Three months ago, I broke my right hand while biking to work. I made a questionable decision involving slippery metal grating on the University Bridge, and found myself doing a not-so-graceful, 20 MPH handstand in the way of traffic. I was incredibly fortunate to have only sustained a broken hand.
My arm was in a cast for approximately five weeks. The nature of this situation was, as you can imagine, really obnoxious. The aftermath of cast-wearing proved equally obnoxious: with nothing to do, muscles atrophy; joints and tendons stiffen. I found myself training to make a fist or to be strong enough to chop carrots. It was five more weeks before my wrist and hand were strong enough for me to ride to work.
In these weeks of recovery, I realized just how much immobilization had contributed to my weakened state. Small, anonymous actions are constantly reinforcing our ability to move. Small, frustrating exercises littered the path back to full recovery. As I rode the bus home yet again (while practicing flexion exercises that made me look insane), this struck me: Your work environment can be a cast, or it can be a bicycle.
Part of what I love about small companies is that they make the bicycle the norm. There's little tolerance for inactivity or wasted motion – you must be habitually productive, or you fall off. Biking to work doesn't only get you there; it makes you stronger and fitter, too. The startups that I've worked with have all had cultures that reinforce, stretch, and strengthen their employees.
Autonomy, creativity, and low-friction communication. My goal is to always work in an environment like this. And I never want to feel like this again.
Challenge yourself – learn a new language, a new technology, or a new mathematical concept. Think about seeing the problems around you. Get on the bicycle and ride. As for me, I'm excited to now be doing this at Urbanspoon.