The Power of Failure - Leadership Lesson from My Biking Journey

    The Power of Failure - Leadership Lesson from My Biking Journey

    4 mins read

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    Everyone dreads failure, but we often gain our most significant “lessons learned” and motivation from our failures.

    I have been cycling long distances (200 km+) for close to seven years now, and I have learned several inspiring and critical lessons from biking that have built my “never give up” mental outlook. 

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    In 2017, I decided to participate in the London Edinburgh London (LEL) cycling endurance ride, approximately 1,400 km (~870 miles), which was to be finished in 116 hours. Unfortunately, I had to quit the ride at ~850 km, as I was running out of time, partners, control points, and eventually motivation. To give a perspective, there were 60 riders from India, and only ten or so could finish this ride in the allocated time. As always, it’s a collection of wrong choices or events which lead to failure and not a single factor. The key reasons for me were lack of practice (the last 1,000 km+ ride I did was in October 2016, almost a year before the event), I was not prepared for the cold climate of Scotland and rains/crosswinds of the UK, and lastly, being a little bit overweight at the time.

    It was disappointing as a lot of effort went into this event, and hence, I made up my mind that next time I would leave no stones unturned and would not end up in the same situation. The next time presented itself four years later, in 2021, which was delayed (due to the pandemic) by another year to August 2022. So, I will be taking another shot at the LEL after my first attempt five years ago.

    My quest to achieve this milestone has gotten even stronger, and I have decided to pursue this until I succeed. In January 2020, before the onset of the pandemic, I weighed 98.5 kg (approximately 217 pounds). I realized that this would be a hindrance, as one must achieve an elevation of 10,000 meters during the 1,500 km ride within 125 hours. To be a long-distance cyclist, one must not necessarily be able to ride fast but crush some challenging elevations in the terrain, and any reduction in body weight can make a huge difference.

    I bought a smart indoor trainer (a smart trainer is a mountable tool for your bike that offers resistance like a regular trainer but with the added benefit of allowing the resistance to be controlled by cycling apps), which helps you work on your power. The power in cycling means the rate at which energy is used while we cycle; it is measured in watts. Using this trainer boosted my power significantly (from 200 to 280), but still, I had to cut down my weight. I consulted a dietician in July 2020, and within 3-4 months, I lost 20 kgs (approximately 44 pounds) primarily from diet control. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to make significant dietary changes. I just applied some limits on the quantity of regular food, avoided junk eating (once a week was still allowed), and ate an earlier dinner.

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    By January 2021, I increased my watts per kilogram (power divided by weight – an indirect measure of how fast you can ride) from 2.0 to 3.5; however, since I spent most of 2020 doing indoor training, I had to go outdoors and practice for long rides. With my new form, I was able to finish outdoor rides of varying distances - 600 km (in 37 hours), 400 km (in 16 hours), 300 km (in 13.5 hours) - in my best time ever and then eventually did an epic ride of 1,200 km in 90 hours with a climb of 10,000 meters in October 2021 and February 2022.

    In a nutshell, my fitness transformation journey has been possible only because I knew what failure meant, and instead of being disappointed by failure, it rather motivated me. When I look back, I realize that learning to ride in various situations has forced me to get out of my comfort zone and push myself to accomplish more than I ever believed was possible. I also learned that consistent training produces better fruits than a few one-time efforts. I have been clocking 30+ hours of active workout time every month for the last year. This learning can also be applied to professional life, learning from failure, and doing a few things consistently.

    Once we set a goal and a path to that goal, we must keep moving toward it even if it is just a few steps a day; like to reach the summit, one must climb a little
    every day. We may have to adapt and change some things on the way, but we need to march ahead with determination. 

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    Focusing my efforts on every aspect that could help me improve my potential gave me a better understanding of my capabilities. Significant milestones can be achieved by being consistent and perseverant. As the saying goes – slow and steady wins the race. We don’t necessarily need to be slow, but rather be steady in the pursuit of our goals and keep improving every day.

    aditya bhandari
    Written By:
    Aditya Bhandari
    Aditya leads the Decision Science team out of the India office and has been with Axtria for more than ten years. He started his career in data analytics in 2003 and has 18 years of overall experience, with 16 years specializing in pharma. His previous companies include Absolutdata, marketRx, and dunnhumby. Aditya earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Hindu College, Delhi University, and a master’s degree in economics from JNU, Delhi. He also holds an MBA in International Business from IIFT, New Delhi.
    Aditya’s cycling journey began in 2015. He first started cycling, seeking to add a fun activity to his life. Initially, he rode 5 or 10 km, gradually increasing the distance and duration of rides. What he didn't expect was that he would fall in love with it and make it a part of his lifestyle. Subsequently, 2016 and 2017 were his peak years, where he covered over 10,000 km per year on his cycle.
    Aditya maintains consistency by roughly covering 200 km in a week. He wakes up early in the morning for cycling and clocks 30 hours per month. Whenever he goes on business trips, he ensures to take at least a day to cycle and explore the area.

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