Some of my best, most inspired moments of being a good parent have been complete accidents.
Just this past weekend, I was able to reiterate to my son an important lesson — that success comes in many forms and doesn’t always require a comma and initials after your last name or wear an expensive suit or drive a fancy car.
More importantly, I was able to convey this important concept without ever getting my butt off the couch or without even saying anything. In fact, all I did was smile and nod at the TV a bunch.
The accidental lesson began when my 12-year old son and I were just lounging on the couch this weekend — he playing on his iPhone, me thumbing through the New York Times.
I asked him if he felt like watching a few YouTube videos about bike travel with me so we fired up the TV and I queued up a bunch of the Blackburn Ranger application videos that I saved to my playlist when I stumbled across them earlier in the week.
Blackburn makes equipment for bike touring and the Blackburn Ranger program is an annual competition of sorts to recruit riders who want to be ambassadors for Blackburn’s products and do real-world product testing while out riding famous routes (Camino de Santiago, Scotland’s Highlands, etc.) and documenting the trips.
Sounds like a great gig, right?
It would be easy to dismiss this competition as mere marketing fluff but it is impossible to discount the fact that by documenting these rides, the Blackburn Rangers absolutely help inspire other folks to get out there and ride—with or without Blackburn gear.
Anyway, in order to apply to be a Blackburn Ranger, candidates/riders need to submit a video that says why they should be chosen. These are the videos that we were sitting down to watch.
Sketching and Riding
The first one we watched was by Parker Jones where he talks about riding his bike through Mexico and doing on location sketches of the sights that he encounters. Both my son and I looked at each other and totally agreed that this guy and his idea of bike travel + sketching was cool as hell and he should definitely get into the program.
We watched a few less well-produced videos but even without the snazzy production, the folks who were really just stoked to be out on a bike doing travel and being alive totally stood out.
Then we watched this woman Nam’s video and a few other videos by women who were applying.
Some of the videos were funny and light but they conveyed a serious message about how women are or aren’t represented in adventure cycling and we agreed that most of them seemed super cool and deserved to be in the program.
Mostly I couldn’t stop watching these videos because most of them gave me a huge rush of pure, unbridled optimism.
What comes across in the best of these videos is a lack of fear of the world. A sense that as one travels, the world and the strangers that one comes across are more likely to embrace you than not.
This embrace of the world — this not seeing the world as evil and dangerous and unsafe — flies in the face of so much of the messaging that we receive that it makes me shiver with optimism to watch these travelers recount their tales in their application videos.
It’s certainly a sentiment that I work hard to convey to my kids.
After a half hour or so of videos my son was itching to talk about what bike trips we would do this summer which was kind of cool. I like how these application videos fueled up the stoke for some adventure both for my son and for me.
Another Way To Be
But what was also cool here, I think, was that he was getting a glimpse into another way to be, another way to aspire and achieve.
In large part because of where we live, my son and his peers seem to be handed at birth a very narrow career path: high school, college, doctor/lawyer/wall street.
Anything outside of this is viewed with a bit of skepticism.
The applicants for these ranger positions demonstrate that real success — the kind that comes across in the best of these videos — is the contagious positivity that comes across simply because they can not help loving what it is they are doing.
The authenticity with which the best of these candidates can be themselves is the measure of their success.
So but anyway, I could tell by my kid’s reaction that he understood that I think these folks are all super rad and decent people and that what they are doing is fantastic.
I’m glad we stumbled across these videos and we wish all the applicants the best of luck.
Tip: Here’s a YouTube playlist that I think contains all of the 2017 application videos.