When I was growing up we lived about 10 miles out of 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. 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, 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 almost 16 years was not as easy as I thought it would be. I rode 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 found out I was going to be a mom in 8 months and did a little dance inside my head because all the books told me that riding a bike, while pregnant, wasn’t a good idea. “Sorry, Honey!”
Fast forward again.
When our son, Jeremy, was four years old, cycling-dad bought one of those fancy trailers ( you know the kind that hooks on the back of your bike?) so the two of them could ride tandem. He dusted off my bike and pumped the tires. We were going on our first “family-bike-ride” and I was scared but I didn’t want my son to know. Of course, with a four-year-old in tow, I could no longer justify using bad language to cope with my stress, so I white-knuckled it through the neighborhood. Like a granny. I was mortified by myself.
I remember they gleefully passed me, Jeremy with a huge grin on his face, loving every minute of it. I plastered on a smile and continued along behind them. Swearing internally. Wondering “what happened to me??!”
And then came a moment I will never forget… They were a few paces ahead when my little boy, with his flame-painted-helmet and big green eyes, turned around and earnestly said in his little-boy-voice, “Believe in yourself! Believe in yourself, mommy!”
Best moment ever.
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 than 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.