One of the things that has always fascinated me are the habits and mindset of successful people. While I have studied people as varied as John D. Rockefeller to Spartacus, I always seem to to come back to the philosophy of the fighting man. Something about pitting yourself in a physical struggle against another person seems to really hone your mental skills.

One of my favorite books on this subject is The Fighters Mind by Sam Sheridan. In it he interviews a who’s who list of trainers and fighters and while there are a lot of great insights, one quote from Frank Shamrock in particular really stood out for me. Frank Shamrock runs a training school and had a very successful run as a fighter before the letters UFC and MMA became synonymous, so he knows a few things about helping people improve.

“It takes three people to make you the best person you can be – someone better than you, someone equal to you and someone less than you.”

While Frank was talking about improving as a fighter, I would argue that you need to apply that mindset to the trail as well. Here are the benefits to having these three riders in your life:

– Someone better than you: Social proof is a very powerful psychological tool and seeing someone else do something proves that, on some level, you can too. You need this rider to help show you what is possible and give you the insight about how to do it. We need someone to push us out of our comfort zone and inspire us to try something new if we want to continually grow as a rider. It is all too easy to avoid good riders to protect your ego but you need someone who can show you the next level of riding and help guide your progression.

– Someone equal to you: This is your riding buddy, the guy that you know “if he can do it, so can I” in the least egotistical way possible. You need this rider to grow with and help give each other confidence as you both progress. However, this can also be the rider(s) you make an unconscious pact with to stop progressing – it can be all too easy to ride the same trails, the same way and with the same core group of riders for years with nobody making any real progress in the process.

– Someone less than you: Nothing makes you understand the art of mountain biking more than teaching it to a new rider. You need this rider to help you understand your art better and to give you a way to grow the sport. However, this is far more than just getting a friend or significant other to borrow a bike and come on a ride with you. Taking the time to instruct new riders on basic body position, braking, shifting and descending skills would go a long way in helping people enjoy riding more. Helping a rider figure out how to do something you know how to do is a gift to both of you.

So, I have to ask, how does your regular riding group stack up to this list? If you find that you tend to ride a lot with people who are equal to you (and most of us do), how can you seek out riders better than you and learn from them? How can you get involved with new riders to help them progress safely into the best sport on earth?

As the mountain bike community it is up to us to grow and progress our sport. Getting out of your comfort zone to grow as a rider and help others grow is the type of effort that we need more of.

-James Wilson-

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