This year I have one big goal. I want to change my relationship with failure. Last year was an awesome year. It was packed full of fun and adventure. However, I didn’t really come out of the year feeling like I had achieved my goals. This was partly because of an early season injury and partly because of a mindset change. My vision of what I wanted to achieve on a bike changed. I wanted to focus less on hammering out miles and long sufferfests and more on downhill skills. Because of this my beginning of the year goals didn’t really mesh with my end of the year goals. I tried to adjust as I went along but it left me feeling a little unsatisfied. I felt that I had achieved so much over the year but I didn’t have that clear feeling of success. Then I started thinking about my goals for this year. I do really well with goals. I love the process of achieving them. They help me stay on task. I started thinking about trail features that scare me and I started thinking about speed. However, more importantly I started to think about the process. Big(ger) features and more speed is a hard thing for me to tackle. It’s scary and it is messy. While looking at a feature the task frequently seems so cut and dry– just ride off the damn thing (with body positioning in mind). There is so much to learn about body positioning and line choice, but so much of it just comes down to courage. You just have to pull yourself together and ride the damn thing. Then I started thinking about courage. I started to think about how to get the courage, and for me so much of it is wrapped up in how I feel when I don’t do something or don’t pull it off they way I want to.
Then I read some of Syd Schultz’s posts about doing things you are bad at and it really hit home. I have perfectionist disease and I really hate being bad at things, especially in front of people. But you know what kills courage? Being terrified of failure and not allowing yourself to suck at something. Most of the time it isn’t even about being bad at something. Instead it is about not being as good as you would like to be at something (hence the name perfectionist disease). Well you know what? Having the courage to be bad is the first step to having the courage to ride tricky features. And that is what No Apologies is all about. We are not going to apologize for not being perfect because we aren’t perfect. We are learning. We are pushing ourselves and we will fuck up. We will case that jump, ride a sloppy line, be scared, push our bikes over and up, but we will do that while knowing that we will do better next time. Part of the process of growing is doing all of the above. It is about being out there, trying, and not apologizing for who you are or where you are in the process. It is about being okay with vulnerability.
I have been getting a little dorky about teaching theory, and someone recently told me about this video by Carol Dweck. I loved it and have officially made it my goal this year. I have already been working on this, but it feels good to have an official goal. For me, mountain biking is the perfect place to practice my growth mindset. I am going to replace “can’t” and “didn’t” with “not yet.” I am going to give myself permission to fail. I hope that you will join me in my quest to view failure in a new way, because in the words of Leonard Cohen, “there is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in.” Let’s get out there and there and enjoy the process!