A few months ago, my wife and I were riding the 300-yard commute to the grocery store on our mountain bikes to pick up a carton of eggs.
A woman on a fully loaded touring bicycle was a few yards ahead of us, so I stomped on the pedals to catch up. I’ll admit we’re a bit obsessed with people doing off-the-wall stuff. And something about this woman said she was different. “Hey,” I asked, as I cycled alongside, “can we buy you a drink?”
We were living in Singapore, which is on the equator. The mid-day heat and humidity is horrific. So we had said the magic words. Smiling, she swerved into the nearest parking lot and we settled into chairs with a couple of cool ones at a bar/restaurant.
Melissa Pritchard had been teaching at an international school in Spain. Then she decided to ride her bike home to Oregon…the long way. She cycled through Europe, flew to South East Asia, heading through countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, before riding into Singapore that very morning. She has what Dr. Carol S. Dweck refers to as a growth mindset.
In her book,Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, the Columbia University psychology professor says those with a growth mindset embrace challenges. As learners, they don’t just memorize information or accept the status quo. They make connections and push through boundaries. OK, I can hear what you’re thinking. Why would a 35-year old woman ride her bike 20,000 miles through a field of foreign countries when she could be murdered, hit by a car, or trampled by an elephant?
Sure she took risks. But those possessing what Dweck considers a fixed mindset might deem them greater than they actually are. For years, journalists have repeated the mantra, “If it bleeds, it leads.” For this reason, the media showcases the world’s guts and gory. With Smartphones, we’re updated on the global or national horror show, whether we’re at work or sunbathing at the beach.
Many people think U.S. violence is just getting worse. It isn’t. In the ten most dangerous U.S. cities, homicides have dropped in nine of them.
According to theUnited Nations 2013 Report on Global Homicides, the U.S. murder rate is roughly the same as it was in 1957. So much for the good old days. If it bleeds, it may lead. But only the fixed mindset gets stuck on headlines. It pays to dig deeper.
OK, so the U.S. might be safer than it was a decade ago. But Melissa Pritchard is a solo female cycling abroad. Aren’t foreign countries far more dangerous? That depends. Melissa selected to ride in Europe, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. According to the United Nations report, such regions are far safer than the United States. European and Asian murder rates are now lower than they were in the late 1950s.
Melissa’s journey isn’t just one of personal learning. She visits schools, presenting her experiences to students. She gives great lessons oninquiry and investigation,mathematics andwriting. Students follow her geographical progress.
She has alsokept track of everything from beds slept in to drinks consumed. Her blog has a wide array ofshort videos she created along the way, many of which are laugh out loud funny, such as the one about the shopkeeper who asked her, “Are you trustworthy? Can you look after my store while I go to church?”
So what can we learn from Melissa? You might not want to ride your bike 20,000 miles. But our world is full of opportunities to grow, achieve and challenge fixed perceptions. All we need is courage and an open mind.