How to Attain Something Wonderful

I was reading a book called The Fighters Heart and in one of the chapters it led off with the following quote:

“If you continue in this simple practice every day, you will obtain some wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you attain it, it is nothing special.”

Shunryu Suzuki

The reason this quote stood out to me and I’ve made a point of showing it to others is how it reminds me of two things. First, simple practice done consistently will lead to amazing things. One of the reoccurring themes in the book so far is that the best don’t think they’re naturally superior (ego is named as a career killer several times) but instead look at themselves as loving to learning about and practicing their art more than anyone else.

Second, it reminds me to look back on what I have attained and remember that, at one point, it was a big task to achieve. If I’m always looking at what I want to achieve next I forget that I have already achieved some pretty wonderful things, which can lead to frustration. Always looking at what we haven’t done yet is one of the surest ways to burn yourself out.

Of course, these lessons apply to everything in life but, being a mountain bike training blog, I wanted to bring it home for us. To the first point, I can tell you from experience that if you devote yourself to practicing the basic movements and skills needed on your bike you can do things that you once thought impossible. However, this isn’t the same as just going out and riding your bike. Deliberate practice, where you are consciously working on certain aspects of your movement and skills, is the key.

To the second point, I can remember when any ride I didn’t fly over the handlebars 5 times was a good ride. Now I’m teaching other riders how to have more skill and confidence on their bike and getting the old “you’re just a natural rider” handle thrown at me, which is pretty flattering considering I used to think that out about other riders. It’s still easy for me to look at what I can’t do on my bike and get frustrated but sometimes you have to step back and take stock in where you’ve come as a mountain biker.

To sum it up, if you want to be a better rider then you have to devote yourself to the simple practice of doing something everyday that brings you a little closer to that goal. It may be getting up and doing your workout before the day gets going and you get too busy, it may be not skipping breakfast or it may be spending 15 minutes working on your trackstands or other basic skills in your driveway. Whatever it is, you are either getting better or you are getting worse – simple things done everyday to make you a little better will add up to something wonderful in time.

You also need to take stock in where you’ve come from time to time. Remember when you first started riding and how you had to walk certain sections. Remember too how great it felt when you were suddenly able to ride right through that same section. Nothing gets you pumped to keep working at it than thinking back on past successes.

Hope this helps you better understand the mindset needed to be a better rider…

-James Wilson-

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  1. David Montgomery says:

    Hi James,
    When you say basic techniques, and give the example of trackstands, what else would you recommend on a regular basis? Would flat corners etc. be on the right wavelength?
    Cheers, David

    Reply • February 1 at 10:14 am
  2. Chris Cowan says:

    It seems like when I get frustrated with my progress that’s about the time I reflect on how far I’ve come. For some reason I have to go through that frustration phase to appreciate the progress though.

    Reply • February 1 at 2:13 pm
  3. electric says:

    Shunryu Suzuki was speaking about Zen practice of zazen… maybe it is a bit of a stretch to relate it to striving for something like better this or that, because that sort of thing is generally discourage within Zen. That is maybe a bit of a paradox, but that is Zen for you… anyway it’s funny you should mention track-stands… instead of sitting at red-light intersections i took to trackstanding… at first I could only stay on for a few moments, now I can track stand most places and have the confidence todo it in clipless(is use them for commuting). If there is something to be learned from that, it is don’t just spend time grinding away on your bicycle(even if it is a commute) – aim todo something new.

    Reply • February 1 at 7:20 pm
    • bikejames says:

      I’m not talking about improving from the superficial “I want to place better in a race” mindset but instead furthering your understanding of the art of mountain biking and seeking the flow it contains. Zen masters seek to attain better understanding as well so I think we’d be on the same page.

      However, you’re point is well taken. We must be careful about what we are seeking to attain as well as be mindful of how to attain it.

      Reply • February 3 at 11:06 am
  4. Joe says:

    Being a white belt in the martial arts, one dreams of becoming a black belt. Reaching that “advanced” status. The feeling of being able to do those advanced kicks, punches, routines. When the day finally arrives and the black belt is awarded… they look back and realize that the whole meaning of “advanced” was simply the flawless execution of the “basics”.

    Reply • February 3 at 5:54 pm
    • bikejames says:

      “Flawless execution of the basics”…well said…

      Reply • February 5 at 8:20 am
  5. I am glad you posted this. I find myself always frustrated about things I have not accomplished yet in my life, but I forget about everything I have already done and achieved at such a young age. I will be 21 in May and sometimes I forget that I am still young and just how much more I have accomplished in my life compared to others my age. I set the bar pretty high for myself with everything I do (Riding,Training, and my Fitness Professional Career), but thats just the way that I am. I do however need to start admiring how far I have come in 20 years.

    Thanks James, keep it coming!

    Reply • February 5 at 10:05 pm

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