In the piece below, Ben Landry shares the importance of “Unlearning Pavement”, stepping back, and appreciating the full scale of our accomplishments – from gravel bike trails to the office. As Director, Business Development, Ben helps Edison Energy’s advisory practices develop new product offerings and acts as a strategic relationship manager for existing key clients.
How often we forget to step back and see the scale of our accomplishments.
My dad taught me that a long time ago after a frustrating day of early teenage summer odd-jobs and manual labor that seemed to create little visible progress. It wasn’t until years later that I realized the scale of my work, and more importantly, it’s inextricable connection to a broader vision. That was long before I joined the team here at Edison Energy, but I continue to carry it with me as a constant reminder.
When I’m not in the office working, I spend most of my time on two wheels. Specifically, on a cinnamon-colored, drop-bar gravel bike that carries me far beyond the blacktop paved roads that confine traditional road cyclists.
Gravel biking provides both a literal and metaphorical escape from reality as we traverse endless dirt roads and well-worn single tracks, taking time to observe not only the paths immediately in front of our handlebars, but the expansive landscape that surrounds us. In the moment, each mile travelled may feel daunting, even exhausting, as the revolutions of the pedals burn energy from every available calorie in our bodies.
But the overall ride is well worth the effort. The scale of our accomplishments is measured in miles, smiles and usually beers.
There is a particular phrase used in good humor among the gravel biking community called “Unlearn Pavement.” In fact, the slogan was first conceived in the very town that I now call home, the epicenter of Mid-South gravel riding: Stillwater, Oklahoma. The phrase serves as a playful reminder to those of us who may take cycling a little too seriously.
For a long time, paved roads defined the competitive cycling community, and speed was deemed king. When the pavement ended, we turned around and raced back to town. But the surge in gravel riding’s popularity has opened new roads and allowed us the refreshing opportunity to unlearn what we originally thought was possible. It’s a simple but wonderful concept.
Over time, many working professionals, myself included, have “learned” what a standard work environment is expected to look like, almost like a form of unintentional conditioning for modern society. Most of us physically work inside a room in a house, or in an office building, and our primary viewpoint of scale is a 24-inch computer monitor. The digital screen usually serves as our sole portal for communication and our connection to colleagues, clients and vast amounts of global information.
But if we could “unlearn,” what would happen if we stood back, zoomed out, and saw the scale of our accomplishments?
For those of us fortunate enough to be involved in the renewable energy industry, the future of our planet depends, in part, on the scale of our impacts. We cannot forget to embrace the childlike amazement that we felt upon seeing our first wind turbine up close and personal, towering above us on the grassland prairie and spinning stoically in unison with others across the sunset horizon.
We cannot forget the sweeping sea of colorful reflections off the solar panels laid out like gently rolling waves over hectares of repurposed land. I bear witness to these stunning projects in close proximity as I ride across the miles of Oklahoma red dirt gravel, and I can tell you with certainty that their scale is inspirational.
To live in a place where I am regularly reminded of the scale of our impact as an industry on shaping a cleaner future is a special privilege. I take this feeling back with me–to the daily grind of the office, to the seemingly endless hours before the computer screen, until I can head out once again and witness those elegant turbines, the shimmering solar panels, and revel in the scale of our collective pursuits.
If you ever find yourself staring at your evening computer screen after a long day, if you’re feeling disconnected from the impact and scale of your accomplishments–don’t forget to take a step back. Even better, grab your bike and come out for a gravel ride through the Mid-South.
I’ll keep the beer cold until you get here.
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