Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Teach The Girls.

This post... God. So much of this post makes me cry. And I cry because there are so many moms who aren't teaching their precious daughters this. I've steered clear of the Duggar nonsense, but I will dip my toe in here because... This:

I know everybody is laughing about this Josh Duggar story. Oh, a DUGGAR on Ashley Madison, it's so rich! I wish more...
Posted by Jessica Krammes Kirkland on Thursday, August 20, 2015

I have to quote this mom: "Parents, WE MUST DO BETTER BY OUR DAUGHTERS. Boys, men, are born with power. Girls have to command it for themselves. They aren't given it. They assume it and take it. But you have to teach them to do it, that they can do it. We HAVE to teach our daughters that they are not beholden to men like this. That they don't have to marry a man their father deems "acceptable" and then stay married to that man long, long after he proved himself UNACCEPTABLE. Educate them. Empower them. Give them the tools they need to survive, on their own if they must."

And she closed with "As for my girls, I'll raise them to think they breathe fire." 

With the rare exceptions of mothers (and fathers) like this, we are failing our girls.

We are teaching them to be objects, to be ashamed, to be afraid. We have taught them that they are princesses, victims, pawns in a game. We have told them that they need to fit into a certain sized jean to be loved, they need to have a certain hued hair to gain approval and that their lips and eyes and everything else needs to constantly be on show for them to register as 'human' on an nonexistent scale.

We are teaching them that what's between their legs is more powerful than what's between their ears. We have shown them that it doesn't matter how awesome you have are, how intelligent you have made yourself, how hard you work, they still are less because they are female.

We have given them no reasons to not accept behavior like Josh Duggar's with a wince and inevitable forgiveness.

We tell them to be quiet, to sit down, to be 'nice', to be polite. And what are they left with? The world doesn't give a damn about a woman who knows how to set a nice table, parents. The world will eat your daughter and her salad forks without thought, and it will chew her up and devour her hopes, her dreams and her potential. As PARENTS, we take on the mantle of protecting and teaching and loving these little beings will all of our souls... But how can we do that if we don't build our daughters into beings?! How do we feel as though we've done right by our daughters unless we teach them how to be themselves and, most importantly, how to honor themselves? We say we need more wives and mothers, but do we? Do we need broken mommies and sad wives who subject themselves rather than celebrate themselves? I don't think so. I think that's how we build a tragically broken society without conscience.

Teach them, my friends. And let those around you help. Teach your little girls to breath fire, to rain hell and to refuse to be anything other than her incredible self. And show her how to lead others. Teach her compassion, kindness and strength. Teach her hard work, honesty, bravery. Teach her to be aggressive, but teach her strategy. Teach her words so she may communicate. Show her science and technology and art and history so that she can understand the human condition and her place in this world and so she can wonder. Teach her curiosity. Teach her everything you know and more.

And then let her go. Let her make mistakes and stumble and fall and rise again. Let her find her way, let her choose her life, let her decide who she will be. Let her create and fail. Let her love and live. And let her love you. Because, mom & dad, these are the most precious lessons you will ever teach.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Manifesto.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the personal success versus business success contrasts, and the one thing I've realized is that in my personal life, I don't really have a manifesto. I've written one for every business plan I've ever created and yet, for my own plan, I have failed to create something solid that I can refer to when questioning my 'purpose'. Yesterday, someone sent me an image that struck me nearly speechless and inspired the following paragraphs; I was going to share it on Instagram but as it took shape, it was not only extremely long, but would be difficult to tie to any one image alone. 

My life has been an exercise in sincerity... Even when I'm seemingly insincere. My personality is an illustration of inner authenticity, even at the cost of my ambition and commercial success, and despite the humor in my words or actions. As I've gotten older and have less patience and time for inefficiency, I've begun to realize that my bluntness isn't a shield, but the core of who I am. And it's a powerful core when combined with passion and the eternal spring of optimism. 

When I say that women have a larger place in this world than as objects or placeholders or prizes, I mean it. When I speak about how female athletes have an obligation to be more than representative of a 'look', I speak with full conviction. When I expound upon the idea of companies promoting the health of an industry through equality and skill instead of a false idea of ownership and inferiority, I speak the truth. There is nothing in this world as valuable as building and creating and progressing in positive ways... And it is time to make that more than an idea and into the standard. We are the deciders. We are the creators of our fate and the builders of a future... Not just for athletes. But for women. For girls. For all those who dream of possibilities that aren't dictated by their gender or appearance, but their skill and effort and work ethic and passion.    Those who insist on 'playing the game' are part of the problem, not the solution and prevent progress instead of pushing it. I may just ride a bike, but I'll be damned if my life and my career are summed up as such. There are plenty of remarkably accomplished but unremarkable cyclists out there, my friends, and none of this is about what I accomplish on the bike. It simply isn't. Race results are forgotten, photos are misremembered, teams crumble and careers fade away... All we have are the dreams we enable in those who come after us, the happiness we make for those around us and the gratitude we recognize in every day we're able to see. And my purpose is to do just that. To inspire that, to create that, to leave that... Even though I am so flawed and so human. My job is to build something not made of ego, but of kindness. Of hope. Of gratitude. 

And I hope my legacy is filled with all of that, with enough emotion and failure and irreverence and reckless curiosity that it fills a ship. I hope that what I leave behind is bigger than my name; I hope that my legacy is so large that my name becomes forgotten in the midst of all of the laughter and thought and living that is done after I am gone. And I hope that this is possible because I pushed over a chair in the barroom of someone's mind and leveled a wall in another. I hope that the damage I cause is that of a whirling tornado: jagged and sharp and angry until it takes on a new shape as improvements are made and dreams are built again. I hope that those walls, those bridges, those ramparts... I hope they are the barriers of the past that has held us back for so long and that my collateral damage isn't that of other humans, but the relics of those hateful traditions which have limited humans thus far. My only hope is that my existence serves a purpose. That my life, in the blip that it is on the infinitesimal scale, will have made waves enough. And if it does, if I succeed in that one singular effort, it will have been a life well led. An existence worth existing for. A humanity unwasted. 

May I be a building block in the beautiful, disheveled castle of human history. And may my existence inspire, upend, fortify, infuriate and fire up those around me until they too have dreams of being larger than themselves. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Adapt Or Die: The Battle Of Online vs. Local Bike Shops

With the announcement that Trek is opening an e-commerce operation, the internet once more exploded in a fury of comments about online bike dealers (OBDs), local bike shops (LBS) and how one is quickly replacing the other in the infinite battle for the almighty consumer dollar.

And I, of course, have an opinion on this.

As someone who has raced for multiple local shops (still do) but is employed by an online bike dealer, it's an interesting contrast to have between price and service. It is, ultimately, a choice that millions of bicycling consumers make many times over every year. But does it have to be?

I don't think so.

I truly believe that the claim of OBDs closing good LBS' is false. Why? Because if it's a good LBS, an online dealer cannot close it. So many studies inside of the industry (and out) have shown that an involved, decent bike shop is not only an economic boon for the community, but a sign of a healthy town. Good local bike shops do more than sponsor racers or change out junior's tire, however -- they provide valuable jobs, insight, programs and services to communities that might not necessarily have them. Here in Salt Lake, we even have community bike programs that save lives, teach independence and offer new opportunities to those who have little to go by. This sort of immense value cannot and will not be replaced by an online bike dealer. Why? Because they are irreplaceable.

However (of course there is a 'however'!), a bad or less than stellar bike shop can quickly damage a bike community and foster a sense of mistrust and devaluation. This is the sort of bike shop that is not long for the world, methinks. This type of shop is the one that is being replaced by online bicycle dealers and for good reason: they suck.

That may sound harsh, but let me put it to you another way: a bike shop that whines about not being able to compete with an online bike dealer has forgotten that they hold the most valuable card at the table in their hands: service. No matter how they try or what they do, online bike dealers will never be able to provide the kind of service to a customer that their local shop can. Regardless of how much an online bike dealer attempts to provide continued service and hand-holding, they simply cannot -- they're online! And while door-to-door bike service is still growing, online dealers can't compete with the impulsiveness of customers and the randomness with which bikes break; this is cycling, after all. It would take an army of tiny magical mice in the millions to service those online customers, and this ain't Cinderella, cowboy.

That's where a local shop makes their money.

Think about it: a mid-range mountain bike might cost $3000, but what good is that sale when the customer needs a new set of wheels because she's just destroyed hers and the warranty is going to take 8 weeks? What good are we when that fork needs to be serviced, when that bottom bracket needs to be repacked and that handlebar replaced? The onus (and opportunity) suddenly falls to that customer's welcoming, warm, smiling local shop. And therein lies the rub, my friends. Think about the local shops you know. How many of them would welcome you through the door with a conspiratorial grin? How many of them ask how your day is? If you have a shop that does that, GO THERE. Right now. Buy something. And thank them.

But if you don't have that strong local resource, think about the people who are like you. Maybe their shop closed when Wal-Mart came to town. Maybe their shop sucks. Maybe the owner of their local bike shop has refused to get social media, has refused to set up a website, has refused to train and hire skilled employees who have any customer service skills, so that owner just collects the scant amount of extra money that comes in each month, then wonders why the cash flow is so low. But maybe that local shop owner is simply that -- a shop owner who happens to think that money isn't coming in because of the OBD.

Let me tell you something. As a business owner, an athlete, a pariah and the usual mayhem and trouble maker, there is nothing I know better than work. If any of us want to make money, we have to work. It's that simple. And if we want to make money out of a bike shop, we have to work hard. It requires a willingness to invest in that shop, that brand, that community. And it's not easy. And there are politics and pressure and you may be barely scraping by, but if you're in this to be a millionaire, you may have chosen the most difficult road to get there. But it is WORTH IT.

Because this is the day and age of adaptation. The market has changed. And dealers must change with the market or risk extinction. All of us have to carefully and critically examine what we're doing as people, as companies, as an industry and decide whether or not our actions and words contribute to the sustainability of an entire sport. It's a big decision. It's a heavy call to make, to be that one person. But the kicker is this: if we don't make that call or choose to be better, someone else will. And they will shape our industry. They will be making those decisions, for better or for worse. And those decisions will make or break us, kill us or ignite us. We have a chance now to step up, provide some killer service, create a smarter, more efficient industry and sell some fucking bikes or... Not. Don't get me wrong. We can certainly continue on in this mediocre vein, infighting and battling over scant amounts of cash, but we will die.

Don't sit on that stool and tell me that OBDs are killing the local bike shop. Because if anything, they're helping the good shops, and those shops know it. Sure, the OBD might sell parts for a little less to the random price cruncher, but a good local shop has employees who do a damn fine job of putting those parts together. That owner cares so much about those customers that the owner charges them premium prices for that premium labor. And guess what? That customer pays. Why? Because it's worth it. Because, like a good car mechanic, that owner guarantees the work. Those mechanics make enough money to love what they do and they do a job worth being proud of. But paying paltry wages and screaming at employees and focusing on 'selling' rather than 'servicing' won't do that. And the good shops know this. The good online bike dealers do, too. And together, they're working towards an industry that is focused on making bikes (and bike parts and bike service) more accessible and more fun.

After all, isn't that what we're really looking to do here?