Project242: Embrace the Climbs

Project242 (P242) is my journey to bike 242 miles in 24 hours, across the state of Minnesota on gravel roads, in August, 2021 (the Day Across MN, or the DAMN). I’ve found many lessons experienced riding a bike can be applied to our careers. In these posts, I will share the correlations.

My Garmin said I was about to start a climb of 6%. Then, it went to 10%. Then 16%. Then, a short ramp up to 23%!! A quick check of the map confirmed there was no going around it. It was up this damn hill!!

Where I live is pretty flat, so when I got the chance to bike with others at a hilly state park, jumped at the opportunity. It was a half gravel and half single-track dirt trail route. It was starting out as a beautiful ride through the woods, with cool temps and light breezes. Then after a couple miles, the map looked like a roller coaster ride!

The climbs were BRUTAL! Steep grade and loose rock had me jumping off the bike a couple times to push it the rest of the way up the hill. I was gasping for air and after a while, my legs were burning. Because the person I was riding with is an experienced mountain biker, I watched some of his tactics and how to be more efficient during a long climb.

Standing at the base of a particularly hard climb readying myself for a 2nd attempt. The first try I only made it about 50 feet before hitting a rock and stopping

You know, for as bad as the climbs were, I embraced them! The stress of the climb helps make me stronger. And, I learned some climbing techniques from someone better at it than I am.

We’ve probably all heard and talked about “Climbing the Corporate Ladder.” Like pedaling up a steep grade, it can be a grind. Here are some tips I’ve learned when “climbing” higher:

Capitalize on opportunities to get stronger. Just as strengthening muscles helps you conquer hills on a bike, being self-aware can help you achieve and be successful when it comes to personal growth. When an opportunity presents itself to build your acumen, take it! Even if it’s uncomfortable in the short term, it can have long term benefits.

Learn from the wisdom of others. I’ve been biking for years, but I’d never seen anyone climb a hill the way my fellow rider did. When we got to the top, I asked about his technique, which he shared. Be humble enough to know you’re not an expert in everything. Put ego aside and ask for advice and help. The benefits of other’s wisdom will benefit you.

Find and exploit opportunities. During a particularly grueling climb, I looked ahead and saw a slightly smaller trail that would take a rider around a patch of big and loose rocks. I jumped on the path and switched back and forth a few times, coming back onto the main trail well above rough patch. As you continue to climb in your career, look for opportunities, wherever they may be. It may not be the fastest route to the top, but you’ll be in better condition when you get there!

Nourish your network. When our ride was done and got back to our vehicles, I pulled out a 6 pack of beer. My fellow riders appreciated the drink and we ended up talking for awhile. We also made plans to bike together again, and even invite a few more people which I’ll get to network with. As you grow professionally, you’ll meet more and more people. Create fruitful relationships within your network. Never know when you may need their help!

Recover from inevitable setbacks. Even after being shown some tips to make climbing easier, I had to jump off my bike a couple times and fell once. It happens. Setbacks will also happen in your career. Take time to appreciate it happened, then get after it again. Sometimes these setbacks occur due to external factors (i.e. reorg, company downsizing, back economy, etc). Other times, it’s your fault. In either case, you own your reaction.

Know when to change course. It didn’t happen when I was biking this day, but I’ve had to change course due to a trail closure, a tree down in my path, and one time a huge snarling dog. Careers don’t seem to progress as fast as we like, so if you feel stagnated at your company, it may be time to seek another with great opportunity to learn, grow and climb.

Climbs are hard. Whether you’re climbing a rocky trail on a mountain bike or the promotional trail at your company or in your career, count on it to be a lot of work. But, with taking advantage of opportunities, getting help from others, and knowing when to make pivots, you too can be successful. Keep climbing!!

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