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.
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?"
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
- Embrace the suck.
- Do it in public.
- Pick stuff that matters.