What Learning to Ride a Bike Taught Me About Self Confidence and Success

Self confidence is one of the keys to personal and professional success that I discuss in several of my books: Straight Talk for Success, Your Success GPS and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  If you want to become self confident you need to do three things.  First, become an optimist.  Believe in your heart of hearts that today will be better than yesterday and that tomorrow will be better than today.  Second, face your fears and act.  Procrastination and inaction destroy confidence.  Action creates it.  Third, surround yourself with positive people.  Hold tight to the positive people in your life; jettison the negative ones.

The other day, I saw a great quote by John Burroughs that goes to the heart of self confidence…

“A man can get discouraged many times, but he is not a failure until he begins to blame somebody else and stops trying.”

Self confident people keep trying when others give up.  There’s no other way to success.  Yes, you will have some failures in your life – some of them may even be spectacular failures.  But you are not a failure until you quit.

You’re not a failure until you let your fear of failure stop you from even trying.  Successful people treat their failures as temporary setbacks and learn from them.  Unsuccessful people see their failures as permanent and give up.

I love to bicycle.  However, this wasn’t always the case.  I had a tough time learning how to ride a bike when I was a kid.  When I couldn’t learn when most of the kids my age did, I gave up.  My sister, who is four years younger than me, learned to ride a bike before I did.  As a matter of fact, I finally learned to ride on her bike.

I remember the day I learned.  My frustration with not being able to ride was getting the better of me.  Betty’s bike was parked in front of our house.  I was sitting on it with my feet touching the ground, trying to get up enough courage to learn to ride.  Stevie, my next door neighbor, said, “Come on Bud.  This is the day you’re going to learn to ride.”

My frustration with not being able to ride, and the support of Stevie, helped me decide that that day was indeed going to be the day I learned to ride a bicycle.

We pushed the bike to the top of the little hill in front of my house.  I got on.  Stevie said, “I’ll hold you to make sure you don’t fall.”  Instead, he gave me a hard shove that started me rolling down the hill. 

I was terrified, and then exhilarated, once I figured out that my balance was holding and that I indeed was riding a bike.  I started to pedal on my own.  I went a couple of blocks, turned around and rode home.  I could ride a bike!

Two things came together that day to give me the confidence I needed to break through my fear of falling off the bike.  First, I was frustrated that all the kids in the neighborhood, including my little sister, could ride a bike and I couldn’t.  I was ready to face my fear of falling.  Second, Stevie believed in me.  It was kind of scary to learn by being pushed down a hill – kind of like learning to swim by being thrown in the deep end – but he saw something in me that I didn’t and he let me see for myself that I could ride a bike if I chose to do so.

That’s two of the three ingredients to self confidence.  I faced my fear and acted.  I let someone else who believed in me help me.  Now, almost 50 years later, I ride my bike almost every day.  It’s great exercise and I love it.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are self confident.  Self confident people are optimistic, face their fears and act and surround themselves with positive people.  All three are important.  But of the three, I think that facing your fear and acting is the most important by a whisker.  Action cures fear and builds self confidence.  I vividly remember my fear turning to exhilaration the day I learned to ride a bicycle.  What exhilarating experience are you denying yourself because you’re afraid to try?  My advice: find a positive person to help you and go for it.

That’s my take on building your self confidence by facing your fears and acting.  What’s yours?  Please take a minute to leave a comment.  Share a personal story where you broke through your fear of something and took positive action that not only built your confidence, but contributed to your success.  As always, thanks for reading.

Bud

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Comments

  1. A very inspiring post! I’ve even taken notes for my advice notebook….

    At the moment I am surrounded by negative family members…not much I can do about that, but I do try to surround myself with positive friends. These past two weeks I’ve been paralyzed with inaction, and your post has inspired me again.

  2. Thanks Mary:
    I hope things are getting better.
    BB

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