A Foot in Each City (and not an existential crisis)

May 5, 2015 By Tom

I’m pulling strings and signed up on mailing lists to get a square of the famous PDX airport carpet as they replace it–so I can frame it and hang it in my bar for all that it symbolizes

I have a need of travel.

It’s cathartic and therapeutic for me. For a long time my travel was bike racing related. Then it became vacation related. Then it abruptly stopped as I figured out my future. And now, it’s quickly spooling back up to regular travel for business.

I’m sitting in a Portland coffee shop getting ready for a day of meetings and planning. I spent a few minutes this morning writing in my journal before opening my laptop and catching up on the emails from the east coast.

And I’m sitting here a bit in awe; I’ve previously wrote about our expansion and what it means for me to see Kids Riding Bikes in Portland, Oregon—but my heart was overjoyed when I saw kids on our bikes in a school yesterday in person.

I know I’ve got a lot of travel coming up over the next couple of years as we launch into new markets. It’s the kind of travel that makes me excited and I love the thought of exploring cities like Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, LA and elsewhere. I love the concept of knowing I’m going to be traveling to our expansion cities a certain number of times per year and will be getting to grow relationships across the country and getting to be equally awed in every new market. In fact, if that thrill ever goes away as I see the smiles on the faces of kids in a new city, I know it’ll be time to find a new career.

this looks as awesome in PDX as it does in Indy

The coolest thing about this first trip to Portland to see Kids Riding Bikes in action—is that the expression of excitement on the kids faces, the appreciation of the teachers, the pay it forward mentality–it translates as equally here as it does back in Indy. The bike is the ultimate equalizer, and it translates well in both cities and it will impact the many future cities we launch.

At the same time, while I swear I’m not having any sort of existential crisis; it’s crazy to step back and see my team in Indy running operations without me and then know that the Nine13sports Northwest crew has things covered out here without me. That odd feeling is something I anticipate will only grow as we put more staff and new teams on the ground and my position evolves from the ED title standing for “everything done” to truly representing Executive Director. I sometimes need to remind myself that I haven’t made myself irrelevant by our growth, but that our growth means we get to serve thousands more kids in every city.

One of my mentors, a brilliant South African guy whom I trust as a sounding board and for insight once told me, “if you rest on your resume even for just a bit, you’ll fall behind. It’s not what you did yesterday but what you’re doing today and creating tomorrow.” As I continue to grow Nine13, I realize that I’ll have to continue to adapt to my “new” position within my organization.

Growing in cities with good coffee, food, beer and people certainly isn’t a bad way to adjust either.