“It travels with you everywhere you go. And there’s not a moment where you don’t think about being President — unless you’re riding mountain bikes as hard as you possibly can, trying to forget for the moment.”        -George W. Bush, January 12, 2009

Eager to defend his legacy, Bush wrapped up his final news conference as President by telling reporters that even when he was on vacation, he wasn’t on vacation. He was always thinking about the country, terrorists, stimulus packages, and education. Always.

Except, of course, when he was “riding hard” on his mountain bike. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Dubya and I have something in common. We both can think of nigh else when we’re pedaling hard.

For those of you who ride, you know what the President is getting at.  For those of you who don’t, allow me to explain:

Mountain biking is an inherently dangerous sport. Just look at its name, which implies riding a bike up and over a mountain. But even if you’re not scaling Mt. Eversest on knobby tires, you are riding a bicycle on uneven terrain. Sometimes this terrain is filled with rocks, tree stumps or roots, or even boulders. Sometimes this terrain is what we call off-camber, where the riding surface slants so steeply it’s like you’re riding sideways.

Navigating this kind of terrain takes years of practice, yes. But even more important, it takes confidence and focus. Confidence on this kind of terrain is critical. As you approach obstacles or steep climbs or descents, you need to see the line (the easiest route) and go for it. Anything less, like “I hope I can make this” or “Last time I totally bailed (fell off my bike) here” or “I never clear (pedal through without stopping) this section of trail” and YOU WILL FAIL. Hence mountain biking’s applicability to life–concentrate on what you can do instead of what you can’t do and you will go further. You may not “clear the trail” per se, but you’ll clear more of the trail if you enter into the task with confidence. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? You get off your bike, walk through the rough patches, then get back on. Just like life.

Maybe confidence gained through mountain biking aided Dubya’s  re-election bid after a year fraught with political disasters like Abu Ghraib and the Senate Intelligence Committee Report’s findings that the CIA “overstated the threat posed by Iraq.” (Thanks for the timeline, BBC.) Maybe he dismissed these disasters as minor setbacks, mere pebbles in the path. He knew he could get back on the bike after the rough patches.

But at the core of Bush’s statement about “riding hard” is about focus, not confidence. Olympic athletes know about focus. They know that when they step into the ring, court, or fencing arena (what are those called, anyway?) they need to focus on the moment and NOTHING else. The minute they take their focus away from the immediate task at hand, they falter at best and fail at worst.

So when Dubya was out at his ranch in Crawford riding over rocks and sticks, he was focusing only on the task in front of him: the trail. If only he could have applied that skill to his presidency.

Focus is critical here

Focus is critical here

 

And here (yes, that's a trail)

And here (yes, that's a trail)

 

SheSpoke focuses. Hard.

SheSpoke focuses. Hard.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements