Monday, June 18, 2012

Was that Stupid or What?

Somehow I grew up without ever learning how to ride a wheelie (or manual, for those pedants out there) on my bicycle. I've decided I need to correct that particular oversight. So on my ride to work, while on one of the somewhat secluded sections of path, I've been trying to practice a little bit.

Usually I don't pull up hard enough, so the front wheel rises a little and drops right back down to the ground. Obviously the corrective measure is to pull harder. So I pulled harder. So hard, in fact, that the bike went over backwards, and I didn't make the bail-out. The result was a predictable case of road rash.

Road rash.

I'm not very spry, graceful, or good at things that require balance, so I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. It's probably why I didn't learn to do this as a kid.

In the days since I took that spill, I've had a number of people ask about it. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Them: "Did that happen on your bike?"

Me: "Yeah."

Them: "Were you just being stupid, or ..."

Me: "Just horsing around."

I know they're concerned that I may have been hit by a car or something, and I do appreciate that. But it gets me thinking about the alternative. Is a one-person accident necessarily the result of being stupid?

I say that in general, there's nothing stupid about trying to do something you've never done before. And a lot of times trying comes with a certain amount of risk. So you're going to take a hit now and then. Does that mean that the pursuit isn't worthwhile? I don't think so.

This incident came hard on the heels of another small scrape I got while bouldering. I got myself into a position where I had to put a knee down on the rock to make it up onto a bit of a ledge.

My kids are young enough to be impressed by the smallest of injuries. If I come home and they show me a skinned knee, the first thing I ask is, "Did you get that while doing something awesome?" Likewise, when I come home with a patch of flesh missing from my leg, they want to know all about it. I tell them that it's just part of going out there and doing certain things, and that just because I got a little hurt while doing it doesn't mean that I didn't have fun. Maybe I'm not the best parent, but I do try to instill in my kids a sense of balance between safety and risk acceptance.

My friend Jim says that you're allowed to suck at anything for the first year of doing it. I think I like that perspective a lot better than "Getting hurt while trying new things is stupid." And Jeff Atwood recently posted something on Coding Horror that may well be my new mantra:

Go read the article. It's short, but in shorter, he states that "The only thing preventing us from being awesome is our own fear of sucking." His advice is
  1. Embrace the suck.
  2. Do it in public.
  3. Pick stuff that matters.
I'm not sure that the things I'm currently sucking at really matter, but they sure are fun. And I'll probably continue to practice my wheelies when nobody is looking.

No comments:

Post a Comment