Read on for an epic tail of thievery, chase, victory, and enlightenment.
Recent Facebook post by a friendThree miles into the trail at Penasquitos and someone stole my bike while I was at the waterfall! Kathy is chasing him!
I’m the Kathy from the Facebook post above and I went mountain biking with a good friend this past weekend. In the middle of the ride, we set our bikes down for about 5 minutes to walk 100 yards to a pretty waterfall. When we returned, her bike was gone! We asked everyone around us if they’d seen someone take a bike. A couple of reports of a strange character in a black hoody and one “I think he went that way” later and I was off!
With no plan, I jumped on my bike and sped off! On the way, I asked everyone I passed if they’d seen a guy in a black hoody. Everyone was helpful and encouraging. As I kept going, I decided to call the police just in case. I had just hung up with them when I saw a young man looking up to no good and walking down a hill from a side trail in a black hoody and jeans.
Now, San Diego is in the throws of hipster style, but not on the trails. From 10 yards away (I didn’t want to get any closer!) I asked him where he stashed the bike and told him I had already called the cops. Like a good criminal, he told me he didn’t steal a bike and ran off into the woods. Rather than chase him, I decided to check out the trail he’d just left. Halfway up the hill I saw a bike laying in the brush just off the trail. Great success! It was the stolen bike!
Riding the half mile back to my friend with an extra bike was challenging, but it sure did feel good! While I’d been gone, a pretty good bunch of people had stopped to talk to her. As I returned the bike to its owner, one woman said to me, “I can’t believe you did that. I would never have done that.”
After telling this story half a dozen more times throughout the day, it got me thinking about my actions and how similar actions have led to success in many of my other endeavors. Additionally, I’ve been reading a lot of different business, leadership, and sales books recently, and this incident helped me pull together a couple of threads I’d previously missed.
Taking Action Leads to More Frequent Success
Nothing can guarantee success, but inaction will guarantee failure. When you decide upon a goal, immediately begin taking action consistently towards that goal. If you’re training for a marathon, you can start by walking or running a couple of miles every day and then hone your program as you learn more about the best ways to train. If you want to start your own business one day, you can start talking to potential customers to figure out exactly what your niche should be and even set up early sales long before you quit your safe job.
When I decided to become a stunt double after I got out of the Navy, I knew only that stunt doubles work in Hollywood. I talked to everyone I knew and anyone I met to try to learn more about actually becoming a stunt double. When I came up empty handed, I decided to drive across the country to a huge city I knew nothing about to be closer to people that knew the answers I needed. I took action and then honed and focused my energy as I learned along the way. Was I scared? Absolutely! But small, consistent action every day eventually led to amazing stunt jobs.
People that Take Action are More “Lucky”
How often have you thought that successful people are just lucky? The problem with thinking people are lucky is that we discount all the hard work they put in to achieve the goal. For instance, I was really lucky that I saw that punk at just the right time to know where he’d come from. But if I hadn’t taken immediate action and then received guidance along the way, there is no way we would ever have found that bike. Luck is just a lazy way to explain a lot of behind-the-scenes hard work.
When I was at the Naval Academy, I was “lucky” to be 1 of 11 out of a class of 902 to select Explosive Ordnance Disposal (bomb tech) as my profession upon graduation. One of my friends even said to me, “You’re so lucky.” It’s true that I felt very lucky, but I worked my butt off for 4 years to get good grades, I trained for months to improve my swimming and pullups, and I took all the other mandatory actions most people didn’t even bother learning were necessary.
Take action and create your own luck.
Seek Knowledge Along the Way that Will Help You
Most folks believe that to learn the skills needed to get a better job or create a business, you have to go back to school to get a degree. So they wait to continue their education until they can afford it. I whole heartedly disagree with this sentiment (unless it’s your goal to become a surgeon!). There’s a great deal of free information out there (public libraries rock!) that you can use to improve your current position. There are mentors you can work with that will shorten the time it takes for you to advance. I’ve met a lot of self-taught software developers and business people. They are hungry for knowledge that will improve their performance and this hunger causes continuous leaps and strides that will out pace their colleagues that rely only on one-time education. Even if a formal education is the best way for you to learn, it’s important to remember that you need to continue learning even when you hold the degree in your hand.
In my bike thief chase, I sought knowledge from those that went before me. It can be embarrassing or scary to ask strangers for information. But it turned out everyone was willing to help. Additionally, I helped them by informing them that this area is not as safe as we all blindly assumed. I gave them value in exchange for their knowledge.
When I decided to move on from stunts (I’ll tell the story of a set of 15 stitches another day!), I had to find a new career path. Through a lot of networking, I landed a job with a proposal writing company. I didn’t even know what a proposal was before I started, but I read everything I could get my hands on about government contracting and proposals for the first year and asked a million questions. My boss/mentor spent time bringing my knowledge up to speed so that I could bring my leadership skills to bear on the challenging, 30-day, stressful proposals we supported. Once I felt I knew proposals inside and out, I found new areas I could explore that would improve our business. I am always growing so that our business and my value to the company (and subsequently my paycheck!) continues to increase.
Keep your Plan Flexible Enough to Pivot when Needed
Create a strategy and plan to meet your goals, but be willing to change them as you go. Action and flexibility go hand in hand. It’s like driving a car. If you try to turn when you’re stopped, it takes a lot of muscle. If you are driving at 50 miles an hour, it only takes tiny pushes from your fingertips to change lanes. If you are taking action and remaining flexible, you’ll be much more likely to reach your destination.
When I ran into the hoody hiker, I could have kept following him when he ran off after our chat. Instead, I knew following criminals is a bad plan as a solitary female and he no longer had the bike. So I immediately changed my hunt-down-a-bad-guy plan to a search-the-trail plan.
Invoke Experts to Improve your Position
At some point in the middle of my chase, I came to the realization that I am a rather small woman and this could be a very big man I’m chasing. In a canyon. With only a few people around. I was acting like a beautiful woman walking up stairs in the middle of a horror movie. So I paused and invoked the only experts that matter in this type of situation – the cops. And when I ran across my hipster hijacker, I told him of my call to the cops so that it immediately gave me more authority and power than I would ever have on my own. Telling him that I’d called the cops made him run off. Without this piece of information, he could have continued to confront me, or worse, chased me. I never got too close to him or got off my bike while he was near for this reason, but invoking the authority of cops helped me.
Think about this when you have to convince someone to do something they may be naturally resistant to. Find someone they respect to weigh in or talk to that person and then use it as one of the points to your argument. It’s similar to trying to give advice to your significant other. You may be the best fitness coach on the planet, but if your boyfriend should be going lower in his squats, it’s a good idea to get someone else to tell him. Or you can phrase it as advice the person he respects gave to you.
Success can be Harder than Failure
How many times in your job have you done well and then been given more challenging projects? Or maybe your business landed 10 new clients very quickly and now you have to figure out how to juggle all of them. A lot of people assume success will lead to more money and less problems. In practice, this is rarely true, so be open and prepared to face increasing responsibility and harder challenges as your success increases. Talk about a great problem to have!
As I rode back with an extra bike, I almost crashed twice and had to stop a couple times to figure out a better way to hold this other bike. If I had failed to find the bike, my ride back would have been disappointing but very easy. Instead, my success gave me elation and a drive to return even faster but it was full of new challenges.