A few days ago I checked into a hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The desk clerk smiled and asked how far I had traveled. I said over 2,00 miles from Seattle, Washington. His reply was similar to one I had heard from several other people. He said the trip sounded fascinating but if he tried doing it he would have stopped after about a dozen miles and given up.
To be honest the thought of giving up crossed my mind a couple of times this trip, especially around Missoula, Montana when my legs were like jello. What prevented me from giving up was you.
I learned from behavioral economics that one simple method of accomplishing a major task is to make a public commitment with verification. The major task doesn’t have to be cycling across the country. It can be as simple as losing ten or twenty pounds of weight.
How did you prevent me from giving up? I made a public commitment by creating this blog. Forcing myself each night to write about the trip ensures each day I remember that a lot of people were told I was going to complete the trip. Dropping out in the Rocky Mountain would mean publicly admitting defeat to a large audience. If I didn’t have the blog then quitting would have been relatively easy since no one would have known.
Verification is important, too. On the side of the blog is a widget or box that contains information from Strava. Strava is an app on my phone that every 30 seconds tracks where I am. Strava uses this to calculate my speed, distance and height climbed. By keeping Strava on all the time I cannot cheat and call Uber, Lyft or a taxi without a reader noticing.
What is the takeaway? If you want to do something relatively large then what you need to do is first make a public commitment. It doesn’t have to be a blog. Any kind of public commitment works. Getting up during a family dinner and telling everyone your plan is just as good as tweeting to the entire world.
Then you also need to follow through by ensuring there is some way for people to monitor or watch what you are doing. For example there is a television show that tracks obese people trying to lose weight. They periodically bring contestants in to be weighed. That is an example of monitoring.
Looking at the above paragraphs it all seems so simple. In reality, doing any large project or task is not simple even with the help of behavioral economics plus supportive friends and relatives.
Today, my son and I pedaled from Norwalk, Ohio to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The morning was relatively easy. We spent much of the time on the same bike trail as yesterday. We saw amusing things like a giant US flag made out of empty beer cans and a giant bird statue.
We ended the morning in Oberlin, Ohio and had some excellent burrito bowls for lunch at a restaurant that looked at the town’s park. Before leaving Oberlin we stopped at the location where the process for creating aluminum was invented. The inventor patented his process and went on to create Alcoa.
After lunch the beautiful roads and rail trails started to disappear. Hills started reappearing as we got closer to Cleveland. Traffic also became heavier as we went through the suburbs of Cleveland.
We ended the day by cycling through one of the newest national parks in the US; the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Getting into the park was quite easy. The road went straight downhill in a series of hair pin turns. I used my brakes more getting into the park than I did pedaling down the western mountains. In the center of the park is part of canal that connected the Ohio river with Lake Erie. We pedaled along a wonderful trail that traced the canal’s tow path.
Then it was time to leave the park. The road out of the park was straight up. It wasn’t exceptionally long but it was one of the most painful climbs I have done this trip. There was no chance to pull over and walk since the road had no shoulder and there was very heavy traffic. At the top of the climb I was exceptionally winded and my legs burned for quite a while. On the positive side, I kept up with my son going up-hill so doing all those mountains earlier in the trip paid off.
Today we are just outside of Akron, Ohio. Tomorrow we should be in Pennsylvania. Once I cross the border there will only be three states left to go!