teaching Lexi how to ride her bike last summer. Failure seemed to shut her down. But more than failure, the fear was the most crippling. Fear of falling down, certainly, but also the fear of failure more than the failure itself. I realized more than anything I had to teach Lexi how to get up and try again. I let her “crash” into the grass at one point, proving that she could dust her self off and try again. She almost didn’t.

I’m hardly an over-protective parent. But even in a simple example like learning how to ride a bike I see these difficulties in coping with mistakes, pain and failure.

Somehow, we need to learn to embrace them. Only then can we rise above them.

Thank You Bruises
As Dallas Clayton says in An Awesome Book of Thanks, “Thank you to… those bumps and bruises that turn ‘couldn’ts’ to ‘coulds.’ Thank you to those for they make us all stronger. They make us all smarter. They make us last longer.”

“If you want to double your success rate you need to triple your failure rate.” That’s the mantra of an off-the-grid, quasi homeless character in Cory Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema who learns to maximize his panhandling to the point that he does it to help the truly homeless and destitute rather than himself.

We can’t be so afraid of failure, because failure is what leads to success. You have to try, try and try again. As much as I hate to admit it, Yoda was wrong.

Finally, writer Neil Gaiman says it like this in his New Year’s wishes from last year:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Running & Writing: You Have to Be Consistent

I’m not going to be one of those people who blogs or tweets about his incredible athletic achievements. I’m not going to tell you how I’m running a marathon or crushing my 5K time or trying a fancy new workout program. Whatever.

I am getting more exercise lately. But nobody cares about that. Frankly, I’m slow, sad and pokey and no one wants to read updates about my abysmal mile times.

But I have learned one thing from exercising: You have to be consistent.

I started exercising again because it makes me feel good. It’s good stress relief, it feels amazing when I’m done and it’s good for me. But if I slack off for a week and try to get back into it, it sucks. If I don’t run for a week, then go for a run it isn’t fun anymore. Then it sucks. My joints revolt and my legs want to cramp up and my knees hurt. When I finally get home I don’t feel like a million bucks, I feel like I want to die.

Same thing on the bike. If I haven’t been biking then every little rise is a mountain and I have no energy or stamina to make it up. But even a little bit of consistency and I’m cruising up the incline.

It’s about consistency. You have to keep at it. It’s true in exercising, it’s true in writing, it’s true in anything creative, it’s true in much of life.

Keep going. And if you do slack off and get behind, get back up again. That first time will suck. But the second time will feel better. Remember that when you’re tempted to skip a day. Don’t. Save yourself that sucky run and stay consistent.

 

Teaching Lexi to Ride a Bike

One of my projects this summer has been to teach Lexi how to ride a bike. We’re almost there.

Yesterday she went down the alley for stretches all by herself:

Today she went down the entire alley all by herself (with me running alongside in the excessive heat warning). She still needs some help starting and lots of practice, but we’re almost there. I’m still waiting for the first big fall and bigger tears.

Teaching a child how to ride a bike is full of lessons for a parent:

  • I think one of them is start early. I see kids half Lexi’s age riding bikes without training wheels all the time and I realize we’ve put this off.
  • I also think it’s about taking baby steps. Riding a bike involves a lot of skills at once, from pedaling to balancing. Anything you can do to learn one of those skills at a time instead of both at once is huge step up. That’s why we got Milo a kick bike. That’s why I took the training wheels and the pedals off Lexi’s bike at the same time so she could work on balance.
  • We also tried one of these co-pilot bike trailer things, in part to teach her balance but also to get her used to the idea. It’s also been a good way to teach her safe bike habits while I’m still in control (biking in the city is a bit different than the suburbs I biked in growing up).
  • But in the end it really comes down to practice. Running up and down the alley with Lexi for several days in a row is what finally got us the break through. It’s kind of the secret to most of life—you keep on trying until you get it. I hope Lexi’s starting to understand that (though yeah, she’s 6, it’ll be a while before that sinks in).
  • And if what Lexi really needs is practice, what I really need is patience. Loads and loads of patience. Oh my goodness did I need patience. Lexi’s not a super athletic kid (what can I say, she’s a Hendricks) and she also gets freaked out trying new things. She had a lot to overcome here and that required a wealth of patience on my part. Me getting mad or short with her would just shut her down. Having the patience to wait her out, to keep trying, to notice tiny improvements and praise the heck out of ’em. I don’t remember my dad teaching me how to ride a bike (oddly I remember when we took my brother out to learn how to ride a bike, but I don’t remember learning myself), but I imagine he needed the same boatload of patience I needed. I’m probably more like my dad, and Lexi is more like me, than I ever would guess.

We’re almost there. I think bike riding is one of those awesome things that can give a kid an incredible amount of freedom. There’s nothing like a summer of bike riding, of stretching your limits, of putting fun and adventure within reach, of simply feeling the wind in your hair. I’m almost as excited as Lexi is.

Discovering Mankato

This past weekend Abby and I left the kids with the grandparents and went to Mankato, Minn., for a weekend away. We also took part in the inaugural Mankato River Ramble bike ride. It was a great bike ride with gorgeous fall colors and actually got me to explore Mankato for the first time. I’ve never been to Mankato before (except for maybe driving through on the way to somewhere else), but I was floored by the beautiful river views and waterfalls. I love discovering gems like this so close to home.

Growing up as a kid vacations were mostly lengthy affairs that involved loading up the family minivan and driving across the country. We’d see incredible sights but it also took an incredible effort. While I loved those vacations, it’s also left me with the idea that I have to go across the country to see amazing sights. I never quite realize what’s in my own backyard, which is something I’ve been discovering about the Twin Cities and Minnesota since I first moved here more than a decade ago.

Mankato was no exception. We came across not one but two incredible waterfalls (OK, water trickles—it’s been dry lately) and according to the map there are a few more in the area. At times it felt very much like Kansas, with flatness stretching as far as you could see. Our hotel seemed to be on the very edge of city as developments gave way to corn fields. Pickup trucks also ruled the road. But then there were rolling hills and curving rivers—yes rivers, with the confluence of the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers, as well as a number of tributaries.

On Saturday morning we took a drive along a river bottom road with signs warning about flooding, falling rock and minimal maintenance. It was beautiful. And empty. We came upon the Minnemishinona Falls and found the place deserted. Didn’t see a soul the entire time we wandered around the footbridge and among the rocks. Later in the day we explored downtown, which didn’t exactly sport a shopping district as advertised, but did have a few unique shops (Mary Lue’s Yarn and Ewe and the Sticks and Stones boutique earned a thumbs up from Abby). We also wandered around Mankato State University just for kicks.

Minneopa FallsOn Sunday we biked through Minneopa State Park along with the other 1,500 Mankato River Ramble riders and took in the Minneopa Falls. Another trickle, but incredible just the same.

We drove home Sunday afternoon (with a stop at Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store) and I couldn’t help but feeling like we’d only scratched the surface of Mankato. There were paths we didn’t follow, restaurants we didn’t get to try and one strange glassed-in door of an old house we never did figure out.

Speaking of old, Mankato also has the history as well. It has the dubious distinction of being the site of largest mass execution in U.S. history when 38 Dakota were hanged for their part in the Dakota uprising of 1862 (303 were sentenced to death but President Abraham Lincoln pardoned 265). This little historical rabbit trail brings up a number of interesting details, including the story of Episcopal Bishop Henry Whipple who argued for leniency, an unpopular stand (to say the least) among settlers who were being slaughtered and wanted justice.

I imagine we’ll come back to ramble around Mankato another time.