Last week my friend, Dave, and I took a three day bicycle trip along the C & O canal next to the Potomac River. He and I usually take week-long motorcycle trips each summer. Bicycling was different. We were surprised at our being able to talk to each other while we rode side by side on the tow path, unconcerned about noise, exhaust fumes, directions, and cars cutting us off. (For some reason, motorcycles are often invisible to cars.) It was very relaxing.
Unfortunately, by the end of the second day, my right hand had gone numb presumably caused by my leaning pretty hard on my wrist as I rode. My bike saddle was high and the handlebars were very low. Also, when I was 15, I had surgery on the nerves in that hand so that didn’t help. I ignored it as long as I could but by the morning of the third day, I couldn’t feel my hand at all even when we weren’t riding.
This was a kind of turning point for me. I’d been in positions like this before. In the past I would have kept quiet about the injury, not wanting to seem weak and not wanting to ruin the last day of the trip for my friend. Of course, there would always be hell to pay later for my macho, ignore-the-pain decisions.
That morning, I did something different. I came clean about my injury to Dave. His response showed me why he is such a successful businessman and such a good friend.
After hearing about my hand, he exhibited remarkable flexibility. He said, “We have a couple of options and I want you to know that I am fine with any of these. We can end our trip now and drive home or I can take the ride myself and you can meet me down by the pick-up car.” His willingness to change plans and chart a new course without complaint impressed me.
I chose the latter option greatly relieved at the idea of getting some feeling back in my hand. Before driving to the end point, I made a quick stop at Walmart and bought an inexpensive fishing rod and some lures. By the time Dave had arrived at the end point on his bike, I had spent a delightful morning wading into the Potomac and had caught 6 smallmouth bass—the end of a perfect trip. My hand is now fine, by the way.
Since that experience, I have been appreciating the value of telling the hard truth even if it makes you look less tough than you’d like to appear, being flexible in the face of changing conditions and using creativity to achieve an outcome that is a win for everyone. It’s a pretty good formula for success in any field and in any relationship.
How has flexibility helped you in your life? I’d love for you to comment below.