Succeed by practicing failure

My son cycling without stablisers

Like many proud fathers I recently taught my son to ride his bike without stabilisers. Well, I say taught, but in fact he already knew how to ride. He’d been riding a balance bike for years before he got his pedal bike. The pedal bike came with stabilisers, and he’d taken a step back and came to rely upon them too much as a result.

The pernicious fear of failure

In terms of ability, my son could already ride his bike without stabilisers. All he was lacking was the confidence. He needed to get over the fear of failure and the fear of falling off.

I recognised this fear in myself, having wasted many years of my own life paralysed by it. I figured the best way to get over this hump would be to ‘practice failure’ — once you get good at screwing up and recovering from it, it’s no longer such a daunting prospect.

Laugh in the face of fear

So I unbolted the training wheels and helped my son on to his bike. And then we just practiced falling off, falling over, and generally pratting around. We broke down the fear barrier by ridiculing it.

When the time came to actually ride his bike, I held on to him at first, but he almost instantly told me to let go. I’ll never forget that moment of watching him ride off all on his own whilst I stood there catching my breath. It’s another one of those ‘time capsule’ moments, a memory to be grateful for, and to cherish for the rest of my life. I couldn’t get my phone out quickly enough to take a picture. It doesn’t matter, I’ll never forget it.