Sunday, February 27, 2011

How to Ruin Credibility and Respect

I am far from being a prude and have never been accused of not having an open-mind. True I sometimes guard against exposing just how open-minded I am, especially if I don’t know you well. However there are just some things that I’ll never accept. Drinking and driving. Worse than the damage you can do to others is the damage you can do to yourself, especially if you are on two wheels.

Recently while browsing a favorite motorcycle link geared toward woman, I stumbled upon a page within the site that left me feeling betrayed and doubting the credibility of all the content I had thus far enjoyed. I felt duped. The link is a list of Best Biker Bars and the states where you can find them. I felt paralyzed when I realized such a page even existed within the content of a formally appreciated woman rider friendly site.

I’m disappointed in Thunder Rose Alley in providing a list such as this. Considering the ways in which the general public holds a negative view of riders, and as David L. Hough describes it the “safetycrats” are trying to regulate every miniscule aspect of riding, getting on a bike drunk is not the best way to convince people we are responsible citizens. If you compare motorcycles to cars the fatality rate among drunk drivers is 1.4 for cars and 22.4 for motorcycles. Sober yet?

I remember trying to help my own Dad feel a bit less worried about me being on a motorcycle. I carried with me on a visit with him the statistics from my motorcycle safety course. While I don’t have them here at hand to quote verbatim, I do remember that most of what happens to riders comes from their own hand. This includes rider error, and riding under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Even over the counter drugs can be fatal if you are on two wheels. The end result is that taking charge of what you have control over reduces your chances of a fatal accident to 25%. With that, I promised Dad that I would be diligent to the 75% I had control over.

The arm is long in those that are touched by the death of someone killed in a bike crash. Your loved ones, relatives and friends and co-workers will all need to adjust to your loss. Ruined reputation among the public’s perception only results in influencing laws to regulate things we should be self regulating in, and being targeted by law enforcement who are upholding the letter of these new laws.

As one troublemaker at a party can ruin it for everyone else, one drunken rider can deliver a perception that we are all irresponsible. Does Thunder Rose Alley endorse drinking and riding? Maybe not, but by posting this page, they are making a statement I’m not sure they fully realize. It’s a statement I want no part of, and will take my online reading to more responsible sites. If one drunk rider can make an impact on perception, I’m sure my one person stand can make one of its own.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pipe Dreams

The thermometer shot up to 62 degrees this past week. Stepping outside and breathing in the air without having my nostrils constrict was invigorating. I could feel the warmth of the sun’s rays on my face, and I had to loosen my scarf and unbutton the coat to fully enjoy the brief moments from car to desk the day allowed me. That moment gave birth to a day of dreaming about motorcycles. Attending to the work at hand proved challenging.

On my return home that evening I found the motorcycle storage shed doors still 1/4 obstructed by snow and a few feet still sitting on the ramps. It is hard to believe that last year we were out riding in March. With only a few weeks until then, there will need to be a succession of 60 degree days for that ramp to be revealed. I survey the landscape and notice a few shoveled spots where the ground is free of snow. Like the earth that is slowing becoming exposed from this long and snowy winter, old dreams are surfacing as well; like a ride to Sturgis this summer.

There are several reasons why I’m seriously looking at such a long ride; and yes, this would be a ride. No trailers this time. Here are several reasons I’m considering such a long road trip this season:
1. We have been talking about it.
2. If I wait for the perfect time, it will never happen.
3. I have to stop worrying about “what if” and just go for it.
4. I’m not getting any younger.

This last reason seems the most prominent in my mind. March isn’t only the start of riding season to many of us in New Hampshire; it’s also the month I turn another year older. That puts my riding partner even more ahead in years than I am. If I want to do this, it should be sooner than later. I have to find a way to make it happen.

My mind starts churning away. We can allot two weeks for this adventure. That is a considerable amount of daily interstate riding for not many days worth at the destination. We have to prepare for events out of our control such as the weather, unexpected repairs and delays we hadn’t expected and the possibility that some or all may prevent us from getting there. Yet it isn’t so much the destination as the journey I remind myself. Having traveled this route by car I know there lots to see along the way. Also too, it’s the people we meet that make any adventure more interesting.

I decide in the end to put the details out of my mind and just envision the event taking place. While the wind-chill today is reducing the 32 degrees to feel like 18, I sit in a sunny window with my eyes closed. I’m on the open road with prairie land slipping past me on either side. I see herds of elk in the distance. Then on the horizon, the still snow capped peaks of the Black Hills just as we once witnessed in July so many years ago. Along the way we’ve stopped at Devil’s Tower, Fort McKinney and the Corn Palace.

It may seem like just a pipe dream, yet all of reality begins in our minds. With the birthday on the horizon, I’m reminded of a quote; you’re not old until your regrets outnumber your dreams. The good news here is that I’m not as old as I thought if I can still have dreams. Why stop my dreaming in South Dakota? I’m adding the National Bison Range Wildlife Refuge in Montana to my list. After all, life is full of infinite possibilities!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Positive Outliers

When researchers begin their studies, they often rely on a scatter-plot diagram to plot all the variables within the study. When all the dots follow closely along the same axis this shows that the results are the “average” of what can be expected. However, there can be (and almost always is) one or more outlier that doesn’t fit with the rest. This dot (or dots) is referred to as the “outlier” and is cleaned out of the data. But what if you want to study what is NOT average, such as why some people are happier than others? Then this is the exact data you want to study.

In Shawn Achor’s research he used these very outliers to understand the Happiness Advantage and offers up the 7 principles to help us attain happiness in our own lives. As I begin week 6 of practicing these principles, I find two areas that seem to affect me more than others; the tetris effect and the undoing effect. The tetris effect trains out brains to see the possibilities. When playing the game of tetris we are constantly scanning the screen for possible areas to drop our next block to optimize our point advantage. This is what positive outliers do; they scan their world and see the possibilities all around them. These are the people mother would say could fall in a bucket of manure and come up smelling like roses. A positive outlier could for example be handed this same bucket and rejoice at the free fertilizer for the garden.

A good example of the positive outlier is the character Raj on the TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory. While his friends all sit and grumble at the cafeteria table about this and that, in addition to being summoned to a event where they will have to schmooze with blue haired rich widows to fund their projects, Raj exclaims “tater tot day in the cafeteria AND a party invitation!” Raj is the perfect example of how we should scan our world to see the positives and the possibilities.

I’m having some success at scanning my world for possibilities. Last week it resulted in a free car wash for example. Then there is last week’s blog where I daydreamed about visiting Kentucky in the upcoming riding season. This resulted in two very specific feedback comments from riders, one who lives in Kentucky, and one who lives not far and has recently taken a motorcycle trip there herself. Both of these have me scanning the horizon for opportunities. I am not ruling out meeting either Chessie or Tom this coming summer as a result.

Then there is the undoing effect by which we doom ourselves to failure. In Bruce Lipton’s book , The Biology of Belief, we learn that 90% of our brain is operating subconsciously in the background and running our lives. At any given moment we are only 10% consciously moving through our day. So what is this 90% doing in the background? A lot of it I’ve discovered is not talking very nicely to me. Here’s an example. “What a dope, how could you say that in the last meeting. People are going to think you’re a dork.” Or how about stepping on the scale and this loops through the mind. “No matter what I do, it’s useless!”

If I am to be successful at attaining more happiness in my life, I will have to start listing to the looped audios in my head that undo any progress I make. I have heard myself making negative observations out loud, which is the bad news. The good news is that I caught myself doing so. It’s the first level of awareness that hopefully will lead to better habits and more desirable results. I’ll be listing more to that 90% running in the background to see just how this hidden Pat is doing damage to herself, and work at changing the recording.

So what is today’s blog mostly about? It’s to remind each one of us not to say “this is useless” or “I’ll never be successful” but to believe that if we continue our efforts the neuro-pathways will indeed develop. Then thinking and being positive, finding and seeing opportunities, and attaining a sense of satisfaction with one’s life will become easier with time. This six week mark is a perfect spot to stop and reflect. Becoming a positive outlier is possible! We just need to believe!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


If you live in New England, then I’m pretty sure you’re crying uncle right now. Even avid skiers and snowmobilers have to be tired of all the shoveling and snow blowing we’ve had to do in January alone. It seems the weather channel may as well just put the forecast on loop as each week is filled with more of the same; snow.

During my last 2 hour commute home with ice crusting on the windshield and traffic crawling at 10 mph I could feel the black clouds darkening overhead. No, these clouds were not the threat of more snow, but the black mood of being cramped in the car, and knowing home was a long way off. These moods do not lend themselves well to achieving the state of happiness that I am working toward. What could I do in this moment when I felt trapped by circumstances beyond my control? What good is reading books like Shawn Achor’s if we can’t put his principles to work in our everyday lives? It occurred to me then that I was indeed on the right path if I could even recognize the bad mood welling up, and that I had the power within to change it.

I began to review the 7 principles in my mind of the Happiness Advantage. I didn’t need to go down the list very far to pluck something off to elevate my spirits. I selected an option from Shawn Achor’s list to capitalize on the happiness advantage; I found something to look forward to. In addition to thinking of happy moments in your life, which is now my morning practice, another great mood elevator is to think about a future event you are looking forward too. It can be something tomorrow, a week from now or even a year from now. All you need to do is put your thoughts there and create the images of the event. What better thing to look forward to than a motorcycle vacation?

I had recently read an article about motorcycling in Kentucky. Kentucky sounds like a perfectly reasonable destination to me. I began to imagine myself in Bluegrass Country. I remembered some words in the article about the long sweeps that crisscross the country side. Or maybe I might like to visit the Eastern Highlands with its clusters of twisties corkscrewing through the hillsides. I’d traveled by car through parts of Kentucky before, but passing through is never a reliable measure for impressions. While creeping along the roadway, I searched my memory for things I knew about Kentucky that we might visit should we take our motorcycle vacation there.

Cumberland Gap if I recall passes into Kentucky from neighboring states, and didn’t Daniel Boone blaze this trail? Thinking of Daniel Boone cause the corners of my mouth to turn upward with the thought of adding a coon tail to the back of my helmet in honor of good old Dan’l. While I don’t think Daniel actually wore a coonskin cap, Kentucky frontiersmen are often associated with them. Or maybe we might travel to Churchill Downs and watch a few horse races. Then once stopped for the night, enjoy the state’s best bourbon at a local pub, or even visit a distillery.

I haven’t heard much from my riding buddies about touring Kentucky. This could be an opportunity for me to explore the region, photograph interesting sights and gather lots of fodder for writing. I found myself enjoying the thought of all the possibilities when low and behold, I crossed the NH line. Home was getting closer, the black cloud had lifted, and I was anxious to get home and research more about Kentucky. How many miles could we do in a week? Possible routes, sites along the way were all questions I wanted to answer.

While I’m not sure I’ll select Kentucky as my destination, the advice to think about something to look forward to in order to capitalize on the happiness advantage did indeed elevate my mood. It can help you as well, so that when arriving home you don’t shout at the kids or bicker with the spouse. In fact this particular exercise gave me the great idea of drawing a circumference by distance on the map to see where else I could daydream about a visiting. If I can dream it, I can do it, and that alone is an empowering thought; one that indeed can capitalize on happiness in one’s life.

Photos courtesy of the Kentucky Tourism and Wikipedia