When I was nine years old, my older cousin got a brand new chopper bicycle for his birthday and it was probably the coolest bike I ever saw. With its hot lime green chassis, checker-board banana seat, and a sports car-inspired gear shift affixed to the bike body just in front of the seat, this bike looked more like a hot rod than a conventional bicycle.
The first time I saw it, I wanted so badly to take it for a spin, and so I ran to my older cousin and asked him if I could take his bike for a ride around the block. Given how it was a new bike and I was only nine, my older cousin clearly had no interest lending his bike to me.
Every summer after that, when we went to visit my uncle, aunt and my cousin, it was always the same answer my cousin gave me when I asked him once more if I could try his bike – “No”. Despite those repeated negative answers to my query, I never once wavered in my eagerness and anticipation of one day riding that bike.
A couple of years pass by, and on one of our summer trips to my uncle and aunt’s place, my aunt tells me how my older cousin is going to be taking his driver’s test soon. Given how he’ll be driving around town, my aunt tells me that he has little use for his chopper bike. She then looks at me and asks “Would you like to take his bike home with you?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. After years of asking my cousin to let me ride his chopper bike, his mom was now offering to make it mine. It didn’t take long for me to blurt out a very excited “Yes!”.
Of course, my parents being the pragmatic types thought that I should try the bike first before accepting it. Given how I’d waited years just to ride this bike, I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to actually own it. So I assured my parents that this bike was a good fit and so we packed up the bike and headed back to Montreal.
As we got home late that evening, I couldn’t try out my new bike until the next day which I figured was okay as that meant that I could show it off to my friends the next morning when I biked over to the neighbourhood park.
The next day, I went out to the garage, excited that I was finally going to be able to take this bike out for a ride. As I rode off our driveway and onto the street, though, I had an unexpected realization about this chopper bicycle – it was just a bike.
For years, I had built in my head this grand notion of what it would feel like riding this bike; of feeling that rush of excitement as I raced down the street on this eye-catching bicycle. As it turned out, riding this bike didn’t feel any different from riding any other bike.
So instead of being this amazing, exhilarating ride, it was actually unremarkable and even at times uncomfortable, especially when it came to changing the gears as the shift handle was difficult to reach. It comes as no surprise then why this bike remains the only one I’ve ever seen that had the gear shift placed down on the bike frame between the handlebars and the bike seat.
Now while my story ended in disappointment, but with an important life lesson on how sometimes things don’t live up to our expectations, I want to share another story – specifically, that of a painter – and how the contrast between his experience and mine can shed light on what leaders need to do to help their employees to succeed. Click here to continue reading »