Leadership: It’s Like Riding a Bike

by Alli Polin on October 26, 2012

Leadership is Like Riding a BikeThey say you never forget how to ride a bike.  Thirty years ago I fell off of my bike, broke my arm, and never got back on – ever.  I walked away from the idea that riding a bike is something I should want to do.  In fact, while I’ve spent a little time teaching my children to ride, I never made it a priority and neither child can ride without training wheels yet.  My family is now joining me in a life without bikes.

I’ve seen many notices for bike riding clubs, people tweeting, posting on facebook and blogs about the amazing bike rides that they go on and the things that they see.   People love bike riding and it would seem that nearly everyone I know enjoys a ride once in a while.  I’ve never been jealous or upset that I can’t (or won’t) join in.  Clearly, I’ve chosen another path.  Am I missing out?

Here’s a view into my world without bikes:

I observe my world too, only at a slower pace

I may not take long rides through winding trails but I can still be present with nature.

For me, going to the beach and staring silently at the ocean makes me feel small and connected to our big world at the same time.  Walking through a canopy of trees is an opportunity for me to expand my energy and by the end of the path I have the feeling that anything is possible.  Even walking to the neighbor’s house is an opportunity for personal centering and playfulness.  As I see each crack in the sidewalk it brings me back to my childhood.  I’m careful even today: “Step on a crack and break my mother’s back.”

In my world without two wheels I’m moving at a slower speed and can observe and appreciate my surroundings at a different level. 

Leadership is also about what noticing what others do not see.  Forming ideas that lead to innovation isn’t possible in a blur of action; it comes from tiny details that expand into flowering trees of possibility. 

Community exists everywhere

I may not go for long rides with friends and strangers but I’ve still found community with people I enjoy and appreciate.  Coaches, Foodies, Moms, Leadership obsessed people all are “my people”.

What’s most important isn’t that you do what all the cool kids appear to be doing. (Sometimes you just have to say “No”) An essential part of personal leadership is knowing what you value and creating a life where you are honoring what’s most important to you.  Find what lights you up and you’ll create your own home, your own community and support network.

The bottom line?  We all need community and connection.  Be a leader in your own life and you’ll find that bigger things are possible when you aren’t alone.  Brainstorming, celebration, and hard work are all more satisfying when we are with people that share our passions and priorities.

So what if I have to drive, I still get there 

Friends tell me that they went on a 30 mile ride to a great part of the city and then spent the day there enjoying the great weather.  Turns out, I was there too, only I drove.  Funny – we both ended up at the same place.

You can get to the same place through many paths – there is not one right way to get to the destination.  Leaders that set the vision and empower their teams to achieve that vision aren’t tied up with process but instead focused on outcomes.

The key is to never let the different tools at your disposal stop you from going where you want to go.

Moving forward

Thirty years after my “big fall” I now go to the gym and hop on the elliptical to get in my exercise.  At my new gym, I’m starting to recognize faces and get more waves and smiles when I enter.  Looks like I have yet another community to enjoy.

Will I ever get back on a bike?  Probably not.  Do I appreciate and admire people that love riding?  Sure do!  I also think when we’re together they appreciate that we’re not the same.  We all bring diversity and different perspectives to the table.

Personal leadership is about being you, not hiding your authentic self.  Be brave and show the world who you are.   I don’t live a life of regret because I never got back on a bike.  It was a part of my path!  The feeling of missing out holds us back.  Leaders know that it’s important to look back, learn, but always move forward.

Here I am!  The woman that doesn’t ride a bike!  It doesn’t mean I can’t, since you never forget, it’s about choice.  If my children want to be bike riders, I say go for it!  They may just not want Mom to be the one to teach them to ride.  I’ll certainly be on the side of the road cheering for them along the way.

What is your bike story?  What have you learned by making a choice different from the majority?

(Photo credit)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris October 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I learned that by making a choice different from the majority I actually find out what I am made of. It is so hard to understand what gifts you really have to offer in leadership and life when you are “among the herd”. Radical change does not come from following the crowd. Appreciate your Bike Story!


alli October 27, 2012 at 1:05 am

Chris, you’re absolutely right! Well said! I agree: “Radical change does not come from following the crowd.” Going your own way takes a lot of personal fortitude and the lessons learned along the way are immense. True leadership inspires other people to do more and be more. It’s hard to do that if you haven’t followed your own authentic path.

Thanks so much for your comment!


Andy Phillips October 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm

A lovely read for this Saturday morning. Every decision has consequences but it is not definite that those consequences are negative – just different. There really is never a right answer. I recently gave up driving a car. Walking or buses (and the odd taxi) is how I get around now. Am I missing out? Well sometimes things are difficult but the freedom of not owning a car is wonderful. I never have to hunt for parking spaces! But as you say the key thing is being honest with yourself. I hated driving. Now I never have to think about it!


alli October 28, 2012 at 2:16 am

What a fantastic perspective! So glad you shared it! Love that you hated driving and despite the challenges, you just gave it up. Sometimes there is joy in walking away from those things that were dragging us down – it can be surprising just how much energy they were taking from us. To make the decision to walk away from what everyone else assumes we should do takes courage and can be extremely empowering.

Thanks so much for your insightful comment! Definitely adds depth to the post.


Samantha February 23, 2014 at 12:24 am

I LOVE this post and can totally relate yet in a very different way.

Instead of a bike, it was a set of skis. 6 months after my 1st daughter was born, hubby and I (along with our church group at the time) spent a weekend near Mt. Bachelor Oregon. Injured myself on the mountain, tearing the meniscus in both knees (cartilage between my femur and tibia) and the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in my left knee. However, they didn’t catch the torn ligament right away. Even though I couldn’t walk full weight bearing on both legs for quite awhile.

I’ve had 3 surgeries on that left knee and it has never been the same. That one fall was enough to take away any and all desire I had to ever ski again. At least on snow on a mountain anyway! I did manage to water ski and wake board successfully, yet it’s not like some die hard dream I had to do on a regular basis. It was what my husband loved to do.

And that’s just it…I don’t NEED to ever ski on a mountain again to have a fulfilling life. I don’t feel ‘less than’ in any way, shape, or form. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. At all.

I’ve had to live with modifying my activities in life as I live with chronic problems with tears in the cartilage that surgery hasn’t been able to successfully fix.

If I had a burning DESIRE to get back on that mountain again and go skiing. I would. No doubt about it. I simply have no REASON or PURPOSE to do so. It’s not something I have felt I wanted to risk further injury to do either.

That particular limit in my life is one I personally do NOT consider a ‘limit’. Because I have no DESIRE to do it. And that’s what makes the difference. If I was feeling STOPPED by this limitation because I wanted to go snow skiing again, this would be a completely different story.

And that’s also part of our message here. At least what I’m gathering from your own and in mine as well. Someone else’s ‘dream’ hobby, extra curricular activities, or even choice of career is just that. It’s THEIRS. Not mine. Not yours.

It’s silly for the people who love to compete in marathons to judge those who don’t do them. Maybe they don’t WANT to do them. Maybe they have no DESIRE to do one. Maybe it has nothing at all to DO with not being willing to face a challenge or having low self esteem or anything at all like that. Perhaps people simply DO NOT WANT TO DO MARATHONS! Period. lol Just not their cup of java.

Same with any other activity in life.

Thanks for sharing my friend! xo


Alli Polin February 23, 2014 at 4:40 am

Samantha –

I totally get this!! I do not feel like I’m missing out by not riding a bike. I don’t secretly wish that I could get back on one and sit around in fear that I’d fall off. I believe that you never forget how to ride a bike and I could ride down the street tomorrow if it was important to me. It’s not.

Your injury has definitely stuck with you (unfortunately) but is NOT stopping you from doing what you want to do. Right on!

You ROCK and this adds so much. Absolutely hits home for me and speaks a shared truth.

Thank you!


Uday February 24, 2014 at 5:12 am

To each his own. Likey like. This is a real good write up. A philosophy all its own. Driven to learn to ride the bike, we get into a mindset unconsciously? Lets get there first..and FAST ? Too often its the adrenaline flow that gets us first before we slow down, and just about when its nearly too late.

A dear friend in her 40’s said she doesnt drive a car because she’s got “2 left feet”. She would take the company bus to work. I said to her “Look at this way dearie, you aren’t contributing to road fatalities stats in the city, are you?” She gave me such a relieved look. Now, she is emboldened to talk/text at peace, when someone else is driving ! 🙂


Alli Polin February 24, 2014 at 6:36 am


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment here! Your friend must have been so happy to have you not only accept her decision not to drive but to look her in the eye and support her without judgement. I can’t know what’s right for you or the person down the street… only for me. So funny how we still need to “steel” ourselves before someone looks at us like we have five heads when they find out that our choices are outside of the norm.

There is something to be said for taking the scenic route…

Many thanks!!


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