How your personal growth dictates your personal leadership level

Peak performance as an executive, business owner or a salesperson requires personal investment and growth. No one rises above their personal leadership for very long. Our personal leadership dictates our maximum performance level. Let me give you a story of true leadership growth and personal development.

I had the honour to meet and become friends with a very special couple while I was in the southern United States on one of my trips. Bernie and his wife, Donelda were from Calgary Alberta in Canada. They had come to Texas to work with a local oil company. One night we spent time talking and watching the sun go down when Bernie started to tell his “biking story”

What character are you made of?

It seems a few years before when Bernie was close to 40, he decided to see what he was made of. He got a vision in his mind of riding his peddle bike into the Ocean. This was not just as simple as taking your bike to the beach. This was a road trip from Calgary over the Rocky Mountains. He would cycle through some of the toughest highway and city conditions in Canada. He would ultimately end up some 660 miles or 1100 kilometres away. I personally know how difficult this terrain is. Several years before I had driven my motor home over the mountain pass and blew the transmission. This is tough terrain!

Leadership lessons from everyday life

The story has many lessons in it and all of them peeked my attention.  Even the details of how he used an old-fashioned 10 speed bicycles on this journey. As well as how he loaded it with a portable radio, leather saddlebags, and a seat that was too narrow for any human to sit on, made me laugh. Then to the reality of how he struggled through the delirium due to dehydration. Then there was an almost fatal crash as he was going up a mountain pass. A station wagon with wide mirrors forced him to dive into the ditch for safety. 

Training and practice are not enough

The one part of the story that sits close to my heart was of the training he did to get ready for this event. He began training for this event only a few months before he was going to do it. He first started on some hills on the west side of Calgary.  After cycling to a local small town he turned around to come back. The hill was so step that it proved too much for him and his wife picked him up in their car to take him home. I believe he even tried it again to have the same results.  Bennie next tried to bike his way to the resort town of Banff. It was about 60 miles away through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. He took a Friend along and set up a contingency plan just in case. The backup plan was to have his wife pick him up just in case he wasn’t able to continue. And once again he was unable to make it up the long climb up the foothills and had to wait for his ride to come.  

Commitment is throwing away the safety net

Having booked his holidays in advance the time quickly came for him to give it his all and chase this dream. He loaded up his 10-speed bike and gave his wife a hug.  Bernie told her that she wouldn’t be able to find him on the road, and she didn’t have to come to pick him up. He threw away his safety net, he was on his own!

Your baggage slows you down

Bernie then explained how he started up the Banff foothills and began to pay out. He was exhausted. He had to make a choice; admit defeat and quit just as he was getting started or find a way to continue. He dumped all the equipment in his bag and knapsack only keeping the most vital items. He discovered he didn’t need all the things he thought were important. In the process he had dropped a lot of weight and was able to continue now that he was much lighter. It’s amazing what you think you need that you really don’t.  This extra stuff only slows you down. I asked him how it went? He said he struggled through the foothills and when he hit Banff, he knew he was going to be able to do it. He started to get into a rhythm. Later, there was one time he made it up a hill by chasing a logging truck. He focused on trying to catch and pass it as it geared down up the hill.

Plan your award ceremony in advance

Bernie made it to the west coast in 11 days and rode his bike into the ocean then jumped off it with all of his family there to watch. He burned his rescue plan and planned his award ceremony with those who were closest to him. By planning his award ceremony he was able to stay focused on his goal. The emotion he felt by imagining hearing his family cheering him on as he made the last push to the ocean gave him the strength he needed during the tough times. He imagined his dream then worked it into reality.

Here’s the leadership wisdom I learned from Bernie:

History doesn’t predict your future success.  

In the past Bernie never made it up even the smallest of hills let alone the huge Rocky Mountains! In fact every attempt he made in training he needed to be “rescued”. Yet, he succeeded. His resolve was more important than is success record.  So it can be for you and me. If we believe in something strong enough and case it like we can’t fail, it’ll become reality!

Work with what you have

You don’t need the right stuff, best tools, or top school to be successful.  An old used 10-speed will take you where you need to go. Often, we tell ourselves we need more money, more resources or better education. These may be beneficial. However, more than likely they are mere excuses taking you away from what you really want. Dump the excuses and work with what you have!

Big goals with baby steps work

Bernie told me, “The vision changes when you don’t have someone to rescue you.” Burn your rescue plan! Setting small goals over and over again makes the impossible doable.  It’s not, if you are going to make it? Rather how you will make it. The journey may have detours as you get going, but the destination does not change.

Chase a dream worth having

Sometimes we need to chase a truck…or the impossible to get ourselves motivated.  If your dream is not motivating you, making you uneasy, or keeping you up at night, get a bigger dream. A big dream will take your breath away and make you aware that you don’t know how to get it accomplished. That’s a dream worth chasing!

We really don’t know what we are capable of

You’re tougher than you think…push the limits. Bernie never road a bike before he started training for this trip. We need to push through the fear of the unknown and jump into chasing our dreams.


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