Do you remember the first time you rode your bicycle without training wheels?
After many hours of practice and countless falls, standing up and trying once again—can you remember that exhilarating and frightening surge of freedom?
Finally your neurons made the requisite connections and your muscles acquired enough strength to master the simultaneous skills (even if only for a few yards) of pedaling with enough force to move ahead, balancing between left and right, while also directing the handlebar where you wanted to go.
For so many American youth, this is a pivotal moment in childhood: An occasion of pure presence. An indelible episode imprinted into our memories. A greatly anticipated achievement portending increased autonomy.
I took my first ride on a potato farm in a valley of the Teton Mountains. The daughter of two Air Force officers, we were stationed at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, but during the summer of 1987 we had traveled to Salt Lake City for my father’s twentieth high school reunion and went on to reconnect with our familial tubers in Idaho.
Thousands of miles away from my own bicycle at home, I tired of the adults’ conversation after dinner. My extended family unearthed an old bicycle among the myriad garages and potato sheds on the property to remedy my six-and-three-quarters-year-old restlessness. As I looked at the frame mottled with rust and chipping blue paint, I was struck by a sensation of heaviness in my stomach that had little to do with the dinner I had just finished:
Gulp. This was a big bike.
Double gulp. This bike had no training wheels.
I hesitated, wondering how badly I actually wanted to ride tonight. But somehow, someway, someone must have convinced me to give it a go, because my next sliver of memory is straddling the bicycle in front of my Great Aunt’s farmhouse. The sun was drawing long shadows across the driveway as it set, and I could feel the gravel tugging the wheels back and forth beneath me as I pedaled the oversize frame forward.
My father was behind me steadying the bike, so I didn’t need to worry about balancing… until I heard hoots and shouts from my family informing me that I was doing it! Terrified rather than delighted, I looked behind me and confirmed my fears—and in doing so, down I went!
Albert Einstein is famously attributed for the following quote in a letter to his son: “It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.”
In the wake of that fall, my perspective opened up like the big Idaho sky around me: If I could do it once unknowingly, surely I could face the fear and do it again. The next time I wouldn’t look back; predictably I would keep my balance and continue ahead. When we returned home from our trip, off came the training wheels.
As time passes I continue to experience the truth of Einstein’s metaphor: riding a bicycle is indeed similar to how we move through life. And I believe it is an even more profound analogy than the context of Einstein’s letter in 1930 originally allowed.
In my last position I served as an interim leader in an organization that implemented the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), the same system in use by Abundance NC. As I helped our organization clarify its vision and increasingly gain traction toward that vision, I found it helpful to imagine the complementary leadership energies of Visionary and Integrator as the two wheels of a bicycle.
The front wheel represents the work of the Visionary, connected to the handlebars and guiding the organization along the path toward its vision. The rear wheel represents the work of the Integrator, connected to the drive train and converting the collective force of the organization into traction with each revolution of the chain.
Without the benefit of forward momentum empowered by the Integrator, a Visionary struggles to direct the organization toward a shared vision. And lacking the guidance of the Visionary, an Integrator is prone to riding in circles rather than progressing ahead. In order for an organization to holistically and effectively pursue its vision, a symbiotic relationship must exist between Visionary and Integrator with each fulfilling his or her unique and important function in the organization.
Moreover as I observed the individual members of our team on our shared EOS journey, I observed that we, the soul-embodied beings that we are, blend these complementary leadership energies within ourselves when it comes to the business of our own lives.
We each have a personality, an ego, which drives us forward in the world. It is connected to the energy of the earth through our lower three chakras. But left to its own devices, our Integrator, our Human Doing, can drive us in circles and carve a deep rut as we tend to our animal impulses and the mundane details of our lives.
We also each have a soul expression—our values and beliefs, our highest thoughts and feelings—that aligns us with a Life Force beyond our individual physical manifestation. It is connected to the energy of the heavens through our upper three chakras. But without traction in our day-to-day lives, our Visionary, our Human Being, drifts through our days, unable to achieve what it came here to do.
To use EOS language, it is when our Visionary and our Integrator, our souls and our bodies, our being-ness and our doing-ness get on the Same Page that the magic happens. Here—from the shared framework of our heart center—is where the ride of our lives truly begins.
Can you feel that exhilarating and frightening surge of freedom as you align yourself with your heart’s desire?
Liz Anderson Simmons is passionate about cultivating breakthroughs. She engages with her work as an artist, writer, life coach, authentic leader, group facilitator and mother. Together with her husband, Eric, they hope to see their son take his first ride sans training wheels this summer. If you would like to explore the ride of your life with Liz, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.