Lycra is an unforgiving material and I’m keen to one day track down its inventor and simply ask ‘why?’ The problem being that my current hobby of choice is cycling, and unless you have the right kit you just don’t cut it on the Stirling Highway in Claremont or Aldgate Valley Road in the Adelaide Hills.
Whilst I’m out on the road most weekends, as I get older it really does takes an extra shot of perseverance to get out the front door and snap in the shoes. And shot is the best term I can use, given that it would be fair to say that I’m more familiar with the coffee shops on my chosen roads than I would care to admit to you. Perseverance is also relevant because it’s that trait I really need to have in order to stay true to the mission I have set for myself.
Cycling is a great time waster and I do enjoy it but it’s not my passion. I can sometimes be one of those people who live to work but to me, what I do in the workplace is central to the plan I have always had for my life. I’m lucky enough to work in an industry that provides essential services to people with disabilities. Fortunately its not a job it’s a mission, and not unlike my chosen weekend activity, when things get tough, I need to constantly remind myself to go back to that mission that I began with, and simply stick with it.
By now you may be wondering were mountain biking comes into this story and I’m here to tell you not without its fair share of pain. You see I’m a road cyclist, or at least trying to be, and my teenage son is a mountain biker, which apparently is much cooler. I’ll admit letting go of the lycra is appealing but the terrain on those tracks and the trees jumping out from everywhere require a slightly more agile physique. As you may imagine a rivalry has developed in the family around these two different forms of the same sport, and its Dad’s cycling that seems to continually come out the more inferior (read daggy) activity.
Over the journey my son has tried to convince me to give mountain biking a try. I believe them to be different skills, however one of Australia’s most celebrated riders may beg to differ. Cadel Evans AM is an Australian former professional racing cyclist who finished in the Top 10 of eleven Grand Tours and won the 2011 Tour de France. Early in his career, he was a champion mountain biker, winning the World Cup in 1998 and 1999 and placing seventh in the men’s cross-country mountain bike race at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
Evans is a four time Olympian whose commitment to his original mission has never wavered, nor has his willingness to contribute to the wider community. In 2011 he took part in Suit Up & Ride, a team cycling event with a twist.
Participants must wear corporate attire (or their designated uniforms i.e. police, ambulance, fire crews) and race on Melbourne Bike Share bikes. It’s all about teamwork, having some fun whilst raising awareness for mental health issues in young people and supporting Orygen Youth health.
In my working life I have become aware of the commitment made by many groups working in mental health. I recently started a new organisation called CUSP Services that has been created to support Disability Organisations with back-office NDIS-specific processing services.
With a small team, CUSP has been working with Skylight Mental Health to co-design, test and implement the core back office services required by Disability Providers as they increase their engagement with the NDIS. CUSP have co-located in the Skylight offices to speed to developed time for the new services and is now ready to offer services to organisations nationally.
The CUSP approach is to ensure that the services offered are true “back office”, with no client contact or specific engagement with the architecture of services or specific NDIS plans. This ensures that organisations can stick to their mission; continuing to invest time and focus on service creation and service delivery, without the distraction of administration.
The importance of this mission is both individual and central to success for service providers. Just as difficult as it is for me to hit the bike in the mornings it is essential that I keep on track as it were. In this space I can reflect on a few ways that providers can stay the course. Sticking to your mission requires :
1/ Enlisting Your People
To enlist your people so that they are fully in line with the organisation’s mission, its important to empower them to be part of and buy into your purpose and then charge them to help by making sure they say something if they think a decision is out of alignment with your values.
2/ Embed Mission into Your Culture
Use stories as ways to embed your mission and purpose into your organisation DNA in such a way that everyone in the organisation can make their own course corrections on a daily basis.
Similarly, everyone should use the mission and purpose of the group as their North Star of sorts as they make their decisions. Everyone needs to be encouraged to act on the notion that if something requires him or her to act against those values, they quite simply shouldn’t do it.
3/ Measure the Mission
And finally, constantly measure how true you are acting when it comes to your mission. Remember who you set out to help in the beginning and what drives you each day.
In the spirit of some bonding with my son, or simply to stop his taunts about road verses mounting biking, I’m keen to find a connection and some symmetry between the two. In my searching what I have actually found is a wonderful link between my work in disability assistance and mountain biking.
About 30 minutes east of Perth you can find the Kalamunda National Park. A most beautiful part of the world featuring a number of mountain bike trails with such fantastic names as Mother-in-law, Highway to Dell, Deadcats and Shake- Rattle-Roll. What makes these truly unique is that they are a handful of trails that can accommodate the growing sport of Adaptive Mountain biking in Australia.
A rapidly growing group of people have formed an organisation called ‘Break the Boundary’ who advocate for accessibility and inclusion of people with physical and neurological disabilities in Mountain Biking. Founder Andrew Liddawi rediscovered mountain biking on a hand cycle in 2012 after being left paralysed from the waist down following a bike accident in 2008. He now advocates for more inclusion and helping people with disabilities discover hand cycling. I really like the mission they have as it reminds me of the importance of such words for all of us:
Break The Boundary Mission
To empower people with physical disabilities to go beyond flat surfaces, out of their comfort zone, and into off-road areas around Australia which they thought were inaccessible.
With the right tools on the right terrain and with the right attitude, anyone can experience the thrills and joy of being off-road in Australia.
Becoming aware of groups such as those supported by Cadel Evans and created by Andrew Liddawi, I’m reminded of why I should stop looking for excuses to not try something new or to stick with things even when they become challenging. I’m taking up my sons dare to give mountain biking a go and will join him and his friends later this year. Don’t tell him, but it’s my plan to still wear my Hi-Vis lycra and hopefully embarrass him enough to have the last laugh. Its what us dad are supposed to do.