Hey everyone, I love to go into the archives of best selling author and co-founder of the LIFE business Chris Brady to share his wisdom. Chris is able to use everyday life experiences to teach powerful life lessons. I myself love riding motocross so this article hit home with me! Enjoy and use this lesson to get better today.
In my crazy teenage years I became consumed by a magnificent obsession. It was on my mind in the morning, afternoon, evening, and night. As my tee shirt at the time said: I ate, drank, slept, walked, talked, breathed, and lived motorcycles; specifically, motocross.
This was a little before the X-game craze; back when riding a motocross bike meant speed around a track more than tricks in the air. Still, the obstacles of a typical course were challenging and required all sorts of aerial maneuvers for effective racing. Chief among these was something called the Double Jump (and its cousin the Triple Jump, operating in much the same way).
The concept is simple. Two jumps are placed a significant distance apart. The fastest way to negotiate that part of the track is to hit the first jump and clear the second one, ideally landing on its downslope. This is called “Doubling.” Wherever a double jump existed on a track, to be among the fastest riders and therefore have a chance of claiming the trophy, bragging rights, and adoration of “pit tootsies,” one had to Double. To hit both jumps individually was slow and downright embarrassing. There is nothing like having all the endorphins in motion a teenager can muster while controlling a highly tuned racing machine only to have another such teenager fly past you in the air. The thought of it can still keep me awake at night. Besides, doubling meant flying much higher and farther through the air, and heck, that was worth it all by itself.
So we (my buddies and I) had to learn to double. We literally dug into the project. Every day after school we’d grab our shovels and head out to our make-shift practice track behind the Johnson’s house across the street from my own. Spade-full after spade-full we’d hurl, until eventually we had constructed a pretty fair replica of what we were seeing on the official tracks on the weekends.
And of course, we all raced to be the first to try it out.
Everything is different the first time one approaches a double jump. It’s the same terrain leading up to it, but the whole time the rider is aware of the challenge on the horizon. Somewhere in the far reaches of your mind the task ahead looms largely like a heavy cloud over the rest of the track. It doesn’t help that your buddies are usually watching, too, ready to laugh, point, jibe, or call an ambulance, in whatever combination they feel appropriate. Finally, the jump is just around the next corner. You fumble your way through it, making the worst turn through that section ever. The nerves are building. The tingle in your throat is there. Your heart is beating hard in your chest. Your breathing slows into shallow little flutters. And then you reach it; the point of no return. It’s that moment when you either goose the throttle all the way in total commitment or wimp out and back off, desperately searching for a plausible excuse for your cowardice. It’s in that moment when you find out what you’re made of, when you learn if you’ve got what it takes to push yourself beyond the limit, when you discover if you have courage. Your boldness (or lack thereof) is now public, your lunacy confirmed or denied. And usually, you clear the thing by twenty feet!
“That wasn’t so bad!” is the normal response. The hardest part was truly deciding to do it; to wick that throttle all the way at that critical moment of no return and hang on for dear life.
Following a successful jump, one is then qualified to ‘encourage’ the others to do it, too, with helpful rejoinders such as “Come on, you sissies, it was nothing!”
Sometimes, however, the story goes a little differently. In the moment where it counts, where there is no turning back, where one must fully commit to jumping the double, some hesitate, back off, or chicken out. Usually this occurs when it is officially too late to turn back, when one’s speed is too high to safely hit each jump individually but not high enough to actually clear the second one. The result is not pretty. The term for it is “casing” the second jump. Normally, when a rider reduces throttle suddenly in a panic and hits the first jump, the back of the motorcycle rises up menacingly while the front sinks like a stone. This combination, while hurling through the air at the face of the second jump, is enough to scare anyone out of their wits. It is also enough to cause serious bodily harm. Look through any collection of YouTube videos of this event to see what I mean. It is calamitous, and it was entirely caused by the hesitation of the rider. In most cases, if he (or she) had just stayed with their commitment to clear the double and not backed off or hesitated, they would have been fine. But logic is a little chicken when fear comes around.
This little lesson in motocross dynamics is more than just a stroll down memory lane, it’s a metaphor for life. As we live out our days, we will be confronted with many figurative Double Jumps. What had been normal before will be changed by some event or opportunity on the horizon. Mustering the boldness, courage, fortitude and guts to hurl ourselves over the obstacle will usually result in all sorts of rewards and self-satisfaction. Failing to handle it so well will likely result in damage, loss, and regret. The result is up to us. And usually, it all comes down to our response in that one small moment of decision.
Will we have the guts to do the right thing? To stand our ground? To accelerate when most sane people would say to slow down? To push for great when good is so enticing? To serve others even when it hurts? To try our hardest when others are loafing? To push through the fears at the edge of our comfort zone and go into new territory? To force ourselves to fly higher and farther than ever before? To face up to ourselves in ways that show us what we’re truly made of? To find out if we’ve got what it takes? To learn once and for all if we have courage or are a coward?
Perhaps most people don’t want to face up to these hard moments in life. Perhaps they don’t really want to learn what’s inside because they think they might not like what they’ll see. That’s understandable. But just like that bunch of Michigan teenagers in a vacant field in the ninteen-eighties, you won’t know until you try. And I personally believe that you’ll like the feeling of pushing past your comfort zone and confronting your fears, even if you crash and burn a few times. Eventually, with enough attempts, with enough bold decisions in the face of fear, you’ll discover just how far and how high you can fly. Prepare to surprise yourself!