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Susan Sparks: Lose the training wheels

Susan Sparks [More Content Now]
Susan Sparks
More Content Now
Posted: Feb. 20, 2019 12:39 pm Updated: Feb. 20, 2019 1:31 pm

I bought my first motorcycle in the spring of 1995. A used black Harley Sportster 883, all chromed up, with snakeskin fringe on the handlebars and wicked custom pipes. It was love at first sight. The perfect match. And we were together exactly one hour and seventeen minutes.

I had just gotten my motorcycle license the day before on a Honda Rebel (with about one-fourth of the Sportster’s engine power and one-half the weight). The sane thing would have been to buy a Rebel, spend some road time on it, and then think about graduating to a bigger bike. But that’s not how I roll.

The first one hour and sixteen minutes of my relationship with the new Harley were taken up by signing the papers at the dealership. The seventeenth and last minute we were together was spent riding across the street from the dealership and into a parking lot, where I promptly crashed into a guardrail in front of a passing police car.

As if the sting from that wasn’t enough, the officer, after helping me bring the bike upright, said with a smirk, “Maybe you’d better keep the training wheels on a bit longer.”

Ouch.

Unfortunately, I took those words straight to heart and didn’t get back on a bike for years. The excuses just kept rolling around in my head:

“I can’t get back on. He’s probably right; I have no business riding.”

“I can’t get back on; I might fall and really get hurt this time.”

“I can’t get back on; I just need a little more time.”

Biker or not, we all have our training wheels in life: the excuses we use when we don’t want to move out of our comfort zone.

It’s easier to live life with training wheels. It’s less scary. It’s less threatening. But life with training wheels is also less meaningful. It’s like Edgar Lee Masters wrote in the poem “The George Gray”: “It is a boat longing for the sea, and yet afraid.”

That said, we can find many an excuse to justify our training wheels. Like what other people think. At one time or another, we’ve all been the target of unkind words. Sadly, we tend to let those words sink in and take root. Soon your heart is overgrown with doubt. The lesson? Never let the world tell you what is possible. Just remember that those who discourage your dreams probably do so because they had their own dreams destroyed.

Is your excuse that you might fall or fail? Three things are sure in this life: death, taxes and mistakes. They are going to happen. We simply need to change our perspective. For example, when asked how it felt to fail so many times in trying to invent the light bulb, Thomas Edison replied, “I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2000-step process.”

Are you using the excuse of time? “Oh, I’m not quite ready; I just need a little more time.” While, on its face, this doesn’t appear to be an excuse, in reality, it’s the most dangerous one of all. We delay until the “right time” (which, by the way, doesn’t exist) and eventually we completely forget the dream.

My first memory of training wheels is from learning to ride a tiny Schwinn bicycle as a child. When my Dad finally suggested we take off the training wheels, I offered all manner of excuses. He simply listened, smiled, and said, “No ... it’s time.”

Ten years after my wreck, I finally got back on a bike. But I started with baby steps: a small Honda Rebel, then a larger bike, and then finally another Harley Sportster. It was scary, it was daunting, but it was time.

What opportunities and dreams are unfolding on the path in front of you? And what training wheels are you leaning on?

Don’t waste your life on excuses. Don’t miss the opportunities offered. Lose the training wheels, get out on the open road of life, and see what adventures await!

— A trial lawyer turned stand-up comedian and Baptist minister, Rev. Susan Sparks is the senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City and the author of Laugh Your Way to Grace. Contact her through her email at revssparks@gmail.com, or her website, www.SusanSparks.com.

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