Olympic motivational speaker Ruben Gonzalez

Gabriela, the proud new bike rider

(September 2006)

Last week as I was teaching my 6-year-old daughter Gabriela how to ride a bike, I realized that Gabriela was going through all the challenges and emotions I went through when learning how to luge.

She was going through all the emotions ANYONE goes through when they are learning something new… hope, fear, trepidation, self-doubt, and finally exhilaration and pride that comes from pushing yourself and accomplishing something you never did before.

Day One –

Gabriela was excited and filled with anticipation as we drove to our training ground – the church parking lot. Her excitement quickly turned to fear and doubt after falling two or three times from her bike.

Gabriela’s a pretty tough cookie, but after a few falls she started stalling…”Look at the pretty design on the bike seat Daddy. Let’s count all the flowers that are painted on my bike…” She didn’t want to get back on that mean bike.

After watching Gabriela fall a few times, I realized that her problem was that she did not know how to make a correction once she started leaning one way or the other. As soon as she started leaning, her fear caused her to tighten up, and rather than lean in the opposite direction to regain her balance, she would simply fall.

I did the same thing on the luge. The first two years I luged, whenever I got myself into trouble I would tighten up, and crash. It took me two years to for me to get over the fear and to make a correction to get myself out of trouble.

The same thing happened to me when I was learning how to ski. I’d get into trouble, freeze, and crash. Actually, most of the time beginners in luge, skiing, and biking don’t even know when they are getting into trouble, so by the time they realize it, it’s too late.

Whenever you are not getting the desired results, don’t quit. Make an adjustment, a correction if you will, and change your results.

Back to Gabriela…

When she started stalling and was ready to call it quits, I realized how important it is to have a coach. As her coach, I was able to encourage her and push her through the fear stage. I constantly corrected and encouraged Gabriela and taught her how to regain her balance. This took a while and felt like tough love because she was afraid.

Whenever you are doing something challenging and new, it’s critical to have a coach or a mentor to get you through the tough parts. Having an accountability partner is very helpful as well. You need help in the beginning to keep you from quitting. I never would have made it to the Olympics without my coach. He kept me in the game long enough for me to learn the skills and gain self confidence.

Day Two –

Gabriela didn’t want to go ride the bike on the second day. After all, the longest distance she had been able to ride on the first day had been about ten feet.

But we went anyways. Again, without a coach she might have quit. On the second day she still could not get herself to ride by herself but she was able to get herself to loosen up enough to where she would steer with her handlebars (as long as I was holding the bike). She also was able to hold her back straight (the first day she was wiggling her back left and right and would not stay still on the bike).

It seemed that there really was not that much progress on day two. Her position was a bit better, she was a little bit looser, but she was still falling after 10 feet.

The main reason she was falling was that as soon as she started to lose balance, her fear would cause her to freeze and she would stop pedaling.

At that point, I thought it would take another week before Gabriela would get it.

Day Three –

We went over her steering and her proper position on the bike, and started working on pedaling. Constant pedaling no matter what. We just focused on the pedaling. About 5 minutes into the lesson. I let her bike go and she just kept on pedaling. Gabriela rode out about 30 feet, made a big loop back, and started coming back towards me.

She must have not realized that she was riding on her own, because when she saw me, her eyes got as big as saucers, she quit pedaling, and down she went.

But you should have seen her after that! From that moment on she was on cloud nine and all she could say was,

“I can’t believe I did it! I did it! I can’t believe it! Thank you Daddy!”

Now she could see light at the end of the tunnel. With a little help from her coach, she had worked through the fear stage and now all we had to do was a little fine tuning… work on steering around an obstacle course made up of cones, work on starting and stopping on her own, and all the fun stuff.


Gabriela is brand new at this. She is not confident on the bike yet. Her confidence will come from practicing her bike riding skills. Confidence is not a result of faking it until you make it. Confidence comes from proper practice and mastery of your skills.


1 – Doing something new is always hard in the beginning. Growing and developing yourself is tough.

2- It’s very helpful to have someone to encourage you and to help you through the fear stage.

3 – Once you get through the fear stage, the fun begins and you will experience pride and joy at having accomplished something you’d never done before.

4 – If you practice your new skill, and you master your new skill, you will become confident.

Note: This stuff applies to ANYTHING – riding a bike, luging, skiing, learning how to speak another language, using new sales and prospecting techniques, playing the piano, etc.

Is fear of failure holding you back from being your best? If it is, attack your fear by getting someone else to help you work through the fear. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Once you learn the new skill. Practice it, master it, and enjoy the fruits of being confident in your new skill.


Olympic Motivational Speaker Ruben Gonzalez