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Apr 3
Learning Leadership in Moab
There is a something magical about riding a bike. And there is something beyond magical about riding a bike in Moab, Utah. Last week, I joined seven longtime friends on a two-day adventure of mountain biking across the sand and slick rock that is uniquely found in Moab.
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Between the sore muscles, scrapes, steaks, Gatorade and near constant laughter, I found glimpses of inspiration on the Porcupine Trail (that is me in the yellow sleeves). These glimpses reminded me of the importance of good friends, trust, balance in life, community and teamwork.

Moab is one of those special places on the earth and perhaps mountain biking mecca. It is not just its beauty, but the feeling it engenders among its inhabitants and visitors. There is a shared joy and sense of community among those we met on the trail, as if we were somehow linked together in a common quest to not only survive but conquer the elements, rock and gravity.

Don’t get me wrong, it is mostly fun and laughter but I also observed some important leadership lessons from the experience as we rode one of the top rated mountain bike rides in the U.S.

I came back with this:

Adapt – Going uphill requires patience, balance, perseverance and burning legs and lungs. Gravity owns you. Suddenly, gravity which has been your enemy, turns friendly as you reach the summit and start downhill. The skill set required to successfully ride changes. While you no longer work against gravity, you can’t relax too much lest you find yourself in a heap from too much speed. Arms, back and shoulders are required to guide the bike as it hurls over rock, drops and turns. Terrain also causes one to adapt as your bike and required effort changes as you ride on slickrock, sand, packed trail or loose rocks.

Vision - Like skiing or snowboarding, you look for a “line” when you ride downhill on a bike. You must constantly look ahead and adjust your speed, steering and position on the bike to account for changes in the trail and terrain. Look to the side or directly in front of you (not out ahead) and you may get severely hurt. Your fellow riders may attack the trail differently or take a different line. It is not so much that there is one perfect line, you just have to find your line and commit to it. Not planning or looking ahead and a crash is the likely result.

Risk – Throughout a ride, there are many risks. Taking risks is part of the experience and admittedly part of the fun. Attempting to conquer more difficult and challenging terrain is the only way to improve. However, foolish and cavalier riding may result in serious injury to you and others on the trail. In one section of our ride, it may have resulted in death as we rode near cliffs. Assessing risk and measuring it against one’s ability is critical.

Teamwork – On one of our rides, a rider from our group had a broken chain thatMoab Teamwork could not be repaired. Finding ourselves several miles from any aid, the choices were few. Fortunately, we were near the summit. He was able to use gravity over much of the terrain to get down the hill. As we hit a flat dirt road that led us back to our vehicle, we still had miles to go. With the disabled bike and rider in the middle, two riders pushed from each side forming a “flying V” that enabled us to literally fly down the road and return to our vehicle. Incrementally, no one person expended much more energy but the combined cooperative effort resulted in a great solution.

Adapting, having vision, measuring and taking risks and utilizing the strengths of a team contributed to a great time for me in Moab. These same principles can make us all better leaders and successful in our professional endeavors.

Thanks to David K, Hondo, the Beav, Smiley, Cousin Todd, Gordo and Red Leader for the great time. I appreciate your patience, friendship and sense of humor. Good luck Tara – don’t forget the salsa next time. Thanks to Chile Pepper bikes. And what about Pat and Terry? Doik a merle.

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