Three Business Lessons From Last Week’s Bike Crash
Two weeks ago, I shared a few lessons learned from a bike crash. It seems the universe wasn’t quite finished with additional lessons for me!
The day after I published that story, I went on a predawn ride. Bike lights were glowing, temperatures were cool, and there was zero traffic! About 10 miles out, while clipping along at 20 mph, I experienced a sudden jerk of my handlebars as my bike encountered an unseen sinkhole. With 20 mph of momentum, I continued forward, but my bike did not! It happened quick! I met the pavement and grunted one last pain-free breath.
I sat up, in an empty dark intersection groaning between shallow pained breaths. I barely managed my bike to the corner and felt notable pain while turning the crank to put my chain back on.
“Now,” I thought, “If I can just get my leg over the bike, I can begin a slow, painful ride home.” Just then a pickup slowed to the red light. The driver’s window was down so I shouted, “Excuse me – I just had a bad bike crash. Will you help me get a few miles down the road?” To my surprise, he got out and lifted my bike into the back while I pulled myself into the cab of his truck.
I pointed in the general direction of home, and we exchanged a few words. I think he noticed as I spoke that every bump in the road brought wincing pain. He took me all the way home, even hanging my bike up on its hook in the garage.
I thanked Jon, looking at the “Classic Concrete” logo on the company shirt he was wearing.
I went inside, eyed myself in the mirror, and peeled my jersey off. Something about my right shoulder looked wrong. It was zig-zagged where it had once been smooth. I knew I had to go to the emergency room.
Once there, a painful process of scans and x-rays confirmed the diagnosis:
- Shattered clavicle
- Separated shoulder
- Broken thoracic vertebrae transverse process
- Broken right anterior ribs 3 through 8 (several displaced)
- Lung contusions
Also, more than two broken ribs increased the risk of internal bleeding and lung contusions requiring level-1 trauma care across town. Determined to keep costs down, we opted to drive instead of taking the prescribed ambulance ride.
Heading into surgery, my doctor gave me advice he called the “Rule of Threes”:
- You are about to experience three days of misery
- Followed by three weeks of pain
- Followed by three months of recovery
He added, “You should be able to get back to normal within a year.”
By that afternoon, I was out of surgery with a temporary piece of hardware in my shoulder. The night passed, and the next day, I was instructed to get out of bed, walk around and remove and replace my socks. When I proved I could do that much, I was sent home.
At home, as promised, I experienced the three days of misery. I was miserable when I had to get up, and when I tried to sit or lay down! There were no good positions to rest. We bought a power-lift recliner the next day. So I’ve spent a full week in my new recliner reflecting. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about:
Business Lessons learned from a Bike Crash
Lesson 1 – Potholes
- The Facts: My recent crash occurred when I was going straight down the road. Perhaps I was tuned out to risk factors because the obvious ones were not present. I was not turning… There were no other bikes or cars around to collide with. In thousands of hours riding on smooth, obstacle-free roads, I had come to expect a standard of road integrity, and a pothole was the furthest thing from my mind.
- Business Lessons: Unseen factors can have an impact on our business even when everything else seems to be going right and risk seems low. What could cause a pothole in your business? Like subterranean water quietly eroding the integrity of a roadbase, repeated core value violations by a talented team member can erode morale. Failure to consistently deliver some aspect of your product or service erodes your brand promise. Suddenly, little things can add up to a pothole and cause a crash that will take weeks or months to recover from.
- Key takeaway – Be careful to not get lulled into security in the routine of your day to day businesses. Remember, “little things” can quietly erode a part of your business and suddenly show up as a pothole. Pay attention to the little things!
Lesson 2 – Power Partners
- The Facts: If I had tried to ride home from the accident, it is highly likely that my lung contusions would have been much worse … possibly even life threatening. Knowing what I know now about the state of my shoulder, it is highly likely I would have crashed again or amplified my injuries by trying to power through! It is a miracle that Jon showed up with his pickup when he did! It’s also amazing i had the presence and courage to ask a stranger for help. He was just the support I needed and he was perfectly equipped to help!
- When I arrived at the ER, they determined from my X-ray that I had 5 broken ribs. This was over the threshold of 2 – requiring me to go to a Level 1 Trauma Center 10 miles away. Through years of experience in hundreds of ER’s protocols have been developed to attain optimal outcomes for people in my situation. I needed treatment from people with experience and who were equipped to treat my level of trauma.
- Business Lessons: We experience turbulence in business. It may even feel like unexpected things pop up that knock the wind out of us! Is it possible that we put the life of the business at risk by “powering through” on our own? Or are we willing to reach out to others.
- Perhaps our procrastination on some “little things” in our business could be leading to a “sinkhole”. When you discover this, it is a signal that you should be looking for a “power partner” to get through a rough spot.
- A nice guy with a pickup can get me home faster and more safely than I could do on my own. A surgeon can address acute physical issues in surgery. A physical therapist can guide us to strength and sustainable movement after an injury. We rely on their training and experience to do it right and faster than we could do it ourselves. As a business leadership coach, I operate in a similar way: For an ailing business, I have the experience and training to greatly accelerate the path to recovery and sustained business health.
- Key takeaway – Don’t be too proud or too thrifty to get specialized support. The help of a guy with a pickup, a surgeon, or a business coach can actually save you money, or make you more money, in the long run by accelerating your speed to success and greater capability. Ask WHO not HOW! Who can do it faster than I can learn how? Create a power team to go further faster!
Lesson 3 – Perseverence
- The Facts: in our fast-food, streaming-video world, we often expect to get what we want immediately and with little effort. But when a pothole surprises us and we sustain injuries, the process of getting things on track might just require invasive surgery and the miserable discomfort of abrupt changes as we nurse ourselves back to health.
- The day of my crash, I had to clear my calendar to deal with the situation at hand. It was not easy! I was scheduled to host an event that day that I had been planning for six weeks. I had meetings and appointments I had worked hard to schedule. All of it had to be cancelled or postponed because I had an acute issue that left untreated would threaten my long-term ability have good meetings and conduct events and sessions with my clients in the future. Left untreated, my injuries could have even been life threatening.
- Business Lesson: If something is broken in your business, are you willing to slow down and go through the misery of getting the bones of your business optimally aligned? Is a surgical procedure needed to make the change? Can you do the surgery yourself? Do you have the grit to endure the deep discomfort of a bruised ego ? Will you adjust your calendar to spend time taking care of acute issues in your business? Are you prepared to engage a power team much like a surgeon or physical therapist for many months of coaching and therapy to ensure your business is moving correctly and getting stronger?
- Key Takeaway – It will take longer than a day to get my shoulder, ribs and road rash healed and back to full strength. Are there broken things in your business, like people problems eroding trust or morale? Are there process issues that erode your brand and your reputation? The “rule of 3” from my surgeon is sort of like the Vision / Traction Organizer for your business. With a vision for where you are going, you can endure the misery and pain of realigning the broken bones and healing the road-rash and bruises in your business. Get a clear picture of where you want your business to be, make a realistic, 1-Year Plan, set measurable, time-bound Rocks, and stick with it!
Man, I wish I had not wrecked! But I think I’ve gained a few insights over the past week sitting here in my recliner.
What do you think? Comment below …