Thursday, June 4, 2009

Life Lessons from Cornering - You Go Where You Look

One thing has improved my ability to ride my motorcycle more than anything else...the ability to look through a corner. The deeper I've been able to will myself to look through a turn, the easier it is to negotiate that turn and the faster I can go through it and still be in control of myself and the machine.

Beginning riders often have a habit of focusing on where they DON'T want to drive the bike. When you look at something you don't want to hit, though, your mind (often in a panicked state), focuses its attention wherever you direct it.

If you stare down that guardrail, your brain isn't thinking about how to negotiate the corner, it's thinking about how to hit that guardrail with the least amount of personal damage. By putting your focus on it, you've already decided you're going to hit it. Now that's natural...we want to focus on damage control. But it's not what you want to happen. You don't want to survive a crash so much as you want to not crash at ALL.

The next step, after you've learned to NOT focus on what you DON'T want is to extend your focus beyond where you ARE, to where you WANT to be.

When amateur riders come up on a tight corner, many of them want to focus on their "entry point", where they start to turn the bike into the corner. What happens is a lot of riders focus ALL of their attention on their front wheel and that entry point, making sure they hit the intial turn just perfectly. Then they suddenly find themselves in the turn, but not knowing where they are because they've been so focused on entering the turn that they haven't had any time to look up ahead and see what's coming. So their brain goes into overload as they try to process a scene that they're just now seeing for the first time. By the time they figure out what they want to do, they've already muddled through what ends up being a very sloppy turn.

One suggestion made to me by a more experienced rider was to try to look a little bit further ahead of your bike every time you go through a particular stretch of road. Just a couple feet at a time. See your turn entry, and then trust that what you saw was "right" and focus your attention to what's coming next. Give your mind the visual information it needs to formulate a plan to get through that corner BEFORE you're in it.

I can say without any doubt in my mind that when I look as FAR as I possibly can through a turn, it opens my world up. It gives my brain a chance to process everything in advance, so once my bike and I get to a specific point in the road, I already know what I need to do there. All I have to do is execute.

A Life Lesson

I started thinking to myself...maybe life in general is a lot like cornering on a motorcycle.

Most people, when they try something new in life, focus on the potential negative outcome. A guy who wants to talk to a pretty girl often focuses on how to mitigate the embarassment of his rejection, rather than actually attracting the girl. People who come up with business ideas worry about how a failure would set them back, rather than focusing on the goal at hand.

Even more people tend to focus on their present condition, rather than looking ahead to the goal and formulating a plan. People trying to lose weight look in the mirror, get frustrated, and give up because they see themselves day-by-day as overweight instead of looking ahead to the thin goal they're after and forming a plan. There's the old saying, "dress for the job you want", that implies the same thing. If you see where you are now, it's not going to help you plan to get where you WANT to be.

Maybe, through every day we live, we should try to look just a few feet further ahead of our front wheels each time.

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