Connectivity, Vulnerability & the Bike Part II

We never know what will happen when we decide to be open and honest and authentic in sharing the personal journeys we are on in this adventure called life. In part one of this piece I shared Dr. Brené Brown's TEDx talk on vulnerabilty that touched me so much I ran out and bought her book above "Daring Greatly." By the time I finish reading this moving and inspiring book there probably won't be a page I haven't marked in some way as crucial to remember.

For the past twelve years, in one way or another, I have been working on my craft as a writer mostly through various blogs of my own and guest blogs for other websites. For the past four years I've been immersed in an intense course of bicycle and active living advocacy. Now I want to marry the two and become a truly engaging story teller on the importance of this work - whether I'm sharing my own story, or sharing the stories of others.

Can I pull it off? Can I come up with topics that a broad audience will find engaging, appealing, useful and fresh? I'm gambling yes, and it's scary! What is particularly rewarding is finding out how much power the topic of vulnerability and authenticity has. I had the priviledge of being interviewed by Frank Peters for his cdmCyclist audio podcast show this past week. I felt a little self conscious when I brought up these topics to this uber-successful-tech entrepreneur-turned-angel-investor turned bike advocate extraordinaire. But it was exactly the topic of vulnerability that made Frank's eyes light up with intense interest. If you have the time I hope you'll give the show a listen, and you can see all of the other fascinating and learned bike advocates Frank has interviewed.

But let's get back to Brené. She has touched a collective nerve in our society. Over six million people logged in to see her TEDx talk which led to her being invited to the big show - TED itself hosted last year right here in Long Beach California. Below is her equally powerful talk on shame. Think about that for a moment. Imagine what it would be like to be excited to do a local TEDx talk, imagining that a few hundred people would be in the audience and perhaps another few hundred people would click to watch the video - and then finding out instead you'd become a youtube.com darling!

Well, you may ask, isn't that what everyone longs for these days? Fame? Isn't that why so many people sign up to be on reality shows?

What Brené shares in her talks and in her book is that she had planned her life very carefully to stay comfortably small. She was happy to be well respected, an author of critically acclaimed books for a particular audience, but certainly her aim was not to be a media darling. She feared moving out of her academic comfort zone so that when she found out how popular her first video was on the TED network she wanted her husband to hack into the system and erase it.

What Brené also feared was criticism - and yep it came. The anonymous comments posted were harsh, most especially about her weight. Isn't fascinating how very mean people can be when no one is there to see the face of the critic? And isn't it humbling to note that in our modern day and age women are still so very judged on our appearance?

As I now start to create videos as well as blogs I too fear my appearance being judged harshly. I fear hearing about my shiny ruddy complexion (that I am on a constant quest to tame), my one crooked tooth (I stopped wearing my retainer too early after braces as a teen), my crooked nose, not being the right age, race, or having the right background. Oh yes, and my wardrobe that never feels quite right....and then I read this in "Daring Greatly" at the beginning of Chapter 3:

"Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That's why it loves perfectionists - it's so easy to keep us quiet."

Wow. I need that on a t-shirt, how about you? I have spent much of my life stepping back from what I was passionate about just as it might become something more, something bigger because of fear. I have feared both not measuring up to what I could imagine in my mind's eye, and conversely getting too big for my britches. But here is my truth about both bicycle and active living advocacy - it cannot get too big. We are meant to be active beings and we are too sedentary. The cost is enormous and it keeps going up. We can tackle this pandemic one walk, one bicycle ride at a time. Active living advocacy needs every positive voice that wants to speak up and inspire others to get up and get out and move. Yes, I do believe the bike can be our tool for optimism.

In closing today I want to share with you what a woman named Andrea Learned posted as a comment on part I of this piece:

"I'm so glad I came across this piece, Melissa. I can now share the link with all my friends and family who may not quite get why I am so committed to biking around Seattle. I, like you, randomly fell back into biking (after loving it as a kid) about 20 years ago when I was living in Portland - long before they got quite so bike-friendly. At the time, I was blown away at the freedom and the excitement, even though the vulnerability was a bit scary. After living in Vermont for 7 years, where biking really wasn't an option for 6 months of the year, I am so glad to be back in urban density and milder weather.

And, your approach and authenticity are exactly the model advocacy organizations everywhere should follow. My marketing to women background tells me so. It is fun to apply that knowledge of how women think and make decisions to helping them engage and commit to more everyday bicycling (to quote the fabulous bike advocate Elly Blue) . The women we all help to get interested in biking will influence the rest of the world. Thanks for writing such a great piece."

Andrea Learned (andrea@learnedon.com)

I am so moved and hopeful by what Andrea wrote. And I've written to ask if she will be an upcoming interview on my series with creatives and marketers on how we can greatly expand the allure and impact of bicycle advocacy. Keep good thoughts she says yes!