The easy way and a hard way
One of the best ways to get around town in Beijing is by bike. It is the best solution for that last mile, and there are always plenty of bikes to chose from.
You learn over time to give the bike a good once over before you scan the code, kick back the stand, and ride off into the busy bike lane. I am adept at picking a good ride after having learned from various mishaps… The biggest lesson is taking a bike with a sponge saddle with a small tear and soaking up rain overnight. That is a squishy pair of pants and an embarrassing walk into your final destination.
The one thing that is hard to judge is the speed of the bike. That may sound stupid because they are all supposed to be torqued to go at one speed – slow and safe. However, I have chosen poorly on occasion and been left pushing firmer on the handlebars and cycling harder to get absolutely nowhere fast. That was today’s scenario. On a hot and murky Beijing evening, I picked a donkey of a ride.
As I persevered with my duff ride, I had two voices in my head. One from Warren Buffet and the other from the great sage who is now gone forever but not forgotten, my Dad.
The voice of Warren Buffet was paraphrasing in my ears.
“The worst investment that I made in my career was in the textile business, the original Berkshire Hathaway. I bought it because it was trading below its working capital, and the plan was to sell it for a profit, but we ended up holding onto it for too long. We held onto that for twenty-one years, and we persevered when we knew we should have cut our losses… but we learned a lot from that enterprise.”
I kept telling myself with every turn of the peddles. I am invested in this bike, and to change it now would take effort and more investment. It’s not worth it. I am only cycling a couple of miles keep going. It’s not so bad.
I told myself that. ‘It’s not so bad.’
The truth was it was a poor experience. It was a clanky, noisy bike. I was beginning to sweat like a centre court player at Wimbledon during a blistering summer’s day.
I was getting the wet spongy saddle feeling.
I was also getting lapped by people watching television on their phones and riding their bike with one hand while I was knocking my pants in. Clearly not a great look for the foreign guy.
My father’s voice.
My old Dad’s voice started to blend into the strain of each cycle of the cogs. His favourite saying of all time. That moment where he would step back and watch you toil on for a bit and then chip in with his immortal words. I could hear it as clear as day.
“Son, there is an easy way and a hard way to do everything… do you think you are picking the right way?”
Clearly, I was not picking the best option. The best option was to pull over. Dismount, lock up the bike, pay the fee, and take a chance with a fresh bike. That was the sensible thing to do.
“Son, what is the most sensible thing to do in this situation? Take your time to think before you go on. Make a sound decision that will make the work easier for you.”
“Got you, Da. I hear you loud and clear.”
I made the call. I pulled over and swapped the bike for a rocket machine. A sweet ride. It was a high-quality decision that I am glad I made as I got back before home the rain started. The total loss to me having made the swap. One point five Chinese yuan… about 20pence in British money and about two minutes lost time during the pit stop. But probably a two-minute net gain when all is taken into consideration.
There is probably a sunk cost narrative in this story to pull out and dangle in front of you, the reader. But that’s not my angle here.
My angle is to prompt you to know when to call it a day with something you are working on because it frankly is not working for you at that moment. Park the issue up and focus your attention on something else that is working for you and will give you a better result.
By all means, weigh up the options, but when the gut and the head send you some signals. Listen and make the decision quickly; otherwise ok, you might finally arrive at your destination, but you will have dispelled more energy than you could afford, been beaten by the competition, and you will look like you have been through some sh*t.
Make the call and avoid the bad investment of time, energy and money…
Or suffer the soggy pants.