The Training Wheels Come Off

“My feet feel weird.” This was the sentence, delivered with ample trepidation, that came out of my son’s mouth as we drove on a fateful day. The reason for his nervousness: he knew we were headed to a field where he was going to have his first go of riding his bike without training wheels.

If you think back to your own first ride, it is the equivalent to jumping out of a plane in the dark, so I empathized with his anxiety. I had to stifle a laugh, though. In a reply to his original pronouncement, after I told him his feet just, “felt excited,” he stated flatly, “no, they are definitely nervous.”

His unease aside, I convinced him to join me in a large grassy strip behind a local school’s baseball field. Thus, the 2-wheeled, 4-footed dance began. Me, holding onto his handlebar and seat while running alongside his bike. Him, letting out varying groans and, “oh no’s,” as he would tip one way and then the other. Me, letting go for a few seconds at a time, surprised that he didn’t fall over immediately.

But before you know it, I let go and it was like watching a kite catch a strong breeze. His little legs pumped away and off he went, getting at least 100 feet away from me. He turned around to see where his old man had stopped holding onto him and yelled out, “I can’t even hear you I’m so far away!”

I can’t remember the last time I felt so proud. On our way home, hearing the excitement in his voice, I thought a lot about my life here and how similar it is to learning how to ride a bike through fear, excitement, and everything in between.

There is no playbook for running a company, and beyond the integrity that has to be a pillar of a business, there are no real rules for how an organization operates and, most importantly, how to grow it. In the past 15 years, I have been in countless scenarios where I had the same fear and nervousness that I heard in Gavin’s voice. Starting it on just a couple hundred dollars when no one knew our name, our big move to a Center City headquarters, being in a final presentation to a large crowd, being interviewed on national television, and much more.

My own pangs of fear have always and will always be outweighed by my excitement of doing something very special, very different as the Top Cat here. This is what inspires me to put my feet on the pedals every morning at AgileCat. And, much like how I shouted encouragement to my son as he pedaled, this business on 2 wheels certainly has required confident voices that have always had my back. Family, friends, CEOs, and business leaders who take my calls for advice or sit down for coffee. Colleagues who pedal with you while you tell each other “faster, faster!” Clients who have the confidence to hitch their sidecar to, “our ride.” It’s all a kind of encouragement.

Naturally, when it comes to entrepreneurship, as I tweeted recently, it is the equivalent to learning how to ride a bike, except blindfolded, and the land on which you ride is constantly shifting and changing.

But trust me when I say it’s exactly why I love what I do, and it’s what keeps me moving forward and perpetually fascinated with what I learn along the way.

– P. Madden, Top Cat