A Note from Fatty: My friends at Banjo Brothers are doing an interesting experiment: Microfiction via twitter. It’s a bike story, serialized into 140-character chunks. Get caught up with the beginning of the story here, and then follow the updates on Twitter here.
As a teenager, I had the following jobs, in the following order:
- Feeder of frozen meat patties onto the broiler conveyer belt at Burger King (fired after two months)
- Shelf-stocker, floor-walker, toy assembler, help-as-needed do-er, and occasional Dungeon Master at a toy store (yes, from time to time I got paid minimum wage to play D&D. Envy me.)
- Firework stand worker, and post-July-4 Firework stand disassembler and firework warehouser. My coworker friends and I would talk endlessly about the awesomeness that a stray match would bring about in that building.
- Lawn maintenance, basic pest control in North Carolina. I nearly melted.
- Midnight-to-6am radio DJ. I believe my entire audience was 3 14-year-old girls. Still, this is the coolest I have ever been.
- Door-to-door insulation salesman in Southern California. I spent the entire summer wondering why I gave up the radio job to do this. I still do not have a satisfactory answer.
All of these things helped me make a career choice. Or rather, they helped me realize that I absolutely positively wanted to work while sitting down. Opining, theorizing, and occasionally (if necessary) writing or editing, as opposed to doing any real work.
And here I am. For the entirety of my career to this point, I have always either been sitting at a computer, sitting in a conference room, or sitting with my computer in a conference room.
I am not complaining. It may seem like I am, but I am not. When I’m complaining, I seem even whinier, if you can imagine that.
In any case, I would like to point out that even us white-collar (or in my case, “no collar,” since I’ve somehow managed to avoid companies with fussy dress standards my whole career) workers don’t have it easy. Work can be difficult. Gruelling. Painful.
Work can be, in short, very much like riding a bike. Which — finally! — leads me to my point: being a cyclist is the perfect way to condition oneself for the modern workforce.
- Spin a low gear at high-cadence: The secret to high endurance efforts as well as fast climbing is to learn to spin an easy gear, but spin it fast. This principle is true in the business world as well. For example, I never do anything that’s actually very difficult, but do my absolute best to always look like I’m moving very fast. Or for those of you in software, just say you’re doing agile development. Works like a charm.
- Drafting: When you’re on a road bike, you can conserve a lot of energy by staying very close behind your competitors, letting them do all the work while you coast in their slipstream. The way this metaphor applies to the business world is so darned obvious I don’t even need to explain it. Don’t innovate. Instead, ride on your competition’s coat-tails and then nip them at the finish line. And by competition, could of course mean either your company’s competition or they guy down the hall.
- Tolerance for pain: As a cyclist, you have developed a surprising tolerance of — and quite likely, a somewhat disturbing appreciation for — pain. You have augured into the ground, plowing fresh soil with your helmet. You have left unusual indentations in tree trunks. You have tested the impact resistance of pavement. And you have voluntarily ridden your bike even as you suffered mightily. Frankly, I cannot think of any greater or more directly applicable training for either a position in Sales or Customer Service. Or for a beatdown by the boss. While others quake and despair at the abuse from which they’re suffering, you will simply be thinking to yourself, “Y’know, this reminds me of the time my front tire blew at the apex of a tight bend in a fast road descent. Wow, what a day!”
- Endurance: As a cyclist, you are no doubt familiar with the numbness and/or agony that accompanies a long session in the saddle. And you have learned to put up with it. What you may not realize, however, is that most people have not learned to deal with sitting that long. This gives you a distinct advantage when you find yourself in a marathon meeting. I myself have gleefully (?!) watched as others begin squirming and shifting in their seats as the fourth hour of an all-day meeting begins. Meanwhile, having cleverly thought to apply DZ-Nuts under my pants at the beginning of the day, my posterior still has the eye of the tiger. Wait, that didn’t come out right.
- Use training analogies as a way to excuse yourself for slacking: Every cyclist knows you don’t get fast by always sprinting. Nosirree. You get fast by through a mysterious and complex sequence of efforts. Similarly, it can be asserted that you don’t succeed in the workplace by always working ’til you’re frazzled and burned out. You need to alternate between easy projects and difficult ones. You need to surf the web for a few hours, as a “recovery period.” And when your boss tells you that you always seem to be working at a snail’s pace, you just need to tell her that you’re getting in some base miles right now.
I’m certain that will put her mind at ease.