Monday, July 27, 2009

Being free to succeed

As a subscriber to Seth Godin's blog, I was reading a recent post on The reason riding a unicycle is difficult. As it just so happens, I taught myself to ride a unicycle a couple of years ago (some brief footage here) and what Seth mentions about falling is quite true. To ride a unicycle, you actually need to sit up straight and lean forward as if you're about to fall. But to save yourself, you pedal to catch up and before you know it, you're riding. So the key to riding a unicycle is finding that knife edge between falling flat on your face and moving forwards.
A few years ago, some friend's kids came away with us on holidays and I promised them I would teach them to ride. Their names were T. and D. and they were about 6 & 5 respectively. T., being the boy, was right into it and took off like a flash. After barely an hour of running behind him, he was off like a pro. But D. took a bit more work. After the first fall or two, she was ready to give up. It seemed that everytime she got going, she fell off. To her, riding was pain and not something worth pursuing. I could see that I needed to change my approach.
So instead of teaching her to ride, I started teaching her to stop. We did a few practice stops where I held her on the bike and without it moving forwards, I got her to take her foot off the pedals and place it on the ground as the bike fell to the side. Once she mastered that simple skill, integrating it with moving forward was just a matter of practice. After a day, she was up and doing laps alongside her brother. By taking the fear out of the fall, she was suddenly free to succeed.

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