Sunday, February 23, 2014

The virtue of Patience

The dictionary defines "patience" as "the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset."

Being patient is not the same as being "laid back." Patient people can come across as lazy, disinterested, slow to act, or even of low intelligence. This distinction is important so you do not misread the other person or develop wrong traits in yourself under the impression that you are cultivating patience.

"Patience" requires you to avoid actions triggered by anger, irritation, or impatience. But action is key, sometimes the action must be swift and almost instinctive.

Let us review a couple of examples.

  • You sit on your motorcycle at a busy intersection, waiting for an opportunity to join the traffic and continue to your destination. You wait, and you wait. If you get impatient and force your way into the traffic, you could trigger a collision. In this situation, you must patiently wait for a safe opening for you to proceed.
  • Your motorcycle stalls in the middle of the road and you resolve to be patient. You calmly troubleshoot your motorcycle and are mowed down by a motorist who did not see you in time. This is not a good example of showing patience, this is an example of a poorly chosen action. Quickly move your motorcycle to the side of the road and proceed to patiently troubleshoot.
  • You call your spouse from a scenic spot on the highway and tell him or her about how beautiful the scenery is and how you wish he or she was there with you. You are then subjected to a tirade of how irresponsible you are for not finishing your chores prior to going on your ride. If you are patient, you will calmly interrupt your spouse, tell him or her you will hear the rest when you get home, hang up the phone, and continue to enjoy the excursion. Avoid replaying that conversation in your head during your drive home.
When I purchased the motorcycle, the accessories had to be ordered and installed. This took a few days. A snowstorm delayed all deliveries, adding to the aggravation. It was a moment to practice patience. I took care to inform the dealer that just because I am patient, not being a "squeaky wheel," he is not to put me to the back of the line. I expected installation and delivery the day he gets the accessories. Sometimes, it is necessary to inject urgency in your request, find ways for doing so without becoming impatient.

An extreme example: If you are a firefighter, and the victims trapped in the fire are not cooperating, or moving fast enough, you have to keep the urgency high, and showing impatience may make the victims tense or they may panic, making the situation worse.

If you are patient on the "inside" it will show externally, even if you are raising your voice. If you are impatient on the "inside," no matter how polite or restrained you are externally, people can tell that you are an impatient person. This may go against you if you are looking for agreement, cooperation, or support for your ideas.

You know from your experience how valuable patience can be. Practicing patience is easier once you understand the nuances. It also helps if you are not tired, physically in good shape, and generally a positive minded person.

The question in my mind is, should we ride motorcycles after developing patience, do should we ride motorcycles in order to develop patience?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Learning to ride a motorcycle

During the motorcycle class conducted by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), I resolved to retain a heightened sense of awareness every moment. I wanted to test my hypothesis that awareness would result in maximum learning.

Here are some tips that emerged from my experience:

  • Do not blame the motorcycle. If the class you signed up for provides a motorcycle, it may not be the right size, more than likely the clutch will not be smooth and the engine will falter at the wrong time. It does not matter, you have a certain number of hours to learn how to ride and pass the test, you have to find a way to master the motorcycle quickly. I found this attitude led me to be "in the moment" and seek solutions, not excuses.
  • Do not blame the instructor. Thankfully, the instructors were top notch. They were experienced, patience, and funny. From time to time, they used words that were strange to me, and not every explanation was understood by me. When you don't understand, speak up! They would not hesitate to correct me on the spot, and a person with a lesser ego would have felt bruised by all that direct coaching. And they held firmly to their standards of skill and safety. I found it very productive to keep trying to change and adapt to their feedback.
  • Do not blame the weather. The second day of riding lessons was wet and gloomy. It was freezing cold when the wind picked up. When riding, even though the highest gear was two, we could feel the bite of lower temperatures. The first thought that came to mind was, "Should have prepared better." I shrugged and returned to being in the moment. I somehow survived the day, and resolved to buy clothing that would protect me from the elements. Without that experience, I might have overlooked certain things when buying clothing for motorcycles. I realized that I could not have purchased this experience, I had to be in it to learn how to protect myself against the weather.
  • Be prepared. Prepare before the course by reading the educational material on the MSF web site. Use their checklist to pack water and snacks. If the instructor does not have to correct you for small things, he or she will have more time to give you valuable and hard to find advice to make riding a motorcycle safer and more enjoyable.
  • Discover your weaknesses. Some exercises and maneuvers were easier than others. Even though I was coached, cajoled, and coaxed to improve, some exercises and maneuvers continued to be challenging. I made a note to practice, practice, practice until my skill and confidence grew. This is not a matter of, "I got only a couple of answers wrong in the riding test." Out there in the real world, everything has to work in harmony, all the time, if one safety check is out of place, or one maneuver is flawed, the result will not be pretty.
  • Discover your strengths. This is important, because when you are displaying your strength, your guard will be lowered, and that is when you are the most vulnerable. Hubris is very obvious after the fact when analyzing a motorcyclist incident.
Thus, awareness is crucial. It is how you determine if you are in the right gear, whether you are entering a curve at the right speed, and whether you need to stop or swerve. Danger lurks all around, and it will take you by surprise when you least expect it. It was clear to me that enjoying a motorcycle ride is not the same as relaxing in a hot bath. You can't drift away and hope the world will still be the same when your attention returns.

On a more happier note, fond memories of riding a motorcycle came rushing back to me. I was reminded of the thrill and joy of riding in my days of youth. At the end of the class, I knew that my desire to ride had not diminished.