Let us learn from how we learnt cycling.

How often in life we give up on things for various reasons? When my students tell me that they cannot take the pressure any more and they are quitting, I often give them the following analogy. I think every one of us would have experienced it, but at different levels. It is about how we all learnt the art of cycling.

The very first time we handle a cycle, be it our own or our friend’s, we end up having the worst debut ever. A blissful experience of flight until dad/mom was holding the rear bar turns into a violent, rugged and directionless motion, finally resulting in a fierce collision with mother Earth, once he/she lets us go. Yet the very next day we venture out to try again, how much ever it may hurt our ego, in front of the neighbours who saw us fail in our attempts, biting dust and ending up in compromising positions, with a bad knee, with a bruised chin and various other injuries. How badly WE WANTED TO LEARN.

Why were we hell bent on learning how to cycle? It is because we saw many people riding cycles with consummate ease. During the learning curve, I am sure we keenly observed every person cycling on the road and questioned ourselves as to how that person is not losing balance?, how can he/she make such a graceful turn?,how can they can dodge the potholes so effectively?,how is that they are so confident about where their bike will stop? and so on and so forth. We practiced day and night to get it right.We began to mentally note the nuances of cycling. “There are so many people in this world who know it and how is it that I don’t?” is the question that bothered us. We got obsessed about it 24/7. We mentally cycled in sleep, in school, while walking back home and while eating. Let the world take a hike, we had to solve this issue. When the situation remained the same the second and the third day, or sometimes it even worsened, we lost patience. We wanted to just throw away the bike and sit in a corner and cry. The situation was a bit more dramatic when it was a new bike which we received as a present from some one close to us. We would be conscious about not hurting the bike, since it was so close to our heart. The more we hurt the bike more painful the learning became.

Finally, after a week or two of extreme hardship, the day arrived, when we could complete one full cycle of pedalling. It gave us so much joy that an emptied ocean would fall short, if we wished to store it. We wanted to stand in the middle of the street and shout, to whom so ever it may concern, “I HAVE DONE IT”. Whether the world responded to this happy occasion or not, who the hell cared. It is for OURSELVES that we had achieved.

In the next few days we mastered the tricks of the trade and the learning curve had its steepest rise. It was so important to taste success once, and how good it was, since it came after a series of setbacks. That was the phase where all of us were like the Jonathan Livingston Seagull learning to master the perfect flight. We concentrated on every quarter/half pedal, experimented with the turns at different angles, stormed down the hill, laboured up the hill, went through the permutations and combinations of using the front and the rear brakes etc.. OH YEAH!! we were learning. Once a lazy child, not willing to help mom in any of the household chores, was now an obedient son/daughter or brother/sister willing to lend a helping hand by voluntarily participating in numerous errands that involved buying items from the grocery store, couriering items to aunt’s place, posting dad’s mails, buying brother’s stationery requirements, buying sister’s fancy items etc.. Why weren’t these things interesting all these days? We detested the very fact that on the weekend we needed to attend a family function. The society is a hurdle to our progress, we groaned. THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN, SO LITTLE TIME. Superman, Spiderman and all other cartoons could wait, WWE could wait, best friends could wait. There was still a life time left for all these, but cycling, something that we had learnt with so much difficulty, must be given importance. After a few years, cycling just became one of those things that we did subconsciously, without even a bit of it registering in the mind. That is because we had learnt it the right way. So much for the analogy.

When we were in the primary school, the multiplication table of 13 itself posed the biggest threat. But now it is a cake walk. I believe that the success of a person in any profession is to be measured by analysing how effortless he/she seems when he/she carries it out. Let me elaborate on this point. When we learnt the theorems of geometry in the 9th and 10th grades, it was the hardest thing that we ever came across, even though it was full of logic. When we reach the graduate stage and go through the same theorems we find it very simple to follow. It is because our mind has matured in time to allow that logic to be processed freely . If we put sufficient effort in the 9th and 10th grade (just like how we learnt cycling) so that we would feel it simple to follow at that point of time itself, then we are successful. The people who lead, the people who stand out, the people who are ahead of the crowd and the people who make a mark are the ones who always feel that whatever they are in pursuit of, is SIMPLE. But at no point of time misread them. Believe me, there will be tons and tons of hard work behind that feeling.

The scientist/teacher I admire a lot is Richard Phillips Feynman. When I read his auto-biographies, semi-auto-biographies and biographies, one thing that every person knowing him admired about, was the fact that he could explain even the most complex of concepts in a very simple manner. He was the most adored teacher during his times.

I believe, we should take up every challenge that life has to offer us, with the same spirit and enthusiasm with which we took up the challenge of learning the art of cycling. All we need to do is to learn from how we learnt cycling.


2 thoughts on “Let us learn from how we learnt cycling.

  1. Yet another gem of a post from your side. You seem to be getting better at ‘riding this cycle’ of writing one good post after the other. Where were you all these days and why haven’t you been writing all this while? Keep the momentum going, please, for the sake of your readers 😀

    One point which I would like to make regarding the post itself is that I have noticed that people learn better when they actually want to learn and are not forced to learn. Meaning, remove the fear of examinations, remove the fear of a missed deadline, remove the fear of a bad grade, and a student who is genuinely interested in a subject will learn it in no time. However, most students (not just today but always) have learnt subjects in school only because they had exams, they had grades to get, they had homework to complete.

    Having said that, the analogy you use, of equating learning subjects to learning a cycle probably is the most simple, most easy to relate analogy for teenagers. Has it worked well, and have you managed to get at least a few students to attempt to try to learn subjects the way they learnt cycling…


    • Thanks Jairam. As far as the point you have made I cannot agree more with you. It is just that in the Indian education system the only two major streams that 99%of the students choose is either science or commerce. Arts gets the other 1%. Most of them get into the science stream only because others got into it or their parents forced them. This is the root cause of the problem.

      What I have experienced is that students who join the course with a lot of intent will appreciate this analogy and learn from it.

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