In the 1850s, Ernest and Pierre lived their childhoods kicking rocks up and down the cobble stoned streets of Bar-le-Duc, France. Their father, a blacksmith, spent his days hammering away at carriage parts, with the clang against the anvil echoing through the cement walled town. Ernest and Pierre, carrying heavy bags and wooden crates of their father’s previous days work, delivered the parts to the carriage company every morning. One day, to ease their burden, they built themselves a rudimentary wheel barrow and took turns pushing it while making their delivery. On the way home, day after day, month after month, these brothers took turns pushing one another in the wheel barrow – just for fun. They spent the rest of their time helping their father, building things from scrap metal, and daydreaming.
Their daydreams, along with their daily routines, led them to design the “velocipede”, a one-man wheel barrow, who’s cargo was only the man himself. And it’s intent was not for industry or efficiency, but only for enjoyment. For freedom. Their velocipede eventually became the bicycle, and Ernest and Pierre became known as the “fathers of the bicycle.”
These last few weeks have filled our televisions and magazines with many stories. From Michael Jackson, to Farrah Fawcett, to Ed McMahon, Sarah Palin, and 5th grade teachers sending sex tapes home with her students. But I tell you the story of the bikes because there’s another, much more amazing story happening in the mountain towns of France carried on the wheels of a modern day velocipede.
Lance Armstrong, at this moment, is among the leaders of the Tour de France after having taken four years off from racing. Many French streets are yet to be ridden, but the very fact he’s in contention for a Yellow Jersey, awarded to the current leader of the Tour, is already monumental. The story of the seven time champion of the Tour has already been written. Cancer. Dedication. Seven championships. The most successful cancer fighting charity in the world. New York Times best-selling author. But the history books should have saved a few blank pages near of end of Lance’s storybook.
What is the point of all this bike talk? Is it to remind you how Lance Armstrong overcame adversity and how you can apply it to your own life? Or maybe I’d just like to inspire you to get out on your bike, get some exercise? Then again, thinking of Ernest and Pierre running around the streets of France pushing each other around in a wheel barrow, that kind of makes me want to run home and play with my kids. So maybe I’m trying to tell you something about family and togetherness, and inventiveness?
All of the above. And none of the above. Today, it’s not about having dreams and goals, passions and loves, or even a story to tell. What I take away from Ernest is how important it is to pay attention to your daydreams and not ignore them. Do you know what Lance Armstrong has been doing since he retired from biking? Running marathons, actually. And most of them in under three hours. What do you suppose kept Lance’s mind distracted as his feet pounded the cement streets for 26.2 miles? I’m guessing he, at times, let his mind wander and think back to all those years riding through the streets of France. The same streets where, their arms tired from carrying the weight of newly smithed carriage parts, Ernest and Pierre daydreamed of going faster and further than their tired little legs could take them.
In those daydreams lived real dreams and real goals. Before any of them could dream of building a velocipede, or riding once again on the Tour de France, they had to first pay attention to the random thoughts pedaling around their brains, reach out and grab them.
Don’t worry if you, at this very moment, don’t have a Mount Everest to climb, a book to write, or a graphics design firm to open.
We live in a world where everyone is go, go, go. Task A is done, what’s next? Task B is done, now what? Start at Point C, and go to Point D. Then go to Point E. I have this, this, that, and another thing to do, then I’ll have time to do this. Email me. Call me. Go there. Pay that. Look at this. Read it. Watch it. Fix it. Use it. Go back and do it all again.
Many people scoff at Facebook and Twitter calling them useless and pointless. But for those of us who understand the importance of daydreaming, we understand how enjoyable both of them can be. Like a personal journal, or a friendly note sent inside a greeting card, some of the best things don’t have a point at all. Or do they? While I’m always preaching about the path, the road map, and the process, I’d be misleading you if I didn’t tell you to also learn to relax and dream. Better yet, ride your bike up to the nearest ice cream shop and enjoy some time alone with your thoughts and just daydream, and your dreams will follow.