Marcella Hammer: I Teach Patience – Palette
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Marcella Hammer: I Teach Patience

by Marcella Hammer

Lessons I learn outside the boardroom often generate more growth and impact on my mindset than any book, LinkedIn post, or business connection, and one of my great wisdom sources involves my time coaching kids on mountain bikes with Saratoga Shredders. No, I’m not training kids to win Olympic medals (but there is a program for that). I’m invested in helping young people fall in love with a sport. I hope that mountain biking becomes their lifelong passion, something they’ll do with their friends as young adults and not-so-young adults, and that someday, they’ll confidently teach their own children to ride. This past spring, I had a moment that connected this biking part of my self and soul with the now-a-CEO side of my life.

At the start of each mountain bike season, coaches and organizers bring everyone together at a local park to go over basic skills: we teach kids to check their bikes before they ride, practice using their brakes and turning, and honestly, we show them how to ride safely in a group and not end up in a big crash pile. I headed up a session where, for older kids, we practiced changing gears, and for the littles, worked on how to ride together as a group. That day, I stood near the center of a large circle defined by bright orange cones. Signs of springtime and the oncoming summer surrounded us: fresh grass and weed sprouts, new spring green leaves bursting on all the deciduous trees, and a sort of white noise from the bustling insects and chirping birds. 

As they pedaled around me, I instructed the kids to create space between themselves and the rider ahead of them. We practiced how to communicate with others while riding: when slowing down for the rider in front of you, shout out, “Slowing!” and when stopping, shout out, “Stopping!” Surprisingly, it takes kids a while to get used to communicating this way. When I think of kids I think loud (and sticky). But when we begin, they’re more likely to half-whisper rather than use their words with confidence. Throughout the season, kids still end up in tangles of bikes. Often, especially the tiny ones, use their lungs to shout things like, “Poop!” or “Butts!” more loudly than they shout, “Stopping!” 

By the end of the sessions that day, I could see the confidence building. Spacing got cleaner, their pacing improved, and even the newest of riders could conceptualize how to communicate both individually and as part of a team.

That evening, a friend whose son was new to the sport, text messaged me with some feedback. He had a good time, she said, and her “nice friend was at Shredders, and that she was nice.” 

“I have a lot of nice friends at Shredders,” she said, and asked what he learned. 

Her text to me read, “He said you taught patience, which…makes sense.”

I’ve been thinking about this message for months. Why has this phrase, “He said you taught patience,” resonated with me so much?

Because it’s about more than bicycles.

My career path has led me to my role as Palette’s CEO, where I am privileged to lead a community of women who are working hard to level up in career and in life. I wouldn’t be where I am now if patience wasn’t a skill in my toolbox, and let’s be honest: I wasn’t born with patience. These trails that we’re on together as Palette members and as women in the workforce are not straight lines, and they certainly aren’t flat. Each of our journeys are as diverse and individual as we are. 

Whether building our own businesses or striving toward excellence in established careers, what we have most in common is that we’re in this together. I’ve had so many professional moments where I had no idea how to tackle a problem and felt absolutely certain that no one would help me, ever. Everyone else is more successful, makes more money, does it faster/better/smarter and I’ll never catch up. I’m too old. I’m too introverted (yes, I really am an introvert). I’m too weird and no one cares what I do or say, anyway! Does that sound familiar?

This is the part where I go hard on the biking metaphor: rather than race to a finish line that never actually exists, what if, instead, we get patient with ourselves, take ownership of our journey, create safe space, and at the same time, find ways to communicate obstacles and challenges with those who are on this trail with us? 

I’m invested in making sure Palette members (and all women) successfully navigate their growth and evolution in life. Rather than aim to go viral, I look toward endurance as the ultimate goal, and this reflects in how I connect with Palette members and all other humans. By taking small but active steps to ensure I can keep going (fuel my body, get rest, don’t forget to breathe, use that literal and metaphorical anti-chafe balm), and by not trying to do it alone, the ride is longer, less painful, safer, and much more fun. 

Be patient. You are still in control. You’ll always be the one creating the momentum, steering, pushing harder, climbing, selling, innovating, and building. No one can live your life, grow your business, or manage your day to day except for you. However, you’re not the only one on the path. I’m here to let you know that there will always be obstacles ahead, and if I’m leading you, I’ll get loud and shout, “Log!” so you can jump over it. At Palette, you have an entire community of women invested in making sure you can clear that log, get new clients, grow your brand, and build your network. You’re not alone in this. 

When I bike with kids, I like to ride in the back of the group as the very last person in the line. It’s not because I’m the slowest (though I am sometimes and that’s ok!). It’s my favorite leadership spot because I get the big picture view of everyone’s experience. I can see when and where a kid needs a boost or some extra instruction, and I also have the best perspective as they progress. But every once in a while, I’ll hold back for a few extra beats. I’ll let the kid in front of me speed forward and then, I let go. I ride fast, lean hard into my years of experience, notice the beauty of rocks and roots and dirt and trees and air and sunlight, then casually slow as I catch up with the kid in front of me as though I had been there, all along.



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