Ruben Gonzales is a living, breathing success story. At 21 years old the Argentine immigrant kid moved from Houston to Lake Placid and took up the sport of Luge so that he could compete in the Olympics. Since then he’s competed in four different Olympic games in a sport where 14 out of 15 people quit before the end of their first year.

Yesterday in his blog, Olympic Motivation, (which is a must read for anyone who wants to learn to become successful) he shared how Success is Like Learning to Ride a Bike. Ruben spent some time over the last week or so helping his daughter, Gabriela, learn how to ride a bike for the first time. And he points out some universal lessons that we all can take away from their experience.

The brilliance is that most all of us have learned to ride a bike at one point or another in our lives, most of us as kids. We can all remember back to that experience. OK, some of you may have to work at remembering a bit harder than the rest of us. But if you think back to that experience you can take ownership of the lessons on success that you already learned in one area of your life. Then you can apply those same lessons in other areas to become more successful.

The Lessons

Success is Hard – When we were learning to ride we probably fell quite a bit. Falling hurts. And pain very quickly can lead to fear. And since fear is often overpowering, unless we have a way to overcome that fear we are unlikely to move forward.

This is true of most anything new we take on. Most likely we are going to make some blunders along the way and fall. And that fear of failure can be paralyzing and keep us from that success we crave. Are you trying to become successful in sales? You are likely going to a lot of folks decide not to buy from you.

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to learn foreign languages more readily than others? One of the things I’ve seen is that the folks who want to be able to say it perfectly and right before they speak learn a new language much more slowly than those who just dive in, make the mistakes and keep on talking. One person makes very few mistakes and leans the language very slowly while the other person says all sorts of silly things wrong and picks it up quickly.

I can’t tell you how many times in my own life I’ve lived the negative side of this principle out. I prefer to have everything all mapped out before I get started. When I feel I’ve thought of everything, only then would I be likely to take action. Then, when I inevitably fell because of my inexperience, too many times I’d just quit thinking I couldn’t do it.

To become successful, that pattern has to stop. Right now.

Successful People Have Coaches – Fortunately for folks like me Ruben shares a practical way to overcome our fear and press on through it: Get a coach. Ruben’s story of how he coached his daughter is a powerful reminder that we can tap into because most of us had someone there to help us the first time we got on a bike.

Ruben shares an incredibly powerful example of the value of Coaches to keep us from quiting from his luge training here.

As soon as you step off the sled the adrenaline rush hits you. The fear hits you like a sledgehammer. Wheeeeeewwww!!!! I’m never doing that again! That’s it, I’m going back to soccer. Soccer’s warm, it’s soft, and it’s FUN!You want to quit with every fiber of your being!

Fortunately, there’s a walkie-talkie waiting for you at the finish…

I pick up the walkie-talkie, and say, “Coach, this is Ruben…”

Remember I was ready to quit? In the last 18 years I’ve taken thousands of luge runs. I’ve wanted to quit after every single one!… It only took talking to Coach for 30 seconds to get me back on the sled. If it had not been for the walkie-talkie, I never would have made it to the Olympics. The walkie-talkie kept me from quitting.

How many times have we quite simply because we didn’t have that 30 second conversation with a coach when we were afraid?

We will never achieve all the success we are capable of without a coach. We are not an island to ourselves. At least we aren’t if we want that success!

Breaking Through the Fear Makes it Fun – Here is the payoff. Once we break through the fear we start to enjoy what we have taken on. With the bike riding we experience the freedom that comes with being able to ride much further and faster than we could ever go on our feet. We can go fast and feel the wind whip by. Or we can go slow and pay attention to the scenery. We can even do crazy things like ride without holding onto the handle bars.

Most of the jobs I’ve had in my career have been high stress jobs where I was responsible for making sure things got done the right way. The challenge was that all kinds of things would go wrong and it was up to me to sort them out quickly so they didn’t cost the company money.

For the first couple of years I would go to work every day with a little bit of fear about what would go wrong that day and would I be able to sort it out.

But I remember one morning, just after I woke up. I had a thought that changed everything for me in that job. That was the moment I realized that no matter what went wrong, I’d be able to handle it. Suddenly the fear left me and my job became fun. My whole attitude changed at work because I was no longer afraid of messing up. Interestingly I was quickly promoted after that. Twice. Hmmm….

The bottom line is we all need coaches in areas we want to overcome our fears and achieve success. Then we will break through our fear. The work will become fun. And we will be able to look back and savor our success.

Be sure to check out Ruben’s blog and subscribe to his feed. You’ll be glad you did. And you’ll be more successful for it!


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