There is no straight line
I was taught it was linear. Hard work in, good result out. I always fought for that straight line.
I took economics in college, I would have gotten a C if my insanely smart roommate Anne had not explained it to me in English. I got a B. The curve helped.
In my business, I believed that if I took care of our team and customers, the payoff was I got to keep paying the bills and there would be something left. That was the plan. I remember years when I worked more hours than seemed humanly possible and there was nothing left.
The work and lack of progress seems even worse for the next generation of our families. Our 20 and 30 year old children and nieces and nephews are wildly stressed. If it isn’t sick (or not sleeping) young ones, it is the long hours, or lack of career advancement or challenging relationships. They lament the lack of sleep, the lack of time, the lack of intimacy (or the lack of time for intimacy).
As I listened to all their stories over the holidays, I realized that I haven’t provided good counsel for them, although I’m not sure they ever asked or even want to hear my advice. But if they did I would tell them, there is no straight line. There isn't even a reliable curve.
Biking proved this to me again. Most days I get up and I think, “are these my legs, why won’t they move?”, “how can I possibly be so tired?”. I wonder, “where is the improvement?”
Just like our kids ask, “are the children ever going to stop waking up at night?” “Is the boss ever going to recognize me for all the hard work?”, “Will these people stop turf fighting at work?”
We work on it (whatever it is -raising children, work, relationships, biking) and nothing improves.
We are mired in desolate static.
Until it is different.
For me, biking was different this past weekend. I was at the Tour de Palm ride in Palm Springs. 100+ miles in one day.
We started off biking through fields and fields of electric generating windmills. You know when you do that, there is going to be wind, right? We rode through the wind.
I picked myself up after a minor slide out on gravel at mile 18. I ate sweet fresh dates, bananas, and fig newtons. It was my guy’s first century and his work limits his biking time so somewhere along the way I got in front and “pulled” (you use less energy if you tuck in behind someone). At eighty-some miles a young man pulled up beside me and said “thanks for the pull. I wouldn’t have made it here without you.” I grinned. He slid back.
I pedaled some more. A few miles later, I pumped my fist and shouted, “I’M READY”.
I passed an older gentlemen struggling uphill. I said, “Come on, we can do this. We're almost there.” He caught up at the next light and said, “Thanks, I needed that.” I grinned and thought, “I’m ready.”
I crossed the finish line with a reserve of strength. I felt like I could go another twenty miles, which is good because on our tour there is a 119 mile day.
These last months have been full of long stretches of uncertainty where I couldn't see progress. The Tour de Palm reminded me there is no straight line. The payoff of the months of work was joyful and breathtaking. Finally, I jumped over the straight line, slid off the curve.
21 days to departure. I'm ready.