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South by Southwest

We all have our skeletons, don't we? Some of us can't dance, and some of us have never seen "Die Hard." Until last week, I had never ridden a bike.

My dad tried to teach me a bunch of times, but apparently I wasn't having it. As I grew up, the concept of riding didn't appeal to me, even after all of my friends asked to teach me. (By the way: The next question out of your mouth after I tell you I can't ride a bike shouldn't be, "Well, can you swim?" It's an awkward time for everyone involved, OK?)

Anyway, last week I finally learned to ride a bike. The best part: I learned from certified party rocker Andrew W.K. at the South by Southwest music fest in Austin, Texas.

You probably remember W.K. from his 2001 album "I Get Wet," which included tracks such as "Party Hard," "Party Til You Puke" and "It's Time to Party." It's my sixth-favorite album of all time.

Andrew basically is the patron saint of having a good time and keeping a positive attitude. I figured, if anyone would be down to teach me, it would be him. After some tweet campaigning and a timely assist from my bud Marah, we got the word: He was down to do it.

Validating my impressions of him, Andrew turned out to be the nicest person I have ever encountered on Earth (except my grandmother and maybe E-40).

We rented a beach cruiser (remember the bike Deebo knocks that dude out over in "Friday"? That's a beach cruiser) and got down to business. I don't think he believed that I had never set foot on a bike until I asked him the right way to get on. Several abortive attempts followed until around the 392nd go, when I finally rode for a few feet by myself. I immediately screamed and then started dancing.

During the experience, I felt like crap. It was embarrassing, I looked like a fool, and I was genuinely nervous. When you try to not suck at anything in life, it can be daunting to show vulnerability. If that sounds like a feeling you've had, can I suggest that you stop beating yourself up and go get you a win? I know, this kind of "insight" is mad vague and venturing into Thought Catalog territory, so here are three specific strategies for trying something new.

1. If you don't know how to do something, don't expect to instantly be good at it. My improv coach taught me this. If you've never attempted something, it's ridiculous to think you'll be amazing at it.

2. Your attitude is everything. There's an instinct to come up with all kinds of reasons not to do something. Be overly positive. Think of that really cheery girl you can't stand at work. Pretend to be her.

3. Normal doesn't exist. You aren't weird/defective/odd if you can't do something that a lot of people you know can do. You're just ... you.

Take that knowledge and go forth into awesomeness. Also, remember to party till you puke. I can't stress that one enough.

Ernest Wilkins is Chicago's wingman. erwilkins@tribune.com

 

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