Elizabeth Williams of Cali Bike Tours and her fresh new photo by ARobersonPhoto.com is such a gorgeous example of the Cycle Chic phenomenon. Elizabeth is also one of our passionate and dedicated bicycle safety trainer scholarship candidates, and a young entrepreneurial leader here in Long Beach.
On Monday two friends came over to help me reoorganize my apartment/work studio. I'll be honest it's a work in progress that will take several weeks. I have a lot of old paper work, magazines, books, clothes, etc. to let go of. I have a space that needs to be re-thought and transitioned to be ready and right to now focus on September's upcoming Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place conference, the national Women's Bicycling Summit, and of course the Cycle Chic show. Oh, I'm having so much fun on Pinterest putting together an inspiration image board of ideas for the show!
My plate is full but I'm being very careful not to become overwhelmed - not by the workload itself, but by my thoughts of the workload. It's amazing the power of our thinking for positive or negative, isn't it? Summer is here in a couple of weeks and I want to celebrate this new season with fresh thinking, with a fresh approach. That's why I'm so glad that one of my friends who came to help me is a "Transformation Consultant."
When I moved back to Long Beach eight years ago I knew a total of three people who lived here. I was in constant pain, could only find part time work, and was in dire financial straights. I'm not sharing this to say "poor me," because I know many many people have been, or are in now, this very same situation and worse. Life can be very challenging. But I found Long Beach very welcoming. Sure I missed my great apartment in Santa Monica, I missed feeling like I lived in a center of progressive thinking hipness, but I found the slower pace, the beautiful historic neighborhoods, and more casual attitude here soothing.
But finding enough writing gigs and clients for my marketing and pr consulting services was very tough. I was definitely an outsider, and even after I became the editor (part time of course!) of a local magazine, breaking into the inner circle of movers and shakers in the business world here just wasn't happening very quickly. My soapbox about why regional and national lifestyle media placement was so crucial to changing Long Beach's image of itself to itself and in the broader world fell on confused ears. Not deaf, they just didn't get what I was talking about...wasn't that kind of media for Hollywood?
So I did what many of us do when we suffer disappointment. I became rather bitter and critical of the establishment. And this critical side of me stayed around for a long time. I saw the great potential of my city and I wanted things to change now. Even after I moved from outsider to insider (an overnight success that only took 5+ years) this mindset stayed with me, because I kept seeing things that I felt really needed to be fixed. And well, it was hard to quiet my critical mind once it got going!
Something that has become so clear to me in the past six months while working on Women On Bikes SoCal is how very hard it is for most of us to step outside of our own frame of reference. This is why trying to revolutionize from a place of criticism is not only not sustainable, but doesn't build the kind of strong framework you need for your revolution to survive . Yes, definitely in the beginning you can create a movement pulling together others who feel as cranky and angry as you do, but that only takes you so far. We only have to look at Occupy Wall Street to illustrate my point.
The Founding Fathers of this country understood that. Had they built a revolution only on being angry about being taxed without representation and had not worked so brilliantly on creating a strong, clear and inclusive mandate to move towards we might have won the battles but in the end lost the war. We would have been a country without a positive vision. Yes, sure we are still working on living up to that vision, but that vision has inspired the world.
Certainly there are those who will point out that the Founding Fathers were only talking about white land owning men in their vision. But for the time that was very radical. At the time it was the royalty of Europe who held all of the power. We may not be where we could be as far as the actuality of equality, but let's remember how far we've come.
We are at a place of amazing opportunity for bicycle advocacy. Many of us only change when not changing becomes too painful. As we face the obesity and diabetes epidemics, high gas prices, growing traffic congestion, the bike offers a powerful tool for optimism for a new way forward...if those of us in advocacy can work together rather than hardening into our particular points of view. What I get now so much more clearly than ever before is that there's room for all of us at the table. Thoughtful critique has its place. We need to learn from the past and see where we can raise the bar in the present. But when we lead with criticism we often shut the doors of connection and opportunity. When we lead with telling others how they've been doing things wrong, we're often not invited back again to that particular party. Yes, we may be justified in our feelings and point of view - but do we want to be right, or do we want to invited in.
I'm not for a moment suggesting one pretend to be/feel/think something one does not, but I am suggesting (and I'm learning to take this advice myself) that when we lead with the positive, the opportunity, and open mindedness miracles happen.