What’s your BHAG?

I’m a big believer in the power of the mind to shape our reality. One of the things that keeps coming up in reading about the psychology of successful people is their ability to look at situations differently than the average person. Their ability to apply what is known as the “growth mindset” to their failures is the foundation of their success.

Here is a quick quiz to help you see the difference between the growth mindset and the fixed mindset:

– When you come across something on the trail that you can not ride do you…

A) say that the trail section is too tough

B) see an opportunity to push your limits and get better, even if it might involve failure (crashing)?

– When you failed the first time you tried something new (like riding a technical trail feature, jumping or riding skinnies) did you…

A) write it off as something you’re not naturally good at

B) try to figure out what the successful riders where doing and try to mimic it?

– When you aren’t on “your bike” do you…

A) feel like you’re not half the rider you usually are

B) feel that you can figure out how to ride any bike?

The A responses represent the fixed mindset where you think that your skills and traits are “fixed” and can’t be changed. It revolves around blaming things outside of your control (the trail or the bike) and in looking at initial success or failure as an indicator of how “good” you are and if you should even try. In fact, trying is seen as a weakness because if you do things like train and think about this stuff then that means you’re not really very good (the “just give ‘er and drink beer” crowd).

The growth mindset answers, on the other hand, revolve around recognizing that you can grow and shape your skills and that failure is simply part of the growth process. Trying hard is a hallmark of growth mindset riders because they know that practice and training will allow them to control their own destiny.

Obviously you have to keep this all in perspective – I don’t really think that I could be a Red Bull Rampage competitor no matter how much I worked at it. There is a fine line between a BHAG (Big, Hairy Audacious Goal) that gets you excited and not being realistic. But I don’t think that the problem with most riders is dreaming too big, I think that they need to start dreaming in the first place.

What is your BHAG? I’m going to go out on a limb here and admit that I want to learn to do some tricks. Yeah, I’m 34 years old but it’s really starting to bug the crap out of me that I can’t get a hand or foot to come off my bike and I’m going to go into this off season trying to figure out how to “train” for that.

Your goal may be a bit different but whether its learning a new trick, learning to jump in the first place or simply being able to ride your local loop faster and with more confidence the point is that you can do it if you bring the growth mindset to it. Figure out your BHAG, figure out how you’re going to get there and get after it. Every day you’re either getting better or worse and without an idea of what kind of rider you really want to be how will you know which direction you’re headed?

-James Wilson-

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  1. Jon says:

    Hey James,

    I learned of your site through a friend’s father-in-law and have got to say your posts and videos helped improve my riding so much. I’ve owned a mountain bike for over 10 years, but only began getting into it this last year (it had something to do with upgrading to a full susp from a still-original elastomer fork). In any case, I feel like a perfect guineau pig for exactly what you’re describing between fixed and growth mindsets. For many years I was fixed, struggling to ride well and passing it off by assuming biking is just not the sport for me, then moving on to my original love for climbing. This year I get tired of making excuses, put the rope away, and moved back to the bike.

    What I’ve found is a love I never knew was there, and with it came the growth mindset. I think it first arrived because of the new fondness for the sport–a growth mindset requires motivation, and that would be hard to come by if you can’t stand getting on trail. That said, the second thing that led to the new mindset was feeding my mind with more and more of your riding tips. Armed with the combination of interest and new knowledge, on every ride now I see dozens of growth opportunities as terrain changes.

    Thanks again for your helpful insights. When are you going to do a video on manualing and bunny hops, if you haven’t already done so? I’m a logical learner and very much appreciate how you break down the fundamentals in ways that explain not just the “how” but also the “why” behind body position, momentum, etc.

    Cheers- Jon

    Reply • September 23 at 3:49 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Thanks for the compliments, I’m glad that you’ve found the info here helpful and inspiring. Showing other riders that there is a way to get better and it doesn’t lie in a shiny new bike part is why I do this.

      I have a guy who helped me shoot the cornering video and I’d like to do something similar for the manuals, me, my tripod and my Flip camera probably won’t work as well. Its on the long list of videos I want to shoot, now that summer is coming to an end I’ll get off my bike and back into cranking out videos and articles.

      Reply • September 24 at 6:44 am
  2. John Kozowski says:

    Yep just want to echo Jon’s comments. You’ve got a great thing going here for us growth-minded folks, and I can’t wait to see a 1) bunny hop and 2) manual video from you. Thanks again James for doing this, this is my new favorite website!

    Reply • September 24 at 3:53 pm
  3. Jonathan says:

    I’m a B much of the time. But there’s also an Option C, and that is to defer the opportunity. Sometimes I look at a stretch of trail and realize there are certain prerequisites I need to go elsewhere and master first.

    For example: Say that I face a skinny that is four feet off the ground. Perhaps I should master the drop to flat before tackling the skinny, so that I have hope of saving myself should things go wrong on the skinny.

    It’s not just a matter of risking a crash. Sometimes it’s a matter of needing to know how to react to a failure so that it becomes a mild crash rather than a season-ending-break-your-bones crash.

    Reply • September 26 at 8:35 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Actually, that is the Growth Mindset in action…you realize that while you may not be where you need to be right now you can acquire the skills to get there. Just blasting into stuff that you have no business hitting and getting hurt isn’t the “growth mindset”, that’s just being a bonehead!

      Reply • September 27 at 8:06 am
  4. brad johnson says:

    I was listening to your flat pedal – stand up video and would like to give it a try. Do you have any shoe or pedal recommendations? Thanks for the info.

    Reply • September 26 at 9:04 pm
    • bikejames says:

      Just published a podcast covering this subject…

      Reply • September 27 at 8:04 am
  5. Brigham says:

    I’m 29 and feel exactly the same about tricks. I ride pretty fast, hit pretty decent jumps, and just think there’s no reason not to be doing some no handers, no footers, etc. Nothing crazy, I just want some tricks in my quiver. When you figure out how to train for that, let us know!

    Reply • September 27 at 5:33 pm

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