How to Unicycle your way to success in business and life!

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\"UnicyclePicture the scene, it is a blustery day on the streets of Horwich (near Bolton for the uninitiated), the crowds are lining the streets in there……well……. 10’s and the 3rd National Unicycle Race is about to get under way!  At the start are an eclectic crew with ages ranging from 14 to 60, on a range of unicycles, from little 20” trick cycles right up to the 36” mile munching monster that I was riding.  I was feeling a little apprehensive, but broadly confident, there were some little girls and boys in the race and I was able to start mounted on Ulysses (yes I have named it) holding on to the railings. What could go wrong?

Cut to 2 minutes later – I am still on the start line, the rest of the field are several hundred metres down the road, the commentator is pointing out to the crowd that I am a recent convert to the ‘large wheeled machines’ and ‘to give me a cheer’ and I think I can hear my daughter laughing her socks off! This was my worst nightmare, quite literally. The night before, and for several other nights I had allowed myself to create this very scene in my head, it was the thing I most dreaded, the thing I was worried about, not being able to get going at the start!  Mounting a 36” unicycle is not the easiest feat in the world and practice does make perfect, but I had not factored in the high pressure stakes of a National Event!! I initially panicked and grabbed for the railings to try again, failed, then tried a half and half free mount / railing combo, nope! Then I managed to get a hold of myself, took a couple of deep breathes and stepped out into the middle of the road, embraced the circumstances, smiled broadly, played to the crowd and told them I would get there eventually!  I promptly perfected a perfect rolling mount to wonderfully generous applause and wobbled off on my first lap, hoping to be able to reel in the back markers (when I could see them!)

What followed was a torturous but hugely enjoyable 30 minutes or so, as the leaders lapped me (3x), a 14 year old boy \"unicyclelapped me (whilst generously encouraging me) and a little girl cruised past me on the home straight hill on a unicycle that was bigger than she was!  The whole experience provided a wonderful dose of humility and was a great experience to be part of.  At least I did not come last…. just!

As usual – it was only afterwards with a celebratory pint and a bag of nuts that I started to reflect on the experience and think about some of the key lessons and insights that are pertinent to success in life and in business.

  1.  Pre-Play is the difference that makes the difference – I am sure that you will have seen the documentaries and read the articles about professional sportsmen and women completing a race in their minds eye in perfect glorious technicolour success time and time again before the actual event. The theory being the brain and body have got the tape, the instructions are clear, just press play and repeat! The brain is a positive processor, give it an instruction and it will do your bidding! Stand over a golf ball on one side of a lake, tell yourself “don’t hit the ball in the water” and the chances are you will! I sub-consciously created the antithesis of the tape I needed – my image the night before the race was almost perfect – the noise, loneliness, embarrassment, failure, competitors disappearing into the distance, fumbling and unable to get on my steed….. yup, tick!! All that and more! If you are going to give yourself a good chance to succeed in anything, then create the space to ensure that you actively and powerfully envision success….. repeatedly.
  2. In order to grow and develop you need to commit – I had never before entered a unicycle race (in fact I had never entered a bike race either come to that), I had to commit to the event and the experience without knowing if I had the capability or confidence to see it through. This is the way the world works, to grow you have to enter the unknown, push yourself out of your comfort zone and find the courage that enables you to build the capability to succeed. It was a great learning experience to be in a situation where I was the absolute beginner, the person who knows nothing by comparison, the person other people helped.  I had the courage to try and have built my confidence as a result. (N.B See a previous blog about building confidence.)
  3. Setting goals is a way of stretching you, but you need to be able to reset them on the fly – I set out \"unicycleon my first lap with no real idea of what was possible (when the leader hit 7, you finished the lap you were on). I dared to aim for 3 laps (3 miles), slightly less than I had managed before on Ulysses. I just crossed the finish line on my 3rd lap about 30 seconds after the leader was finished, my race was over. I had hit my 3 lap target, but realistically I should have been able to do one more and would have been much happier if I had achieved 4. I did not recalibrate and reset my goal as I went and probably underperformed as a consequence.
  4. When everything goes pear shaped find something to celebrate and move on – I am proud of the way I dealt with my nightmare start. Proud of the moment I realised that I was panicking and flapping on the railings, and that I was hiding and wishing I wasn’t there, knowing that was going to get me nowhere. Consequently embracing the situation and enjoying the occasion, it was only my ego taking a bit of a battering after all, I was in the race and the crowd were just watching. Go Rich!! Shameless Hornblowing is the way forward.

I have a year to get into training for the National Unicycle Race of 2016 – perhaps see you there?!


4 responses to “How to Unicycle your way to success in business and life!”

  1. Michael Dunnr avatar
    Michael Dunnr

    Well done in the race. A lot off people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
    Credit where credit due you always give everything 100% . Planning is good but unless you are going to put it in action then there’s no point in planning.


    1. Richard avatar

      Thanks Mick – you are right, having a great plan is worth now’t if you don’t execute!! Not sure my plan was that cunning mind! 🙂

  2. An impressed observer avatar
    An impressed observer

    Just one build from me – Don’t belittle your achievements (even in jest)

    You had just competed in a unicycle race, because you can actually ride a unicycle (I struggle on two wheels let alone one) and yet you used the following phrase: At least I did not come last…. just!

    How many of us fall foul of that – we do something great and yet remove some of the shine by playing it down?

    I recently ran the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and I came 2101 out of 2921 for my gender. How bad is that! But hang on a minute, I ran for 13.1 miles without stopping – that’s bloomin’ fantastic.

    So in business and in life – lets be jolly proud of all we achieve and all we strive to do.

    1. Richard avatar

      Great spot and thank you for picking me up. Something I talk a lot to clients about, and reference in my blog, keep a focus on the positives, yet this always seems to be a fight against human nature! Onwards, upwards and forwards!!

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