This quote is plastered all over the internet now. Wow! It’s interesting that of all the things I’ve done this is one of the most popular, seen by millions of people. This quote is just one of many ways that my trip went viral and paid me back in so many amazing ways; and, more importantly, inspired everyone I met.
In this article, I want to talk about a few things:
- My quotation in the Bicycle Bliss calendar.
- The origin of this quote and how it applies to you.
- Is fame a measure of success?
- Sharing versus stealing a meme.
- More about where this quote originated.
Scott Stoll is Mr February
Hang on to your hearts ladies, I’ve got my own centerfold in a new bicycle calendar with my quote.
A bicycle ride around the world begins with a single pedal stroke.Scott Stoll
When I started the oldest and best collection of bicycle quotes on the internet, I never imagined that I would be one of the people quoted. My quote is featured for the month of February in the 2015 Bicycle Bliss Calendar. The publisher’s description of the calendar reads: “With inspiring cycling quotes by luminaries such as H. G. Wells, Scott Stoll, and Mahatma Gandhi.” I can’t even believe my name is in that sentence — and sandwiched between those two great historical figures!
My quote even made the back cover call out — TWICE! (But, I am joking about being a centerfold — I wish.)
The origin of this bicycle quote
It’s probably no surprise that riding a bicycle around the world is hard! In fact, I have a whole chapter in the best-selling and award-winning book about my trip, Falling Uphill, called “Why don’t you quit?” One of the things that kept me going were my mantras. A mantra is a sound, word or phrase that is repeated to aid meditation. I didn’t know I was doing mantras until I reached the Far East where it is a common concept in Hinduism and Buddhism.
When times were tough — when I was racked with doubt, didn’t know where I would find food or water and didn’t know where I would sleep — all I knew was that I had to keep moving forward, and the only thing I can do is give the pedals one more push, just putting one foot in front of another. So, I would repeat to myself, “Just put one foot in front of another. Just put one foot in front of another…” Soon that turned into, “Just put one pedal in front of the other…” Or, “Just one more spin of the wheels…” And so, I would chant burning through my pain and doubt. I’m not sure if it was the chant, which are often empty-hearted affirmations, as much as it was the deep-rooted belief that all I had to do to succeed on the most basic level is to put one pedal in front of the other. It’s ironic that when life was at its most difficult the solution was the easiest, simplest thing I could do.
Even now, when I speak at businesses or schools and people ask, “How did you ride your bicycle around the world?” I tell them: You can do it, too. All it takes is one pedal push at a time, one revolution of the wheel at a time. You just need the dedication to keep making the pedals go around.
Of course, I love the famous quote by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I’m a philosopher at heart, too, and spent a long time contemplating this. My trip took so much preparation that even on day one, I would joke that I was already halfway done with the trip.
Putting all these pieces together, I finally thought to myself that a bike ride around the world begins really does begin with a single pedal stroke. In fact, an early version of the quote was: “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, and a bicycle ride around the world begins with a single pedal stroke.”
How does this quote apply to you?
Now, I am a big believer that to live your dream all you have to do is take that first step of action. This is how to enjoy the journey. This is how to pursue a dream, fail and still be proud of yourself. Contrarily, it seems to me, most people feel that to be living their dream they need to reach the end goal AND have the world recognize them for having done it; e.g. I’ll be an actor when I win an Academy Award, or I’ll be a scientist when I make a great discovery, or I’ll be successful when I earn a million dollars. In my personal experience, this is how NOT to enjoy the journey. And, if you reach your goal without being noticed, it is as good as failing.
So, really, any dream that you have begins the moment that you take your first step of action, the moment that YOU — not the world — recognizes that you are achieving your dream, even if it is as little a reward as the warm sun on your cheeks. If you don’t believe me, think about the following question: When will you know that you are actually living your dream? In other words, what is your measure of success?
Is fame a measure of success?
I find this subject very interesting. Of course, these days, we all want people to share our work. Arguably it is more satisfying to be famous than it is to be rich. And, contrary to what I just said above, I do think that fame can be a measure of success. For me, it is more like the icing on the cake. It is also a type of energy, like money, that you can use to reinvest in your project, e.g. like Bono using his success as a singer to become an activist. But, I’m not sure why this quote went viral. So, really my fame has little to do with me. Maybe it is just luck! Honestly, if you can’t tell, I struggle with wanting to be famous… well, maybe not me as much as my book. I wish my book was famous enough to reach critical mass, so I could use the money and fame to keep the book on the shelf and this website online.
The picture above is from Adventure Cycling Associations #TGIF quote, which you may recognize. I did! Thanks, Adventure Cycling! I’ve used your maps many times. This quote was very popular with over 1000 likes and 100 shares on the original post and spinning off many more shares after that. Who knew this quote would be my claim to fame. Likewise, who knew my most popular story about my trip around the world on a bicycle would be in Spanish.
I certainly feel famous when I found this beautiful hand-lettered sign. I mean who would do calligraphy for boring, unpopular quotes?
And depending on who you ask, my quote is one of the top 20 bicycle quotes of all time.
Here are two of my quotes that didn’t become famous. These are more mantras that kept me going through the tough times. As for where they came from: what can I say? Sometimes I things come out of my mouth that are really surprising and I write them down. Haha.
I feel like an artist and my bicycle is the brush.~ Scott Stoll
Cycling may seem hard now, but someday I imagine I’ll be in an office or on a couch wishing for my bicycle and a small stretch of road, wind or no wind, hill or no hill, even rain or no rain.~ Scott Stoll
If you liked these quotes, don’t miss our #1 ranked bicycle quotes page. I’ve been collecting bike quotes since the early ’90s.
Sharing versus stealing a meme
Generally, I am really honored every time someone shares my story or my words or pictures; and, I’m sharing a lot of memes in this post. Memes are meant to be shared and, hopefully, credit is given where credit is due. However, often attribution isn’t possible, so there is a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism. I’ve noticed that with fame comes some interesting phenomena — the parasites. Whether I get credit or not, I don’t really care that much since my message gets spread and that’s what really counts. However, it gets a little tougher when people start to earn money off my hard work. Yes, people actually sell T-shirts, coffee mugs, et cetera using my words! I’ve been a professional graphic designer for over a decade and my work gets stolen occasionally. So, part of my reason for is article is staking claim to my own quote.
Below is an example of a company that has stamped their brand on my quote. The strategy is that people will share the image and that the company will get a lot of free name recognition, i.e. advertising. I don’t really mind since, in this case, I get attributed, so the name recognition works both ways. But this company does advertise this quote as “carefully researched and paired with images for your free usage in essays, letters, greetings cards and elsewhere.” They didn’t ask permission. For the record, the Bicycle Bliss calendar did ask permission and I needed to sign a copyright release form.
There are many examples where my name has been erased, I even have examples of random people claiming that they said the exact same thing. Weird! It’s like looking at myself in a parallel universe. Below is one more example. What do you think the chances are that this person of thought of nearly the same thing? To me and, of course, I’m biased, It seems like a derivative quote intended to capitalize on the popularity of the quote by selling T-shirts. If so, fine. What can you do about it anyway?
Maybe I should open up a T-shirt shop? As a professionally-trained graphic designer, I think I could do a lot better than a clip art bicycle and out-of-the-box typography. What do you think? Leave a comment below.
If you want to learn more about what inspired this quote, you may like to read the book about my journey around the world on a bicycle. See below.
One man’s quest for happiness around the world on a bicycle
The long story: If you really want to know what makes Scott tick, Falling Uphill is his magnum opus, the best-selling, award-winning book about his 4-year journey searching for the meaning of life (as featured in the New York Times), including many harrowing adventures, like being thrown in prison, mugged at gunpoint, nearly dying of dehydration, and equally as many heartwarming moments. More info.
More deconstructed bicycle quotes
H.G. Wells wasn’t just a visionary when it came to time machines or men walking on the moon, he also wrote the very first book about bicycle touring, which also helped give rise to the female emancipation movement.
Test yourself with this bicycle quotation mashup quiz. We’ve replaced one word with one of the following: bike, bicycle, bicyclist, road or ride. Can you guess the original quote and author?
Variations of this quote have been around almost as long as the bicycle itself. The earliest form being: “God needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”