Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fear and education

When buying motorcycle gear, you will quickly learn that there are many choices. This is a good thing, it means sellers have studied and segmented the market to cater to a variety of choices. It also makes shopping a confusing experience for a newbie.

I've found many online forums with excellent advice. But if you are new, the best way to select gear is to touch and feel it. I've been to a couple of stores, the customer service has been excellent, with knowledgeable staff willing to patiently explain the smallest details.

However, every one of them turned to fear when persuading me to upgrade to a higher priced option of a product. They paint gory "what if" scenarios and quote case studies of how a product saved a customer's life. One of them told me that he does not get paid a commission so his advice is keeping my best interest in mind. This is not totally plausible, because a higher price means higher margins, and perhaps a reward in the form of monthly bonuses.

They do this out of concern, but they also do this because this is how they have been taught, and because they do not known how to educate differently.

The best sales people will explain the risk of choosing one quality level over another, and they will encourage you to decide for yourself. They will have an opinion, but they will explain how they arrived at their opinion, and not force you to follow it.

Using Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) is a poor strategy, because it breeds more FUD, and does not promote clear thinking. Customers will eventually figure out what works and what does not. Sales people who use FUD will have lost credibility and future business. In a small market, this is not the way to build relationships and recurring revenue streams from a customer.

Come to think of it, this is true in all endeavors that involve danger and risk.

Kids enter a "twilight zone" as they become teenagers. Frustrated parents use fear to try and get thru to them. In this fast paced world, and with no proper training, most parents do not have the patience or skill to communicate and coach their kids. It works out in the end for many for some kids, but other kids take longer than they should to learn life lessons.

In the workplace, manipulative bosses and co-workers use fear to influence and get things done. This is so pervasive you cannot be faulted for thinking this is normal.

What can you do about it? First, become aware of your fears. This is not easy, it is hard work, and requires you to face the truth about yourself. Second, do something about it. I'll have more to say on the latter shortly.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What is "Vipassana?"

You don't need to ride motorcycles to understand what I am about to say, but it helps.

It is the weekend and the weather outside is gorgeous. You feel a tug inside you and you decide to go for a ride on your motorcycle. As you dress for the ride, the anticipation creates pleasant sensations in your body. You walk to your motorcycle, you note the stiffness of your walk, and remind yourself that riding boots are not meant for walking.

When you mount your motorcycle and start the engine, you feel the vibrations all over your body, some of which is from the engine and others generated from the excitement within your body. You feel something is not right about the vibrations. You lean down and adjust the motorcycle engine, ah, now it sounds right!

As you ride, you can feel the wind in spite of your helmet and riding gear. The thrill and joy of riding creates an urge to go faster, but you resist the temptation. You ride for a while, then stop to admire the scenery.

When you return to your motorcycle, you see it has fallen to the ground. You had not parked it on firm ground. Anguish rips through your body as you anxiously lift your baby and lovingly dust the chrome and leather.

This should be enough to make my point...

When you ride a motorcycle, your body generates sensations. If you are vigilant, over time, you will know each one of them. You will use pleasant sensations to enjoy yourself, the unpleasant sensations to anticipate problems, and to raise your guard, and you react instinctively to almost all of them when riding (this last point can be a boon or a curse).

You will practice Vipassana when you observe your sensations in a two step process:
  • Observe ALL your sensations, gross or subtle. It takes a lot of practice to observe the subtle sensations, trust me, they are there.
  • Observe your sensations with equanimity, without craving and aversion.
As you can imagine, all your day to day actions generate sensations, and you can practice Vipassana even if you don't ride a motorcycle. You can practice Vipassana professionally (become a monk) or practice it from time to time (go to a meditation camp) or make it part of your daily routine.

Motorcycle riders experience a range of sensations that only a fellow motorcycle rider will truly understand. This understanding creates a bond that does not require words to be exchanged when they meet. The best motorcyclists are mindful, careful, manage risks, and do not give in to urges to ride fast or dangerously. They know when to keep riding and when to take a break to stretch their legs.

Such motorcyclists are practicing a form of Vipassana.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why VMM?

Why ride a motorcycle and why write about Vipassana?

In my mind, there is no rational answer to this question. But if forced into a conversation that I cannot escape, I will offer the following to indulge my audience.
  • Riding motorcycles is fun, I miss it.
  • I've always wanted to tour on a motorcycle, like Robert Pirsig.
  • What a great way to spend more time outdoors!
  • I can talk philosophy while pretending to talk about motorcycles.
  • Social media is great! I can share my journey real time with my friends.
I try not to wonder why I want to ride a motorcycle. The origin of desires can perhaps never be explained. You can take an analytical or romantic approaches to desire, religions have policies to govern and control desires. It is a complex and multi-faceted topic, open to misinterpretation.

Life is short. Other things being equal, I plan to mindfully follow my desires to live a fulfilled life. Yes, I know "other things being equal" is different for different people. I'll have more to say on that soon.