Training wheels do not teach you how to ride a two-wheel bike. In fact, I believe that they prevent you from actually learning.
There I said it. I know that it goes against what most people believe today. And how millions of people think they learned how to stay upright. But they didn’t learn how to ride because of training wheels.
I’ve drawn this conclusion from my own experience on two wheels, as a parent and rider. Hardly scientific, but hear me out.
The typical training wheels prevent you from learning how to balance the bike by prohibiting the rider from leaning into the curve. Leaning is the hard, scary intuitive part. Best case you wobble back and forth alternating between a right-leaning tricycle and a left-leaning tricycle. Worst case, it’s a tricycle with a high-center of gravity that dumps you on your head. There is no balancing, just pedaling. Pedaling is the easy part and no different than the big wheel or pedal car you rode before the bike. Push this pedal. Then push this pedal. Repeat. You can tell anybody how to do that. Telling somebody how to lean and balance a bike is next to impossible.
In my own experience, I never had training wheels. A neighborhood friend when I was four or five (before kindergarten is all I remember) had a small bike where I could touch the ground from the seat. I pushed it to the top of a small driveway hill, waddled off and coasted to the bottom with my legs as outriggers. Over and over. Then finally put my feet on the pedals at the bottom and pedaled around. I went home and told my mom I could ride a bike. Of course she didn’t believe me until she saw it.
When my son was learning, I reluctantly accepted training wheels on his first bike. It was obvious it was just a tricycle (quad-cycle really) by watching him ride. When my daughter was ready, Santa brought her a smaller bike than her brother started with, one where she could touch the ground from the seat. But of course it came with training wheels. I left them on until that spring. Watching her cruise around the driveway and high-side crash after high-side crash (never low side), it was evident there was not a single hint of balance being learned. So off they came. Two days later she was pedaling around – and turning – on two wheels. She was four years old.
This brings me to my point. While training wheels might give the rider confidence, it’s unfounded. Even the reasons you crash with training wheels aren’t the same things that make you crash on two-wheeler. The lean is the unnerving and difficult part. It’s intuitive. You can’t write it down or learn it in a book. But it’s how you ride.
Content marketing is very similar. You can learn the basics by watching others and copying them. But that’s just the pedaling part. To really get your content marketing rolling, you have to get an intuitive feel for what your audience and your customers want. Instead of scraped knees and bruises, you’ll know your success through metrics and feedback. You have to lean into the curves with them. Adjust to their needs and interests. Otherwise, at some point they’ll make a turn and you won’t be able to follow. You’ll roll on by while they continue their merry way.
Want content marketing success? Ditch the training wheels and learn how to lean with your customers. Nobody else can tell you exactly what that it is. You have to learn, and lean, for yourself. In the end, that’s what makes it rewarding and fun.
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- Ditch the Training Wheels – Lean into the Content Curve - April 4, 2013