My daughter is riding her bike in the driveway right now. Last year, I took her to a school parking lot and in an hour, got her to pedal on her own. Yesterday, she started getting the hang of starting on her own.
If any of you have children, you’ve probably gone through what I’ve gone through. The child first has an expectation that riding a bike is like, well, riding a bike: it’s easy and anyone should be able to master it first time out. After a few scrapes and near misses, the child goes through the frustration/tears portion of the experience and begins blaming the bike, the driveway and, inevitably, the parent. It’s at that point, that the child either storms away to rant at the world, melts into a pool of tears or gets up and tries to ride again.
As a parent, you realize fairly quickly how out of control you really are. You can try to shower praise, “great fall, honey!”, or promise rewards, “if you are able to ride, you get a cookie!”, or threats, “no dinner until you learn to ride”. But you know that there is not much else you can say, other than perhaps the truth: “Yes, honey, it’s hard, and it will take some time before you’ll feel comfortable. You might have to try a hundred times before you get it the way you want.” It really, though, is up to the child; will she try again or will she not?
Yesterday, my daughter did go through the tears/frustration/blame portion — she even managed to blame her older brother (who was nowhere in sight) for a training-wheels incident that happened a few years ago! — and I gave her every out. But, for some reason, she kept at it and this morning she was riding and braking and chatting (not necessarily in that order) like she had done it all her life.
Funny thing about motivation. No one can give it to you. It’s gotta come from yourself. You either want to do something, or you don’t, and the reasons usually have very little to do with external rewards; they usually have to do with some inner itch that only you can scratch.
What others can do for you is help show you how to get something done, make sure you have what you need to get it done and give you permission to fail. In my mind, the last is the most important. People who have the right motivation can deal with little in the areas of training or resources (they just become McGyver-like in terms of coming up with tape-glue-and-string inventions to get them where they want to go), but they have to feel that if they don’t get it right, they can pivot to try something else.
Jim Estill, who created a 2 billion dollar company by selling computers out of the trunk of his car, says that one rule of success is that you fail often, fail fast and fail cheap. In times like these, with budgets stretched thin and with stress at an all time high, it may sound silly to think of failing, but that is what you have to do, if you are going to persevere to find what will not fail, what will put you in a position to win. Can you fail big? No. Can you devote a lot of time and resources to throw good money after bad? No. But should you try a different things, spend little on them at first, be quick to kill them if they don’t produce but are willing to support and invest in them if they do? Yep.
Some might say, that the fear of failure, like motivation, is more internally than externally driven. They might be right. But I know I can’t motivate someone; what I might be able to do is to tell them it’s OK if they scrape their knee and hope they get up and try it again.