Ride On! Mountain Biking as a metaphor for life (& job search!)

I love mountain biking; the speed, the challenge, the woods, the bike … but when I first started I learned some hard lessons pretty quickly.  For me mountain biking is a bit counter intuitive to regular or road biking. And, while I love all types of biking, mountain biking challenges me in a way that the others don’t (at the most fundamental level, because its just plain scarier!).

When you are on a regular or road bike, you are sitting on the seat, looking around, keeping a consistent cadence and pacing yourself for the long ride.  (I know a little about this too as this is the 23rd year that I am riding the MS 150 – sponsor me!!).  It’s an exercise in endurance and fitness along with patience and a zen attitude.

When I’m mountain biking, this approach works against me. There are so many obstacles in the way, I need to be constantly changing speed, gears and totally present for what might appear in my path. At any turn, I could crash, get hurt and/or damage my bike. The risk and fear is a big part of the attraction, it kicks my adrenaline into gear (pun intended) and makes the finish all the more gratifying because I challenged myself physically, mentally and emotionally.

Like the woman in the picture above, mountain biking is most fun when you are …

~ slightly off your seat and sitting back.  While killer on my thighs, it’s the best way to keep from going over the handle bars and saves you from a sore of butt.

~ loose in the shoulders and elbows.  You never want to hunch your shoulders or straighten your elbows, these are natures shock absorbers and if they are locked up, you’ll feel it the next day.

~ relaxing your grip on the handle bars with one finger on the brake.  Its good to always have the brake working for you as you steer and letting the bike bounce around in your palms is another way to more easily navigate the bumps of the front wheel.

~ gazing 10-20 feet in front of the bike. I want to see whats coming, so that I can navigate and enjoy the view.

~ pedaling. This is an inside joke at our house.  The first time I took my husband mountain biking, I was adamant “no matter what is in your way, keep pedaling!”.  Sure enough, we are 2 miles into a trail in Cable Wisconsin, there is a HUGE mud puddle in front of us, it comes 1/2 way up the tires.  I’m so proud of him, he keeps pedaling and makes it through. I, on the other, dont follow my own advice, freeze up and stop pedaling 1/2 way through the puddle.  What happens?  I tip over and now am fully covered in muddy water. Good lesson and endless ribbing from him.

~ acknowledging and moving through the fear factor.  You don’t mountain bike to avoid the fear, you do it to conquer and face your fears, pushing yourself to limits you didn’t know you had.

I’ve used the above as reminders in my life, whether navigating family, friends, health or career. Right now, I’m putting them to work in my job search.  How?

Lean back, be loose, observe, enjoy the variety (& the view), keep pedaling and face the fear!!  Examples:

Lean back – This is hard for me, I’m action oriented and am a driver. But, the most rewarding conversations have come from the most unexpected places. I’ve gotten great advice from career psychologist, emerging leaders, retirees and sector shifters.  If I had only focused my networking on the decision makers that could hire me, I would have missed out on a really rich community of people.

Be loose – For me this comes down to trust. Trust that the right opportunity will appear at the right time, for all involved. I have to constantly remind myself that, while at Target, 6 of my last 8 jobs didnt exist before I was in them!  My next role also might now exist (yet).  Or it might be in a space that I dont anticipate.  I need to have a plan, direction and goals, but I also have to be ready for what presents itself. I fully believe it will be much better than I can even imagine.

Observe – Over the last 2 years, I’ve been tracking job openings that I’m interested in. I notice who’s hiring, which search firm they are using and who are the hiring? It’s taught me a LOT about the sector, expectations and needed skill sets.

Enjoy the variety – As I mentioned in my day in the life blog, I am trying to balance my networking, board work, volunteer work and family. This is hard but … its also what is making the search fun. I have opportunities to learn, contribute and spend some unique time with my kids. No two days are the same, and every day I have an ‘ah ha’ moment of learning.

Keep peddling – For most of my job search, I haven’t actually been in a ‘live’ interview process. This can easily feel like I’m not making progress.  And, there have been days where I’ve wondered – is anything I’m doing making a difference in this job search?!  Then I remember, these are connections and learnings that I will take with me anywhere I go, giving me a much faster “up” time as well as a built in network of advisors and cheerleaders for when I DO land in a new role.  That usually gets me out of bed pretty quickly:)

Face the fear – I’m pretty sure job search is one of our most basic human fears. It hits right to our self worth. For me its an inner dialog of …Do I have the skills needed? Will my experience be valued? What is no one “wants” me? What if I’m not successful in this job? What if I’ve made a mistake with this career change? etc etc etc.  For me, I’ve had to face those inner voices and counter them with … I have great experience that is translatable. I am a good leader, not because of who/what I know but because of how I connect with people.  I have a lot to offer AND a lot to learn.  I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and gol darn it, I’m worth it (major SNL throwback….)

What are your thoughts? What helps you lean back, be loose, observe, enjoy the ride, keep pedaling and face your fears?

Now I think I’m going for a ride…

Ride on!