On the 31st August 2013, Lesley, my wife and soulmate, retired after 35 years teaching in secondary schools. Two days later, as planned, we set off for a magical celebratory holiday, taking in New York, California and Oregon. Our trip became known as the ‘Freedom Trail’.
While on the Freedom Trail, I journaled every day and ended each entry with a leadership moment/lesson. Over the coming weeks, I will share those lessons.
Central Park in New York City is not flat!
It is, however, a wonderful place to visit for all sorts of reasons. The trees, the birds, the lake, the pathways and the marvellous opportunities to people watch to name a few. It is filled with noise, tranquillity, smells, hustle and bustle. It caters for all types from the dedicated to the casual – strollers, runners, cyclists, joggers, those out wandering aimlessly, some seeking out a quiet place and many just watching the world go by.
We’d visited before, although only briefly, and with time on our hands and the sun shining, Lesley was inspired to cycle round it. Now at this point, I need to clear a couple of things. While I am no Sir Bradley Wiggins, I am a deal fitter than my wife. I also try to keep myself in shape. The same is not so true for my wife.
Recognising the size of the park, which is another of its outstanding features, I queried whether cycling around it was a good idea. Not to be persuaded otherwise, we duly hired our bikes and set off. The going was easy at first and then we hit the first steeper section and the undulations that followed. Up, down, up, down we went for around forty minutes.
By the end of that time, with lots of people, including children, zooming past us, Lesley realised the consequence of her decision. To be honest I was having a great time, riding ahead to scout the lay of the land and then returning to offer words of encouragement. Sometimes that worked and occasionally it fell on deaf ears! This often depended on how steep the upcoming terrain appeared. On reflection, this episode provided a classic example of the disparity that can often be found in a person’s perception and the reality of their experience.
Consequently, we spent a fair bit of time walking our bikes, which presented its own challenges. I guess when you are hot, tired, thirsty and trying to walk with a bike under control, it is maybe not the most enjoyable of pastimes. Eventually, we called a halt to proceedings and headed back to the hire shop.
Sitting in a local restaurant a little later having lunch, we laughed about our morning. It hadn’t gone exactly as planned and, in fact, had not been the pleasant experience that Lesley had anticipated. Nevertheless, we both recalled most vividly that cycling had offered a very different perspective of the park to our previous short walking experience. We had definitely seen much more than we had our previous visit and that was a bonus!
Leaders make mistakes … and sometimes very painful mistakes.