What I learned from a yellow loogie on a windy morning bike ride

It was a chilly morning in Texas. The cloud cover was low. The temperature was around 50 degrees, and we set out on a 42-mile bike ride.

It was a short ride by most accounts. I have completed several 100-milers, and I prefer to stick near the 60-mile range. As I tell people, 60 miles is the dividing line between fun and work.

In my time as a cyclist, I have endured a broken humerus, mended by plates and screws. It wasn’t funny at all. I took another spill when my front wheel was pinched in a crack over a rickety wooden bridge. I slid across the grassy slope and might have ended up in the creek if not for a sapling that I gripped with one hand.

Despite all my stories from cycling, none of those are the ones that prompted a blog post.

Instead, it was a very subtle misadventure on a non-sensational 42-mile ride in Texas springtime. The first 20 miles were fantastic. The wind was gusting at 18-20 mph—the kind of wind that whips your bike handling to the extreme. On the start, the wind was at our backs and pushed us along at highs of 30mph. That feeling is as close to flying as I imagine a human can achieve from the ground. We blinked and were suddenly halfway to our destination.

Then, reality crept in.

As any cyclist knows, when the wind is at your back on the way out, it will be in your face on the return. And so began the slow, crotch-chafing slog of a ride home. We averaged only 8 mph on the return, dragging our average time down to an embarrassing 13mph.

But, the lesson I learned is not in that. Though, I’m sure there is one.

Rather, the lesson learned is in one small detail of the ride.

When I began the ride, I was nursing either a sinus infection or cold. I’m still not sure which. In either case, it had moved its way into my chest as good colds do. And, there it sat. I hacked and wheezed through the chilly wind as we worked our way homeward.

One cough was uncharacteristically productive—and by that, I mean I coughed up a big, chunky, yellow loogie. I know what you’re thinking—”Ryan, you have such a way with words.”

As you may know, the outdoorsy types like to expel such liquids during rides. And so, I did the thing that any good runner or cyclist does. I checked over my right shoulder to ensure no unsuspecting soul was behind me, and then I timed the wind and my movement to expel that loogie as far as possible from my path. I had done this many times before, and I consider myself quite adept at huphting loogies into the wind.

Then a funny thing happened. As I gathered my breath and pressed my tongue to my teeth and lips to create the vacuum for launch, the wind shifted. And, rather than pausing, I expelled anyway.

Out the loogie went, into the wind. Then, it was as if I was watching The Matrix. The loogie hung and shifted mid air, flattened like a pancake, puffed like a sail, and then flew straight back at my sunglasses like a sunny side up egg. Splat.

It was disgusting. I’m sure you agree.

Yet, in that moment, I did not find myself angry. Instead, I had a funny impression come to mind. Work is often like that loogie.

Ever since I was young, I have prided myself on my ability to quickly synthesize information. I scope out a situation, quickly make determinations of the right course of action, and am very frequently right. As a young manager, I often lacked discretion regarding which issues—which battles—were truly worth the energy.

I was quick to identify dozens of things that would save our company if we would only act. Rarely did I find my organization as nimble and ready to act as I was.

Months or years would go by, and eventually someone would propose the same thing that I had. Miraculously, the idea would take flight. That person would get the praise, and I would grow frustrated.

Long ago I learned that was not a healthy way to live or do business. Along the way, I had a pain in the ask moment. Why was it that when I pitched the idea, it fell flat, and when that person pitched it months or years later, it took flight?

The answer was simple—timing is everything.

If you are a fixer, a dreamer or an idea person, you will likely run into this same frustration. Quite often, the solution or answer is no more than timing—the right people, the right market conditions, the right economic climate, or perhaps those around you gaining a bit more experience or perspective.

If you have those ideas that you know are the right ideas and they fall on fallow soil—perhaps the simple solution is to exercise some patience. Pitch the idea. If it isn’t received, table it in your organizational tool of choice, and then pitch it again.

The right idea at the wrong time is the wrong thing.

The right idea at the right time is the right thing.

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