The year of living dangerously

It is better to make a mistake with the full force of your being, than to carefully avoid mistakes with a trembling spirit.

— Dan Millman

When I was in my early 20s, I worked as assistant manager for a local jewelry store in my hometown.

Every day, I would follow the same route on my way to work. Which meant that every day, I would stop at the same intersection along the main highway through town, and turn left.

That lasted for about a year, until I started to wonder what would happen if I turned right instead. So eventually, I quit my job, packed everything I owned into my little ’74 Fiat, kissed my family goodbye, and drove back to that intersection.

And this time, I turned right.

I woke up the next morning in a rest area somewhere in the middle of Missouri, with the most incredible feeling of absolute freedom — with the knowledge that I could point my car in any direction, and go anywhere I wanted. And for perhaps the first time in my life, it seemed as if all things were, in fact, possible.

That was probably the single greatest moment of my life — up to this point, at least — and certainly the most pivotal. Because everything that has followed came from the choices I made from that moment on.

And those choices led me to where I am right now.

And this is a pretty good place to be.

My older brother, on the other hand, took a different route entirely. Despite spending most of his childhood right here in L.A., he dreamed of one day touring the Yukon with a dog team of his own, just like his hero Sgt. Preston.

Like most childhood dreams, though, it was brushed aside, if never entirely forgotten. He served in Vietnam after college, eventually returning to get a PhD in particle physics, before raising a family in Houston, Texas.

Then one day, life offered him a chance to trade the Texas dust for the snows Alaska. And after years of training and false starts, just a few years short of his 60th birthday, he led his own dog team across nearly 1,200 miles of frozen tundra, to cross the finish line of the world’s greatest sled dog race.

The Iditarod.

To put it in bicycling terms, that’s like finishing the Tour de France. By yourself. In sub zero temperatures. When you’re old enough for AARP.

He’s also competed every year since — despite suffering a broken leg, a wrenched shoulder and severe frostbite in the 2007 race.

Is it any wonder that I want to be just like him if I ever grow up?

And he’ll be competing again this year. Except now, he’s an experienced musher, with an experienced team — and a real chance to do more than just finish. (He’s also looking for sponsors, if anyone is interested.)

The point is, the greatest risks in life come from taking chances. But do the greatest successes — and the biggest rewards. And as long as you’re breathing, it’s never too soon, or too late, or too hard, or too crazy, to take a chance on living out your dreams. Whatever they may be.

So my resolution — my only resolution this year — is to stop making excuses, and start taking more chances.

Starting today.

So what’s stopping you?

Best wishes to all for a very healthy, happy, safe and prosperous new year!

In case you missed it, a local biker decided on a whim ride across the country to attend the inauguration. Meanwhile, congrats to Will, who set a goal of riding 3,000 miles this year — and more than doubled it. Gary finished last year with an assault on the road in WeHo — here’s hoping 2009 sees him, and all of us, a little safer. The Cycling Lawyer discusses the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights, and gives credit where credit is due. Evidently, 3M’s new reflective tape can look cool in the daytime, and light your bike up like a Christmas Tree after dark. Victoria, BC discusses making cyclists pay for their own infrastructure. And finally, cycling beats driving — and rickshaws, for that matter — even in Delhi.

One comment

  1. [...] In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, I thought I’d try to keep track of my mileage. I’m certainly not out to break 6,000 miles (and congratulations Will!), but it might be a fun project (and one totally adopted from Will’s). Tonight’s ride? 11.42 miles. It’s a start. [...]

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