So many thoughts on my ride this morning – about cycling, about work, about relationships – but they all boil down to some ancient Taoist wisdom from Lao Tzu: The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
When the alarm went off, it seemed too early. After all, I had been awake just two hours earlier. For reasons unbeknownst to me, I had woken up at 3:30 and it took a bowl of Cheerios and a replay of Stephen Colbert’s monologue to get my mind and body settled back to the point where I could return to bed.
So there I was at 6:30 a.m.: bleary-eyed with the alarm sounding, a voice inside my head offering up a perfectly reasonable excuse to scrub the morning solo ride I had planned out the night before.
Then, another voice. An echo from the past. My sister Jane offering the best advice about exercise that I’ve ever received: “Change your clothes.”
It was the nudge I needed.
Just get up and change your clothes. Swing a leg over the bike and start pedaling. Even a little ride will do you good. No expectations about distance or pace. One pedal stroke after another, feeling the wind in your face, and see where you end up.
And so it went: shaking off the grogginess of a poor night’s sleep, shaking out the soreness from a longer weekend ride, waking both body and mind to a (relatively) warm, if overcast, day. Five kilometres grew to ten, then twenty, then a little more before I stopped counting and focused on enjoying the scenery before looping back toward home to start the work day.
Along the way, I started thinking about how well this approach – this effort to move the rock just a little bit uphill – can serve us off the bike.
Certainly, I’ve adopted this technique in my career. Directing, producing and writing television offers plenty of opportunity for discouragement – first, while hacking away a mountain of footage down to a mound of mouldable materials; then while sculpting that mound into a basic story; and finally while responding to criticism from two to four to six different superiors, each noting what’s lacking, missing or confusing one or all of them.
There are days when it’s hard to know where to start. Heck, there are days where you don’t want to start at all.
On those days, I play the same game that I played with myself this morning, sorting through my tasks to find the ones that are easy as changing my clothes, or making a single pedal stroke – and slowly, I move forward.
Here, I am tempted to extend this metaphor to other, more social aspects of our lives, but can it really be so simple?
Can we really improve our marriages, our families, our friendships – even our society – with a series of marginal, miniscule and elementary first-steps?
Maybe it’s time to try. Who knows? After a while, it might be just like riding a bike.
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