Start Off; Look Up and Pedal Hard !

When I was about 4 year old, I had a tricycle. I rode on it with all the gusto in the heart of a kid. I was happy, but I didn’t like the pedaling aspect of riding. It was “hard work” and tedious. So most times, I was pushed by someone else. I always needed help. Most times I begged for it. The cycle of dependency continued…a light push on a slope. Oh my! The downward roll was a thrill. A sure one. How I loved it. Now another problem, I always needed a slope. That means I was always returning to one spot…static movement. The joy of free riding was never my portion. Though I longed for it, as long as there was help, why should I bother to be independent?

Later on in life, I was too big to be on a tricycle. Learning how to ride a bicycle was the next thing to do…the next phase. So in a way I had graduated from the tricycle cadre. With all amount of youthful ecstasy and exuberance, I decided to learn how to use a bicycle. The only place I could get a bicycle to use was in my mum’s village, where we go for holidays; that was once in two years on my father’s permission.

My mum’s village is in the hinterland of South Eastern Nigeria. Farming and trading is the main stay of the people and each household had a Raleigh bicycle. It was generic like having a door in your house. The setting in the village is bucolic and it evokes serenity; pierced by the chirping of birds, the crowing of cocks and the bleating of goats. It’s never a dull moment or a cacophony. I love it there for many reasons. One was the very fact that my grandparents doted over me and my chores were self-determined aka I did virtually nothing except cater for the goats. It was a great life while it lasted. I dreaded going back to my daily chores with my parents.

The next holiday, I was on my way to the village and so the problem of a learning material / equipment was solved. Next on the agenda was learning itself. One of my buddies decided to help me out. He was a good rider. So we started the lessons. After the first trial he told me “Don’t look at the ground, if not you’ll be scared and that will lead to loss of concentration. Look up and paddle hard” That advise to me was foolishness in a three-piece suit. The truth of the matter was that I wanted to learn riding in my own way “How can I look up. I have to look down to see how I’m paddling” I fired back. “Moreover” I thought to myself “that advice is from the village guy, I’m the one from the township and I sure do have my way of doing things”. In other words, I rather sink in my ways than rise to the occasion and enjoy the thrill of fulfillment.

With every thought and action of mine I fought that principle of riding. The end result was that, I left the village after the holidays and didn’t learn how to ride. This was circa 1988. I continued in this state for a very long time.

Every time in school, when my class mates talked about bicycles and their riding experience, I just excuse myself with the fact that “I didn’t always have a bicycle when I was much younger. I’m quite old now”. I basically self-talked myself with excuses. Even when they offered to teach me the how of it, I declined. I was immobilized by my past failures. I never wanted to be laughed at. Every break period, I watch others “fly” on their bikes. All I did was wish how I could be like them but to take the step to be like them, I never ventured. I wish I could…I should have…I would…….All, a bash of wishful thinking.

Then in 1995, I had private lessons in one of my teacher’s house. The family had a bike and I watched the kids, young and old, strut their stuff on the bike. Some how I got into a private conversation with one of them and she told me she learnt how to ride the previous year. Then it dawn on me that I wasn’t late on learning. I got to know that you are not born with riding skills, you acquire it! It was a crude reality that dawn on me. I had no more excuses. Quickly, I confided in my buddy, Anointed Enoh, about my inadequacy. After the private lessons one evening, we secured the bike and went out together. After my initial trials he noticed I had a problem. He stared at me eyeball-to-eyeball and said, “ Believe you can do it and you’ll do it, don’t look at the ground. Look up and pedal ”. That hit me like a thunderbolt. “ I’ve heard that before” or does Anointed stay in my mother’s village? No! He was only relaying a universal principle in bicycle riding. I did as he said and that evening, I learnt how to ride. Woah !

There was something I got that evening that I wouldn’t trade for any other thing. It was the thrill of fulfilment; the ability to learn a skill and be independent. More like, I now knew what to do with a bicycle. Hahahaha. Oh!, a delicious gladness and the unmistaken joy that swept my soul. A boyish grin that pushed my cheek upward was all over me and that grin I tell you could swallow a banana sideways. That day, I realized that I need not be a Jackie Chan, in order to ride a bicycle!

From this experience are inundated valuable principles of life. One of them is that for every stage of life, there are things you need to learn in every stage of life before you graduate to the next level. If I had borne the burden of learning how to pedal a tricycle, I would have used that principle in a bicycle. Another thing I got to know was that, a guiding principle on a matter works anywhere in the world no matter who is operating it, who is learning it or who is teaching it. Principles make life predictable. If you drop an object from a height, without even looking at it, it will land on the floor. That is the principle behind gravity. You don’t need to be an Einstein to know this.

Also I got to know that you do not get things the way you want it; your own way. There is a way to do things, but most times we do not follow that way because it is “ strait and narrow”. Robert Frost calls it “The Path Less Travelled”. The truth is that if you follow this path and put yourself through it dictates and discipline, you’ll get the fat paycheck of success. This is simply because “ if you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good of the land”.

Another thing of repute that I learnt from that experience is that you don’t wish success into being. You work at it. You look out for the underlying principle behind an operation; work with it and with God on your side, success is scheduled. This is no magic. It’s real. In order to get something that you have not, you have to do something you have never done before. Get out of your comfort zone, stretch, strain, train, aim and before you know it, you are in. The coliseum wasn’t an accidental discharge, The Egyptian Pyramids were not wished into existence, Microsoft Corporation wasn’t a fluke. Men worked on their dreams, they persisted, they brought forth and you are seeing it.

I draw some comparison. Looking at the ground is a distraction. It is like waiting for the winds before you sail. If you keep watching the winds (economic situation, age, gender etc), you will talk yourself out of your dreams. Guess what? The wind is a legit reason to drop out from the race.

So let’s come down to level ground. What’s that dream of yours; that vision, that hope. Is it starting that business or proposing to that lady or going back to school? Etc. Then pick up the courage, cage the fear and do it. If it’s hard, then do it hard. Enjoy the abundant life. Share in the thrill of fulfillment. This phenomenon is inexplicable but let me try to describe it……it’s flying without wings, it’s waking up to see that your dream was real, it’s walking on air with the stars beneath you.

I will see you on the mountaintop where I’m heading.

To get there forget not this “ Don’t look at the ground, LOOK UP AND PEDAL HARD

Enjoy your day.

Gabriel Omin,

P/S Last weekend, my six year old learned how to ride a bicycle. It is either the principles of bicycle riding is still intact or he got tired of hearing “Look Up, Pedal Hard and Control”.