What running over my brother taught me about the domino effect

One thing leads to another. Ain’t that the truth. I had this lesson hammered home at an early age thanks to an unfortunate series of events in Port Albert, Ontario. It was the summer of 1988 and I was eight years old.

My stomach did cartwheels as I sat on my bicycle and stared down the hill near our house. I had only recently learned how to ride a bike and this would be my first time going down a hill like this.

Well, second, I suppose, if you count when my cousin Jonathan first taught me how to bike. He had strapped a motorcycle helmet on my head and then pushed me and my bicycle down our grandma’s driveway. Of course I immediately flew off the driveway and down a rocky slope that led to the creek.

So besides that, this was my first hill. My older sister, Becky sat on her bike next to me and I could tell she wasn’t super keen on tackling this challenge either. Jonathan was with us that day too and I was sure to keep him in front of me at all times, just in case he decided to give me a push again.

My younger brother, Nicholas, rounded out our little group. Except unlike the rest of us, Nicholas still didn’t know how to ride a bike. So had been following us on foot and sweating like a pig. An exhausting way to spend an afternoon I’m sure, but, my god, did we have a lot of energy those days!

Jonathan got things started and flew down the hill like a pro. A few seconds later, Becky swallowed her terror and followed after him in a far less confident fashion. Since I was still paralyzed with fear and wishing I had brought that motorcycle helmet, Nicholas was next to go, trotting after Becky on foot.

Eventually my fear of ridicule trumped my fear of dying and I pushed off. With white-knuckled grip, I sped down the hill. About halfway down, the road turned rather sharply to the left. A rock wall lined the bend on the left side but to the right there was nothing between the road and a small ravine.

Approaching the bend at increasingly break-neck speeds (at least it seemed that way to my eight year old self) I watched a series of unfortunate events unfold.

  1. Jonathan, master cyclist, rounds the bend without missing a beat.
  2. Becky, amateur cyclist, clearly distracted by Jonathan’s prowess on two wheels, fails to make the turn and crashes in spectacular fashion. Landing hard on the pavement, she watches as her bike goes flying into the trees and tumbling down the ravine.
  3. Nicholas, huffing and puffing as he runs down the hill, sees Becky’s crash and slows down to see if she’s OK.
  4. Me, terrible cyclist, goes wide-eyed. Before I’m able to slam on the pedal brakes I hit a speed bump just before the bend in the road.
  5. My feet go flying off the pedals and before I’m able to recover I slam into Nicholas’ butt, sending him face-first to the ground. I quickly join him there as I fall off my bike.

A minute or two later, Jonathan, probably wondering where we were came back up the hill to find his three cousins laid out on the street. With Becky’s bike still in the trees somewhere, Nicholas with dusty tread marks up the back of his t-shirt and the three of us bleeding in the street, we decided it was time to go home.

Moral of the story

One thing tends to lead to another. Although this example ended in blood and mayhem, putting our trust in the domino effect can be an empowering thing. When we don’t know where a road might lead, we may be fearful of taking it. For me, an important step in getting over that fear is to embrace this idea that one thing will lead to another (in a good way, unlike our biking misadventure!). You don’t need to know how every step along the way is going to unfold or where you’re going to end up.

My decision to quit my job and pursue writing full-time forced me to put more trust in the domino effect. I certainly planned very carefully before I took the plunge. But there’s no way I could know how things were going to turn out. So in the end I just had to trust this idea that if I work hard at it and be open to opportunities as they present themselves, then good things will happen.

And they have. I still don’t know where this adventure will take me, but that’s OK.

The world is a big, uncertain place. You can’t always know what’s around the bend. But I don’t think you have to. Sometimes you just have to swallow your fear and go for a ride.

What “domino effect” experiences have you had?

Got a lesson you learned from one of life’s absurd moments that you want to share? Click here to submit your story.


Funny stories. Good advice. Check out my books, “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” and “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance”. Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.

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1 Response to What running over my brother taught me about the domino effect

  1. Becky Martin says:

    It was ME who ran over Nicholas! I can still feel his soft chunky back under my wheels! It’s funny how we remember things way back when. Perhaps we both ran over him. Ah, was sturdy the, he could take it.

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