My Commencement Address to the Class of 2013
May 28, 2013 at 8:48am
When you learn to ride a bike as a child you’re learning so you could be like all your friends. You need an activity to occupy your time until it’s ready to be taken over by a new activity. It’s mindless fun filled with imagination, excitement, speed, and no purpose. When you ride as an adult, it’s different. There usually is a purpose … a reason for riding the bike. Maybe you’re trying to get into or stay in shape. Maybe biking is your hobby or social time. Maybe you use the bike to commute to work.
Often, by looking at something just a little bit differently, you can understand it more. Often with that understanding comes appreciation, which is one of the many things that they don’t teach you in school, but you have to learn on your own. Life becomes vastly easier and infinitely better once you receive and understand this lesson. Perhaps I can enlighten you a bit here using something you should already know – riding a bike – with this commencement address.
We shall call this talk:
SH*T I LEARNED ABOUT RIDING A BIKE THE SECOND TIME I LEARNED TO RIDE A BIKE WHEN I WAS ALL GROWN UP
First, lets talk about the hills. You’ll find hills on every single journey. Some will be small and subtle, some will be big some will be quick and steep. Some will be long and subtle, some will be long and steep. You’re not going to escape them, and you can’t go around them.
As a kid, hills were a way to pick up speed and pretend you were flying. The hills you see as a grown up are a bit different. Part of that is perspective … as a kid, you focused on the speed and ease of the downhill … no thought to the climb as it was a means to get to the fun part. As an adult, you’ll focus on the challenge and agony and duration of the climb. This is natural … but you need to enjoy every second of the up and downs.
Going uphill, don’t keep your head down the whole time. When you are pushing yourself, it’s natural to tuck in, look at the ground, and focus on the tough task at hand. If you do that all the way up, you’re going to miss a lot of the scenery. Look up. Look around. See the views you pass by, as it might be the only time you’re in that place.
When you were a kid, the downhills were a place to go push to go as fast as you can. As a grown-up, it might be natural to do that as well. When things get easy, you’ll keep pedaling and pushing and trying to go as fast as you can. You don’t have to do that. It seems natural, to use the ‘easy’ time to fly harder and faster. But sometimes it’s OK to coast … it gives you time to take a breath and relax and enjoy the labor you put in to get there. You didn’t push up that incline just to race through the downhill, did you? Take a moment to enjoy the work you put in to get there.
Everyone falls. You will, and you will watch it happen to others.
If you fall because of your own doing, just pick yourself up and keep going. It happens to all of us. Dust yourself off and get back on. You’ll probably be scared … and scared is OK, sometimes.
When you’re the cause of someone else’s crash – and you will be – sincerely apologize. And when someone apologizes to you, accept it and move on. Don’t dwell on past incidents, other than making them a learning experience for everyone involved. Your ride is too short to hang onto grudges long after your skinned knees heal.
If someone keeps causing you to crash, simply stop riding with them. That seems so obvious … but somehow being all grown up complicates these sort of things. Know when to cut ties.
Enjoy the view. Pay attention as you pass things by. By doing this … learning and absorbing while you’re moving … you won’t have to stop and look behind you or turn around. This might mean you have to move a little slower. And that’s OK. You’re learning and absorbing as you are going, and that is never a bad thing.
Have trust that the people coming up behind you, and everyone around you, will do the right thing. Change that opinion once they show you otherwise, but give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Life is just easier if you think most people are capable of, and will do, the right thing. Some people won’t, and you’ll see very quickly who they are. Act quickly to steer away from them when you see that … but until then, stay the course.
Sometimes the people behind you are going to see your ass crack, but don’t worry about that. It’s not your problem. If they don’t like the view, they can pass you. They pick the view they focus on … you don’t control that. Focus on you.
Never stop pedaling. Always move forward, even if you’re only going fast enough to keep your balance. Life only passes you by when you stop … so don’t ever stop. It’s always easier to keep going rather than catch up … especially on the hills. It’s going to get hard. You might even have to get off your bike and walk with it a bit. But don’t just sit there. Keep moving forward.
And finally … remember what it was like to ride your bike like a kid. Carefree, with no purpose other than fun, with your bestest friends in the world. Sun up to sun down. Do that every now and again. Forget the race and the purpose and the NEED to ride. Just ride. Appreciation cannot happen without comparison. Keep the energy and spirit of your irresponsible youth alive by going back there every now and again.
And, most importantly, be safe, have fun, and have a GREAT ride.