Six lessons Phil Keoghan and his ride can teach us

This past weekend I watched a cycling documentary, The Ride. In March 2009, Phil Keoghan, host of The Amazing Race, rode his bike on a 40 day 3,500 mile journey across America. Phil raised $500,000 during the ride for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society which ultimately reached over $1 million.

As the story unfolded, it became obvious that this story was really about what happened along the road and what happened to Phil rather than a story on how to pedal 3,500 miles in 40 days. I came up with six lessons that I learned from this documentary. I think we can apply these to all of our lives. Let us take a look at how to take these lessons and make our lives better.

  1. Sometimes challenges are not what you think they are. Crossing America, I imagined that tackling the staggering mountain ranges on a bicycle would be a cyclist’s biggest challenge. On this ride, it was the numerous small challenges. Cold, wind, rain, sand storms, monotony and undulating terrain made for frustrating and tiring days. We ought to not let our perceived mountains deter us, but we need to learn to tackle the smaller challenges along the way that have a greater influence on our successes.
  2. The prize may not be what you think it is. Riding across the finish line through a crowd of cheering fans in New York City seemed to be the reward for Phil’s journey. The real prize was much more. He was greeted in both small and large towns by MS patients and their families. The personal stories of real life challenges were inspirational. As the story unfolded on the screen, it was a story of understanding how to savor and live life under the reality of harsh physical limitations. It does us well to temper our personal trials and tribulations with the stories of those who are challenged every day to do the best they can with disabling diseases and physical limitations.
  3. You can eat an elephant one bite at a time. I can only imagine what was going through Phil’s mind as he dipped his tires into the Pacific Ocean and began his ride east. The 3,500 miles that lay ahead must have seemed like an elephant sitting on his handlebars. He persevered and ate that elephant 100 miles at a time. We too can eat our personal elephants at 100 mile bites and not let the elephant keep us from seeing success.
  4. Sometimes you need a little help from your friends. Although Phil pedaled every mile for himself, he had a good support mechanism in place. His best friend cycling alongside for large parts of the trip, his wife who joined him on different occasions, his father trailing him in a travel trailer and an entertaining film crew helped him make the journey. We need to remember that even though we are on our personal journeys, we most certainly need the support of others to make our journey successful.
  5. Take care of yourself first. At about Phil’s halfway point in Iowa, his body began to tire and run out of gas. He was consuming more energy than he was taking in. He spent a night hospitalized rehydrating and recharging. He knew he would fail if he did not take this precaution. It’s easy to turn our journeys into amazing races. We charge off on a strong start only to lose traction as our journey wears on. The lesson learned here is to allow time to recharge and feed our bodies to keep them in good operating order.
  6. Life in the slow lane has its advantages. The vistas and landscapes along this 3,500 ride were amazing. The videography showed scenes that were National Geographic quality. When you are on a bicycle, life passes by more slowly. You envelop yourself in nature and experience more interactions with people. Maybe we should slow down and experience life with a different perspective. Life is short. Take time to smell the roses.
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  1. Holly Rose February 21, 2012 at 7:59 am

    I hadn’t heard about this although I love Amazing Race! Your point about eating an elephant one bite at a time is right on the money! Trying to get it all done too quickly is what frustrates us. I used to get really upset looking at how much I have to go. It would depress me. Now i break it up into 10 pound bites. Like you said, I do it one “bite” at a time. I don’t look at everything all at one time. It would overwhelm me. Good advice you have given us!!

  2. Tom Bilcze February 21, 2012 at 9:15 am

    The documentary is currently playing on Showtime. I suspect it will be available in stores soon. It is also focused a lot on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I wonder if they may do some sort of charitable tie-in to their Bike MS events.


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