3 Things I'm Thankful For

November 22, 2018

3 Things I'm Thankful For

True confession, I like to read self improvement books. I avoid the term self-help because I'm not in search of 'help' as much as I'm looking for continuous personal improvement. Jannine usually rolls her eyes when another one appears in the house (I like real books over digital) and reminds me of all the wonderful memoirs, autobiographies, and historical fiction I'm missing out on. She's right... but I can't help myself.

One of her biggest concerns is that the books I read are solely about business building and professional success. They are not. Even the most classic 'business books' out there are more about mindset and philosophy than they are about go-to-market strategies and product development cycles.

Anyway, this past year I read the book The Slight Edge as part of a coaching program that I've been fortunate to be a part of for the past 4 years. Jannine gave me a double eye roll when she saw the title of this one! I mean really, could the title "The Slight Edge" sound anymore like a business book that helps you outpace the competition and dominate your vertical? I can hear the infomercial now, "And if you order your copy of the Slight Edge right now, you'll also receive our 4 part DVD series called 12 ways to win every time and our limited edition 'I'm winning today' mouse pad." Trust me, it's not that.

The Slight Edge is fantastic and I highly recommend it to anyone whether you're a high flying corporate exec or a parent in the trenches of day to day survival (that's me). It's a simple and straightforward reminder about the small things you can do everyday to be happier and live the life you really want. It's about marginal gains and not massive changes.

Sure, there are a lot of big things we can do too, but I love the simplicity of finding a few things that are relatively easy to do day in and day out that have long term positive impacts.

And my favorite example? Write down three things you are thankful for every day. Pretty simple right? Well it was for a while and each day for the past 10 months I journaled in the morning and wrote down three things I was thankful for in that particular moment. And it worked!

On those days when the stress of work and home life reached a high point, and the feeling of running in quick sand was taking over my normal positive thinking, the simple act of reminding myself what people, events, and things (coffee is a regular on the list) I'm fortunate to have in my life brought me back to a slightly happier state of being. On the days where life seemed just OK, I was reminded of how awesome life really is. Is this exercise a silver bullet for defeating the doldrums? No. It's just a way to keep your self moving in the right direction. 

Over the last 2 months I have not written down three things I'm thankful for daily. I became consumed with launching our Raise Riders Tour and my entire daily routine crumbled under the pressure of spending every moment with my family, most of which in 150 square feet.

Another true confession... I love my family more than anything, but turns out I don't love them enough to spend every minute of the day with them for weeks on end!

So today, on Thanksgiving (how cliche), I'm going to write three things I'm thankful for and skip the needle on this whole daily slight edge practice. Maybe you could start doing it too? If so, let me know!

Thing 1 I am thankful for

I am thankful for the time we spend unplugged and outdoors as a family. It's the single most important thing in my life.

Maybe that sounds a little strange and some of you might think that I should be thankful for our families health and safety instead of simply spending time outdoors recreating together. Well... to me it's one and the same.

Today we all live in challenging and often stressful times. The pressures of climate change and natural disasters, political strife, the growing number of societal addictions (substance and digital), and a constant drip of fear based media are deeply affecting all of us whether we are conscious of it or not.

It's harder and harder to be present with ourselves or each other, and most of us are growing more disconnected from our natural environment and the community of people around us. If you have children in elementary school or older you likely spend a significant amount of time worrying about out how to navigate them through our modern digital world so they can achieve a level of success and happiness that makes you feel like you did a good job as a parent. It' a lot. 

When Jannine and I had our son 8 years ago we started heading outdoors for family adventures right away, mostly on bikes. We didn't think about why and it was not part of a larger 'parenting plan'. That was just what we did before becoming parents so we just never stopped.

Now, 8 years later, we're experiencing the first major rewards of our decision to make outdoor adventure a central part of our family life.

  • Our son is not addicted to video games... or YouTube videos about other kids playing video games.
  • Our son has a love of physical exercise and exploration that is becoming part of his lifelong DNA.
  • Our son has a very intimate sense of calculated risk taking and amazing resilience in the face of hard times.
  • Our son has a simple and regular thing he does with his Mom and Dad that has nothing to do with anyone else's schedule or any sort of technology - sorry, team sports are really beneficial, but driving our son to soccer practice and sitting on the sideline is not outdoor adventure or meaningful time together.
  • Jannine and I have a way to show our son both the natural world we love so much as well as the built environment we live in. When we travel by bike through a forest or through a city, we all develop a closer understanding and appreciation of where we are and who we're around. These days, is there anything more important?

Our family bike rides are a tool. They are the means not the end. They are a way to build self confidence in our son and connection as a family. They set him up for 'success', which we define as happiness.

And here's the big takeaway - you have to start early.

To all you parents out there with toddlers listen up. I try really hard to not be preachy but I'm telling you...

if you want to have a family framework of quality time together and build lifelong positive values into your children, start your outdoor adventures as early as possible.

Once the pressures of extra curriculum activities and digital technology take hold in your elementary school kids, it's really hard to develop the family outdoor adventure time you might want at that point.

And that's why we love bikes. Bikes are a gateway tool to outdoor adventure.

Your 2 year old toddler can sit on a balance bike and together you can explore your driveway, your neighborhood sidewalk, your local park, or an empty parking lot. You don't have to load up the car and go out for a major outing in the mountains to expose your child to adventure. That can come later if you plant the seeds today using the bicycle.

Thing 2 I am thankful for

I am thankful for all the people and companies who are supporting our mission to fuel the movement to enhance children's happiness and leadership skills.

First on the list is woom bikes USA (it's always lower case if you're concerned about the typo there). When we decided to launch the Raise Riders Tour we knew we wanted to have the support of a bicycle company so we could bring demo bikes along with us. But which brand?

We knew we wanted to bring the very best children's bikes along with us which narrowed the field pretty significantly. woom bikes USA is absolutely leading the way with their lightweight frames, optimized geometry, and parts that really fit children.

But that wasn't the only factor. We also wanted to partner with a bike brand who really understood what we were trying to accomplish. The Raise Riders Tour is about throwing a pebble into the lake of society and creating ripples of large scale change. The team over at woom bikes USA got it right away and when they heard about our tour simply said, "how can we help". The truth is, the larger bike brands out there haven't even returned our emails yet.

woom bikes USA is focused on building great bikes, confident kids, and connected families. And we couldn't be happier to have their support!

Next up is DOMA Coffee Roasters. I'll tell you a funny story.

When Rebecca and Terry, owners of DOMA, heard about our Raise Riders Tour they reached right out and said to Jannine, "let us help". So Jannine and I sent them our partnership proposal and started asking all the typical questions like, "what does success in this partnership look like to you?" and "how can we measure and track our efforts to help grow more customers for DOMA".

It's very important for us to feel like we're helping our brand partners succeed and much more about us supporting them vs them supporting us. But then Terry replied to Jannine's inquiries about tracking and performance of our partnership with this (I paraphrase),

"You know Jannine, we probably should be thinking along those lines but honestly, we just think what you are doing is amazing and we want to help. It's nothing more than that."

After spending weeks working on our partnership pitch materials and hearing 'thanks but no thanks' from so many other brands that would have much more direct benefit of our work to grow cycling, Terry's words blew us away!

Kodiak Cakes also stepped up early to support our tour. Our family has been living well on their pancakes for the last two months thanks to a huge gift box that arrived just in time to launch our road trip. It's a big deal for a company this large to support a grass roots effort like ours and we hope to continue being a valuable partner to Kodiak Cakes - a brand we admire so much for their commitment to quality and extreme entrepreneurial spirit.

Once we launched our tour we realized the benefit of having a bike rack to use when we park our demo trailer in between events. So one of our friends reached out to Saris on our behalf and next thing you know we had one of their top of the line hitch mount bike racks meet us along our route. Amazing! The Super Clamp EX has been a trusty companion and a big part of our life ever since.

The latest addition to the team is Planet Bike, a fellow 1% For The Planet member who also reached out to see how they could help support us along the way. Soon we'll be able to head out for family night rides thanks to their bike lights and our demo bikes will be refreshed with some new bells! If you've been to one of our events you know how important the bells are!

NICA, the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, who is responsible for growing high school mountain bike racing coast to coast and often referenced as the single best thing happening for youth cycling these days. Well, before our tour we reached out to Ausitn McInerny, the NICA Director, and asked him to join our Advisory Board so he could help steer us in the right direction as we build Buddy Pegs Media and the Raise Riders Tour. And he said yes! Not only did he say yes but he has spread the message of our Raise Riders Tour across his network and his organization's podium to spread our message.

Finally, we have tremendous support from our entire Advisory Board and we are so thankful for each of them! Click on this link and scroll down to see who they are.

Thing 3 I am thankful for

Jannine and I are both over the top thankful for all the amazing people we have met along our trip.  Also the wonderful friends who have given us parking space for our RV and some relaxing time away from RV life:) 

The list is too long to mention but I hope you know who you are. The families coming to our events who tell us how important our work is, the local bike advocacy champions we are lucky enough to meet, the location hosts who roll out the red carpet for us, and the kids who's faces light up the first time they roll off one of our ramps with their feet in the air. You are all incredible and we are so thankful we get to spend time with you all as a part of our work.

Yesterday we received a note from Chipper Bro, 11x World Frisbee Freestyle Champion and 25 year front desk greeter at Patagoina. We couldn't be more thankful for his reflection on our efforts,

"Most missions start with an idea. And wow what a great idea you all have. It is so heartfelt to see you inspiring so many kids. Kids of all shapes and sizes. And you bring the kid out of the adult too.  It is so refreshing to meet real stewards of the planet. Lots of people talk about living the brand you guys are doing it. No one actually goes out and does it anymore. They just hire an advertising company to do it for them. Keep it up!"

A Bonus Thing :)

I am so thankful for our extended family and friends who have been reaching out along our journey.

It's pretty weird out here on the road, separated from our home town community, figuring out how to navigate RV life, and keep some degree of structure in place for our son. Short texts and voice mails from friends keep us moving forward and put huge smiles on our faces. We might not always be able to call back, but please keep reaching out. We love hearing from you!

OK, that's it for now. Here's to a fantastic Thanksgiving to all of you out there and remember to write down your 3 things each day! Maybe you'll thank ME when you do :)

-Fitzy



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