Why I Hate Training Wheels

Riding a bike

My 4-year old son just got his bike a few weeks ago.  He is in heaven.  Ask him what his favorite thing in the world to do is, and he will tell you, “Ride my bike!”  He wants to ride it everywhere…which is fantastic. He is definitely motivated!

I have one problem…he won’t ride it without training wheels.

We tried.  The first four days I was out with him every day, running up and down the sidewalk, holding on to the bike as he peddled.  But he was too scared.  He would stop peddling anytime the bike tilted.  He would always look back to make sure I was there (which caused him to turn the wheel and tilt the bike to one side and then stop peddling).  He would stop and say he wanted to go slower.

And the problem was he was actually doing a good job riding on his own.  He was able to go a fair way with me just running beside him and not supporting the bike.  I would let go and he would be riding just fine.

When I showed him this, he didn’t like it…not one bit.  He said he didn’t want to fall.  He was scared.  He wanted to know why we couldn’t get training wheels like his friend Ashton had.  He got off the bike and it took a lot of convincing to get him back on.  He begged for training wheels.  This happened for four days straight.

I gave in and bought training wheels – just like Ashton.

I know a lot of people who are fine with training wheels – my son being one of them.  Myself, I hate them (I shouldn’t, but I do).

Here’s why: my son is now dependent on the training wheels. I encourage him to try to make sure he balances without using them.  He just peddles away, swaying from one side to the next.  He isn’t learning how to ride the bike.  He’s learning to ride a bike with training wheels.

But he’s having fun. It’s easy.  It allows him to do this and not fall.  I should enjoy this fact and just let it go.  But for me it is not that easy.  I want him to grow and learn and improve.  I want him to be able to get to the next level.

And I fear that the training wheels are holding him back.  I worry that his peers will all be riding without them before he does (except for maybe Ashton).  That he will need to do a crash course (pun intended) in riding to catch up to those who are learning how to ride without training wheels now.  I’m concerned that this could have a negative impact on his long-term enjoyment of riding a bike (ok, not really, but it sounded good).

What are your training wheels?

Ok, so many of you might be asking why a diatribe about training wheels on a motivation blog?

It’s because of the analogy.

In other words, what are the training wheels that we have put in place?  What are we doing just because it is easier or it makes us feel safe?  How do limit ourselves and our future.

Here are just some of the training wheels that I’ve seen businesses do:

  1. Depend on outside providers to build their motivation/incentive strategy
  2. Use the same program or structure as last year – just because
  3. Using the incentive structure that the Senior VP of Sales likes but you know isn’t the best
  4. Not listen to the field when they want change because “they always want change”
  5. Not creating a motivational culture beyond the pay plan

These are all, in my opinion, cop outs.  They are our training wheels.  It is easier, safer, and more convenient to do them than to put the work in that the alternatives demand.  It makes our lives easier, more fun and safer for the moment.

But what happens when we need to take off the training wheels?  Are we going to be so behind the rest of the world or our competition that we are going to be chasing to catch up?  Are they going to be using motivational techniques and installing programs that recruit and retain the high performing individuals – while we are complacent?

Too many times we fall for buying the IBM PC instead of the Mac because we know that we won’t get in trouble for that – even if the Mac is better.

Here is the really important question: What types of training wheels are you dependent on?

What are those areas where we need to buck up and learn to ride now instead of later?  What should you be doing but your not.  What are the programs you are just running because they are easier or safer or won’t raise any issue.  Please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.

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