Opportunities and Missing Bicycles

The sun came out over Portland on Saturday morning in what felt like the first time in weeks. It was a beautiful fall day, and I decided to ride my bike to lunch. Except for one problem: when I walked into the garage, my bike wasn’t there. Dolt! Where had I last left it? I couldn’t remember.

See, I ride my bike all over town. Most of the bike adventures are round-trip, but when I only need to go one-way and then head home via bus or car, I leave the bike somewhere on the street and pick it up later.

I started this practice two years ago, when I left it downtown for several days while on a short trip. It was locked up, of course, but when it comes to leaving bikes around cities overnight, that doesn’t usually matter. I thought for sure it would be gone, but when I was finally able to retrieve it a few days later, I was surprised to find it safe and intact. Victory!

Since then I’ve left the bike on the street in all kinds of random places, often for a few days and sometimes as long as a week. So far the worst that’s happened is that someone stole the seat once. It was a little awkward riding back across town with no seat, but then I went to the bike shop and got a new one for just $20. Not a big deal.

One day, I know my luck will run out, and the bike won’t be there when I return to its nesting spot. But I decided long ago that the risk was worth it. The bike cost about $250. Now that I’ve left it outside a hundred times or more, I no longer worry about losing it. When a young entrepreneur decides to claim it somehow, I’ll probably be annoyed for a day or two—but then I’ll go and buy another bike.


I was reminded of this story when I made a travel mistake this weekend. For more than a month I had been looking at a good awards redemption to go to South Africa in January. The option I saw was perfect.

For those who care: PDX-IAD-JNB on South African Airways using United miles transferred from my Chase Ultimate Rewards account. Total cost: 60,000 miles and $5 in taxes.

I put the award on a 24-hour hold and made a note to ticket it before the deadline. The night of the deadline I was busy doing other things, so I thought: I’ll just create a new itinerary in the morning, and then ticket it the following day.

Those who are accustomed to the world of long-distance travel can probably guess what happened: when I went to create a new itinerary, the flights I wanted were no longer available—nor were any other good alternatives. Ack! This was completely my mistake, and a real missed opportunity. Bummer.

Frustrated as I was, I remembered the bike scenario. I leave the bike wherever I want, and most of the time everything is fine. If one day it isn’t, it won’t be a huge deal. When it’s finally gone I can get another bike, break it in easy, and eventually start leaving it around town just as I do now.

I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the world, often for free or nearly free thanks to travel hacking. I lost out on the South Africa redemption because of my own laziness, but there will be more opportunities later.

As quoted in a recent post:

Business opportunities are like buses. There’s always another one coming.

Travel opportunities are the same. Every week, or at least every month, there is something new to learn and apply.

Here’s another sentiment I like, this one from Amy Hoy on Twitter a while back:

Gotta be willing to let go of ‘opportunities’ to a) be happy b) be free c) be able to take the next step.

I missed a great award redemption, but I can’t worry about what no longer exists—and there will be another opportunity at some point.

Life is too short to worry about such things. If you miss your flight, take another one. Have to get to South Africa some other way? Well, surely such things are possible.

Oh, and on Saturday when I couldn’t find my bicycle, I had a vague recollection of leaving it a few blocks away. When I went to investigate, I was right. There was my beloved bike, safe and sound, waiting for another 20-block adventure to lunch.

Question: What do you worry about? How do you resolve your worry?


Image: Nuno

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  • Jesse Barger says:

    Once it’s gone, no sense in spending another second worrying about it. I know it’s a bit cliche, but apparently that’s the way it was supposed to happen, or not happen as the case may be…..

  • Rachael says:

    When you do lose your bike, get one of these

  • Ree Klein says:

    Blowing it in public…that’s my worry. In fact, I think it’s my worry about flubbing up that keeps me from writing my talk, preparing course materials or offering one-on-one counseling sessions. What if I flub it up? Intellectually I know that that’s a stupid fear and that I’ll be just fine, but I think that stupid fear is holding me back.

    Hmmm, just gotta get over it and DO IT ANYWAY!

    Thanks as always for good inspiration 🙂

  • Kara Parlin says:

    I used to be a real worrier. I’m dictionary-definition Type A personality, but my husband is the polar opposite. He’d always ask, “what’s the worst that can happen?” And when I’d answer, he follow it with, “so what?”

    Over time, it got me into the habit of taking a more ‘whatever happens, happens’ attitude. It’s led to us making a big (and rather quick) move from CT to FL. We only visited our new city once before moving down, and that was to secure an apartment and a job for me. I won’t say there wasn’t any worrying during that endeavour, but the old me wouldn’t have even considered an adventure like that.

  • Jodi Henderson says:

    I try not to worry at all because I don’t think anything good comes from it. But if I find myself worrying over something, I do my best to stop it especially if I don’t have any control over the situation. For those things that are in my control, I try to take whatever action I need to avoid (or minimize) the worry.

  • Wally C says:

    First world problems. Why not just buy a ticket and expense it?

  • Anita Chase says:

    This was the perfect post today, re: letting go of opportunities missed. I just received an email a couple hours ago that the job I was a strong candidate for (which was in my field, where I wanted to work, and paid better than my current position), hired someone else. I was very disappointed, but I realize the biggest reason for not hiring me is because I want more flexibility (to follow my personal creative endeavors) than they can give me. My current job, while not perfect, is giving me that flexibility.

    So I realized instead of being disappointed about that lost opportunity, I should be excited about using the flexibility I have in my continued creative pursuits. Something new and exciting will come along soon and I will have the freedom to go after it!

  • Joseph Bernard says:

    First, I acknowledge that worrying is a complete waste of time. Have you ever worried about money and because of that worry money magically came into your account. It never happens.
    Secondly, I place my mind on what I can do in this moment to move worry out of my mind. Worry only happens when the mind moves out of the now into the future or back into the past.
    Thirdly, I remind myself that worry causes my body to contract/tighten and that can’t be good for my health. So instead I often get up and do something active to release it.

    Reminder – the ego-mind is run my fear and worry is one of it’s favorite avenues to trip us up into believing our own thoughts. The antidote for this is to simply question your own thoughts. Thoughts are not real, just words we give meaning to.

    The opposite of an ego dominated mind is to listen more deeply to the voice of our higher mind/big mind/soul/intuition. This mind has the endless capacity to invite the best out of us.

    Don’t worry, be happy (-:

  • JN says:

    Worry? Me? OF COURSE!!! Sadly, I worry about everything. I try to think two or three steps ahead and plan everything to the last detail. What does it get me? Aggravation and stomach aches. I think I might be a bit (or a lot?) OCD. I wish I could live with a more “don’t worry, be happy” attitude but I can’t seem to do it. Maybe one day I’ll just say “WTF”, chuck it all to chance, and live happy. Maybe…

  • Blissing says:

    Earlier this year we sold our house, gave away tons of stuff and put the rest in storage, hitting the road in a trailer and truck to find our next place to be. Giving away stuff was hard, but acknowledging that we would certainly have to re-buy certain things eventually helped. It was better to be unburdened with it, whatever it was, than to try to find and pay for space to store it. Sure enough, a couple of weeks after leaving, we had to buy something we’d just given away. And it has continued, but it’s OK! Now we’re finding we don’t have enough winter clothes, but they have clothes pretty much everywhere we go, and that’s OK, too.

  • Amy says:

    Oh I know this feeling! My husband and I had just finished transferring points around and were ready to book… when all the flights seem to have filled in a day. We had to step back, take a deep breath and trust that there would be more released and if not, we would have to spring on one of our tickets (from Chiang Mai to Boston!).

    Thankfully, the next day we found an even BETTER ticket than the one we originally wanted (and all seats were business or first saver redemptions!).

    I have a tendency to freak out when something doesn’t go as planned (as I’m sure most all of us do), but I’m getting much better at taking deep breaths and trusting that things will work out. They always do.

    Thanks for this reminder. I love the bike analogy! 🙂

  • Hazel says:

    I recite ‘In the scope of geologic time this really doesn’t matter.’ Usually it doesn’t matter in human scale either.
    As a kid I used to believe that if I worried enough about something enough it would get resolved; I didn’t have to do anything except worry. I’ve learned to be a bit more proactive since then. If I can prevent something bad happening I will. If I can’t I’ll just deal with the aftermath. And if I still wake up in the night worrying about it I get up and fix it or write a list of what will be done the next day to fix it.

  • Connie Habash says:

    Worry has been a familiar companion for me all my life. But it really gets too tiring, and doesn’t do any good. I recently posted a quote (can’t remember the author) on my FB page – something like this: “Worry don’t take away tomorrow’s troubles – it takes away today’s peace”.

    I try to reality-check myself: what is true right now? What is really happening? Well, I’m typing this post on my computer. Are any of the things I worry about happening? Nope. OK, I can just breathe and Be.

  • Connie Habash says:

    ooops – meant “doesn’t” in my post above.

  • Ragnar says:

    Personally I have never had a bicycle stolen, but then again I’ve never really had a very fancy bike. Buying gently used, but rather ugly bikes for cheap is a great way to go. Not only is it less likely to get stolen, when/if it does disappear, it’s not a big deal.

    When I miss opportunities, sadly, I tend to dwell for a bit longer than is healthy. And sometimes even start on a self-blaming rant. But lately I’ve been able to move away from that by removing expectations from the equation.

    If you don’t expect a lot, you get pleasantly surprised all the time.. and when something falls through, it’s not a big deal.

  • Fraser says:

    A good way to avert worry is to stop categorizing stuff as good or bad. If everything that happens just is, what is there to worry about?

  • Shari says:

    How I conquered worry:
    — Ask myself “what’s the worst that could happen?”
    (followed by)
    –“Would anyone die because of this?”

    If nobody dies, then it’s OK. Let go of the worry & let things happen! This saves me a lot of stomach acid & sleepless nights.

  • Irena says:

    Ah, this is so timely. For the last few weeks I’ve been waiting to get an answer from a company about a possible future endeavour together. If it was to go ahead it meant that I couldn’t commit to another opportunity that was waiting for my final confirmation (note that it would have earned me quite a bit of money). This morning I woke up and realised that the company still hasn’t gotten back to me and that other opportunity is now gone. It really got to me and I started worrying about the fact that I possibly missed a great opportunity in lieu of something that might not even happen. So I went and did a yoga session to take my mind of it and to refocus on my other priorities. And now reading this post I am again reminded that there is no point worrying about things that come and go.

  • Amelia says:

    I worry about money a lot of the time. Being self-employed I think it just comes with the territory. I avert this worry by remembering that if you’re putting in the effort to stay afloat, then the universe always catches you. It can get to be a bit of a bumpy ride but in the end it always works out! 🙂

  • Bill Alpert says:

    Back in High School, many moons ago, my much beloved bike was stolen during a summer school orchestra rehearsal outside the music room. I had to walk home five miles that hot day.

    As an adult, my home was broken into twice. These memories are burned into my mind, for sure.

    So I’m pretty darned careful about things, and I keep my stuff a long time, so I don’t worry so much if it ever did get stolen. This is much to the amusement of the guys at the local bike shop who repair my old Trek, who kid me relentlessly about my “vintage” wheels.

  • Susan Jones says:

    Thanks for your honesty in this post Chris. Most of us need a reminder to focus on the bigger picture and get perspective when things go wrong and it’s encouraging to hear that others struggle with the same thing.

    A lot of the strategies people have shared are really useful and work but I know that I have been at points in my life in the past when I needed something more to pull me out of the hole that worrying led me into. I found being able to summon the kind of resilience you talk about was a survival strategy because worry was leading me into depression. I was also dealing with a chronic illness. And the two together really suck!

    I found psychologist Martin Seligman’s strategies about Learned Helpness and how to develop optimism were a lifesaver for me (book: Learned Optimism). I was able to implement a simple strategy he teaches that helped me deal with the root causes of worry. Now it is second nature to me confront obstacles with a resilient frame of mind, but it certainly wasn’t before learning this.

    I’m happy to say that I haven’t been depressed in years and that I’m also overcoming my ‘incurable’ illness – and it all began with learning to be resilient in my thinking

  • Akinsola says:

    I do worry about my career ,around this time last year I joined a software development team, coming from a pure Linux background I worried how I was going to cope, but here I am, Eleven months later still doing good,I always realized have worried about such things but I deal with them by forgetting the worries and embrace freedom to live, and have always been free. Just like the rejection guy in the last WDS, I am the fear guy,I have learned to embrace fear to live without worries,I see it as a companion not enemy.

  • Ruth says:

    Thankyou for yet another perfectly timed and well-written blog, dude. You rock. I am constantly worried about what I am missing, what I will miss in a sale, if I don’t read that book, grabone or other daily deals (more shit I really don’t need) and I recently got very worked up because I found this awesome article on happiness with like, ten points and then I couldn’t find it anymore and I worried that I was doing it wrong. WHAT??!! LOL! Yes. I also worry about this e-book I found once online that was really awesome and have never been able to find again, the opportunities I have missed with my children to do such and such with them before whatever age…so thankyou. I will read this a few more times and take a deep breath.

  • Travis says:

    Great post!

    I worry about fewer and fewer things every day, but I still worry about growing my business. Sometimes I think I’m charging too much, or asking too much of my writers and editors.

    Then I stop and relax. I realize I can always change things if needed.

  • Rob says:

    I worry about a lot of things – briefly. I could quote Lao Tzu, but my wife’s real life expereience is more inspiring to me. When she was just a girl, she got lost in the jungle for 2 years. She allayed her fears by telling herself, “maybe I die today but not dead yet” and just doing whatever she had to do to survive that day. Worry can be paralyzing. Clearing the mind by returning to the present can clarify.

  • Cecily says:

    Bikes are so amazing! The freedom and empowerment they provide is really, really amazing. I got a bike directly after coming back to NYC from WDS. I’m on my 4th bike in a few short months, which has been a painful process, but it’s been a powerful symbol of letting go and accepting change. I guess I have you to thank for my newfound cycling obsession. As stupid as it sounds, it’s changed my life. (Thanks!)

  • Rusty S. says:

    Worrying to some degree and in certain circumstances can be beneficial and healthy. It’s not necessarily an either/or proposition that we do completely or not at all. But yeah, we do tend to overworry.

    Do any of you leave your front door unlocked at night? Do any of you have smoke alarms? Do any of you wear seatbelts? Those are precautions, because we’re concerned (i.e.-worried) about the potential consequences. But like anything, too much of it can backfire.

  • Lucy Chen says:

    “Life is too short to worry about what no longer exists, for there will be another opportunity at some point.” — Love it, Chris!

    What I worry about the most is whether I can paint, whether I can paint what I have in my mind, whether I can pull this one off and make it work.

    How I solve it? There always is one and only way, that is just paint, just do it. It works every single time. And if the painting does turn out bad, well, I will end up with a non-blank canvas for the next painting.

    May I ask, is that how you lock your bike on the street?


  • Sue Kennedy says:

    When I’m in the mood, or should be going to sleep, I worry about all sorts of things. I usually resolve the problem by telling myself to shut-up and stop going on about whatever it is, and switch ‘tapes’ to something more positive/productive. Worrying really is a waste of energy – if it’s changeable, change it, if not…worrying isn’t going to do anything except wear you out.

  • Ed says:

    Hey, Chris. When you leave the bike take a pic on your phone – of the major intersection near bike. It’ll both act as a gentle reminder, plus release the worry of “where is it?”. (But, you lose the adventure of the hunt.) I now do this when parking the car at airports. Works like a charm! Best on your travels, and thanks for the great post!

  • Alixandrea says:

    Whenever there’s something I’m worried or stressing about, I ask myself, “will it matter in five years’ time?” If the answer is ‘no’, I do my best to put it down. Doesn’t always work, but it does help me to stay focussed on the bigger picture.

    I have a van instead of a car, so if I ever need to make a one-way trip on my beloved bike, I can sling it in the back of the van and drive home. I’ve had the same bike since I was a teenager; it’s even been stolen and returned to me once before (I bought a bigger lock when I got it back!) I recommend if yours ever goes walkies getting a folding bike, that way it’ll fit in the back of your car. 🙂

  • Tim Mooney says:

    I worry about what people will think if I do X or what someone might say about me if I say Y. And I also worry about whether I am making the most of what lies in front of me. The only way I’ve found to resolve the first worry is realizing what people think of say usually only matters if I allow it to. Plus, it is pretty clear that most people are too busy thinking about their own stuff to pay all that much attention to me or anyone else. That is pretty freeing in a strange sort of way. Resolving the second one is usually about doing the work I need to do, taking advantage of what I have rather than wishing for something that hasn’t come to be just yet, and letting go of my grip on the outcomes. No matter which way the ball has bounced, I have typically come out okay or in great shape. The more it happens, the higher my confidence level.

  • Ryan Biddulph says:

    Hi Chris,

    Letting go is a key to happiness. I worry about money or prospering opportunities at times but my meeting new people, helping others and being thankful for what I have, I let go the worry and open myself to new opportunities.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Dekie says:

    I just love your attitude! So many things we get upset about just don’t matter in the long run and we waste so much energy ranting and worrying!

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