Photo by Celso Flores via Flickr

It’s that time of the year when the Tour de France is on.

Whilst I don’t claim to know a lot about cycling, I have a lot of admiration for this great sporting event which manages to combine phenomenal feats of endurance in breathtakingly beautiful countryside.

As I observe the epic of the tour, I can see three distinct categories of riders on any normal stage.

They’re the stragglers, the peloton and the fearless few and I suspect that at any one time, we are in one of these three categories ourselves.

The Stragglers – The stragglers have found the going tough.  They’re way behind the pack and are just hoping to finish.  Perhaps they fell in an earlier stage and are now injured, maybe they’re inexperienced or just don’t have the physical conditioning to keep up.

The stragglers aren’t thinking about winning the tour, they’re focused on survival.  It’s a reminder to us that in this world that’s so often fixated on success, there are many who, due to their current circumstances just need to get through to the next day.  They’re not looking to be victors, they would be happy to catch up to the pack.

The Peloton – Peloton is the French word for pack.  It describes the main pack of riders who ride in a large bunch, using their mass to save energy by slip-streaming.  There’s great safety in riding with the peloton, it’s less strain on the body and the workload is shared.  However, all it takes is for one nearby rider to fall to bring down and everyone around goes down too.  If you stay in the peloton, you’ll probably finish the race (if you miss the falls), but you’ll never, ever stand on the winner’s podium.

Most people ride in the peloton.  If you’re in the pack, you’re anonymous, your safe (sort of), you don’t have to work as hard and you can easily be led by others.  You don’t have to think for yourself, make decisions or show your initiative.  You can cruise along without ever really extending yourself, but the risk is that if there’s a fall, you’re probably going down too.  You’re dependent on the economy, your boss, your organisation, your church and other external factors for your security and you can never, ever genuinely be a success.

The Fearless Few – In the Tour de France, there are those who have the courage, audacity and initiative to leave the safety of the peloton.  They go it alone, attacking the mountains with energy and vigour.  They take the risk and give all that they have in the hope that their efforts will give them glory and victory.  They know that it’s harder, but they also know that they have to be fearless and bold if they are truly going to make their mark.

What about you?

Do you have the courage to leave the pack?  Do you rely on your own talents, ideas and work ethic rather than depend on the peloton staying upright?

Are you one of the fearless few who make a difference in the world because they have the courage to try to stand out from the rest?

If you see yourself as a straggler, my prayer for you is that you will get the support that you need so that you don’t have to worry about survival as much and can feel more connected to those around you.

If you’re in the peloton, I would encourage you to break free from the pack, live with creativity and enthusiasm and set more ambitious goals for your life that demand more effort and energy.

If you’re one of the fearless few, you have my admiration.  Keep riding, don’t look over your shoulder at those who would bring you back to the pack, but continue to forge a path that leads to a life of meaning and significance.

Which category are you in?

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