Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two-wheeled Schoolhouse Part 2

In the last post I started down the road of what I had learned through motorcycling. There are valuable lessons to be had. The benefits spill over into life beyond riding. I know, imagine for a bit that there is such a thing. Rather than write a book, here's a few highlights. I'm warning you ahead of time. This post is going to get a little long. It's your choice whether you hang in or not. At least you know going in. I've started down this road and need to get it done. I don't want to make a part three. I also got to say what I got to say!

To reach my full potential I need good teammates around me.

I've come to appreciate this more and more over the last decade. For the most part I am sufficient unto myself. Or so I thought. I do the vast majority of my riding alone. I'm not a real social person. The thing is, though, that it doesn't really work to be an island.

Think about a small island. If you didn't bring it there, you aren't going to find it there.

Not that personal growth won't happen if a person tries it solo. It just works so much better and faster when a person joins a team of quality individuals. I've been blessed to have been able to do just that. If your teammates are a bit off center, so much the better!

For example, this is Dean. We're at the end of a police training session. Dean's off to Laguna Seca right afterwards with some other family members. The Mohawk's a nice touch, don't you think?

Behind those glasses is a brain that I'm sure contains at least one microchip. I find Dean to be one of the most technically minded people I know. He always knows the specific technical details of everything. I get the feeling that he thinks everything through to the ultimate degree. All that and a Mohawk!

Another teammate is Mary Kaye. She represents to me the humanitarian side of things. MK reminds me that it is ultimately people we are dealing with first and foremost. MK amazes me. She is not real tall physically but she can be whatever she needs to be. I've seen her with female students who are so stressed out they are near tears. MK is as gentle and supportive as you would ever hope an instructor would be. On the other hand, I've seen her bigger than life like a Mama Grizzly taking on someone threatening her cubs.

Her and I do new instructor prep weekends together. One new instructor made the comment that it was obvious Mary Kaye and I respected each other and enjoyed working together. I found the comment to be pretty cool. It means we've successfully combined our resources for the good of those we teach.

Another of the group is Laurie. Lauries keeps me grounded. Her goal is to keep it real. Laurie will laugh at herself as quickly as she'll laugh at me. What you see is what you get. There's no room for pretension.

Here's Jeff hot on the tail of a motor cop at the Mac Track. Jeff is highly organized and acts as a catalyst to blend our personalities together successfully. I don't know if he is an engineer because of his organized personality or the other way around. Either way, it works.

Me, I'm the run and gun warrior type. I bring yet another personality trait to the table. Together we are pretty darn good. How could I not be successful with these kind of teammates? They're truly talented and passionate people. We keep each other enthused and hold each other accountable to the values we profess to hold dear. These folks aren't the only high caliber people in our program, by any means. They do happen to be part of the few who mean the most to me.

Assume good intent.

Ray Pierce is the Training Manager for our program. I don't think Ray reads this so I think I'm safe to say that I really love Ray. It might prove to be embarrassing, otherwise. I mean, I've told him to his face how I feel about him. This is sort of like yelling out to your partner that you love them in front of a huge crowd at the mall! Ok, so I've done that already but you get the idea.

Out of anybody in my life ( excepting those who raised me ) nobody has invested so much time and effort into my skill development. And we're still not done. TEAM OREGON started going a different direction in their approach to trainers. Not only has Ray invested in me, but also in MK and Laurie. We have been the Three Banditos at the forefront of this new pathway. Sure, the program will benefit greatly ( I hope! ) but ultimately the skills will be mine to keep no matter what.

Ray amazes me, too. His riding skills are way up there. He's awesome at his job. If you are trying to work through a situation Ray is adept at asking questions that help you find the answer. He's also got this endearing quality of having never really grown up. Specifically, he's never lost that boyish quality of finding fun in almost any situation while maintaining a high degree of professionalism. While I'm busy sharpening my sword and trying to figure out what the swarming horde is going to do next, Ray will be making a joke about the shape of some stick he's found. Yet, when the time comes, he'd be standing right beside me, sword sharpened and ready to go. Man, I envy that!

Anyway, one of the things that Ray reminds us of is to assume good intent. He's referring specifically to students and fellow instructors but the advice applies everywhere. When somebody might question something we said, when they might not be responding exactly how we expect, remember that they're not just trying to piss us off. People have different ways of sorting their world. Assume good intent and act accordingly.

You can't step forward without letting go of where you are. In the same vein, the most highly skilled people are also probably the most coachable.

I was still a fairly new instructor when I was approached about taking on a larger leadership role in our training program. I taught so many classes each year that my actual experience level put me a bit ahead of the average instructor. Somebody saw some potential in me. It's been a highly rewarding journey and I like to think I've picked up some pretty good skills. The more skilled the teacher the better off the students will be. It's not about us, but what we can do to serve others.

This may come as a shock to you, but I have a pretty big ego. Yeah, what a surprise. If I had let my ego get in the way, though, this thing would never have worked. I have spent years under the microscope of being evaluated and then given feedback. That's how our program works. It's a system of being trained and then evaluated to see if you meet the standard set out for whatever level you are striving to attain. My mentors and evaluators have pretty much been Ray and The Director. The feedback has been constructive and professional. It has also pretty clearly shown that there's still a lot to work on. Less so now than earlier, thank goodness. It's nice to have made some progress, after all!

I'd like to think I'm at a much higher skill level and thus much more useful to the program than I was ten years ago. On the other hand, I've been the model of a coachable student. I don't know that there's really any other way it would work. There's no greatness without humility.

As to the comfort level thing, you know how it is. Where we're standing may be perfectly comfortable for us. Stepping forward is going to mean leaving that comfortable place. We can't move forward if we don't. Which means we're going to experience a little stress at being in a new place. I've been an ongoing example of that for years. Here's a couple of specifics.

When we brought out our new classroom curriculum I was still fairly new myself. I was also on the journey to be certified to do instructor updates. When it came time to update the instructors on the new classroom materials I was given the opportunity to go for it. In the room are thirty or so instructors. One of them was Don who was my own guru in the beginning. The average time of service was more than the time I had been an instructor. On top of it all, was the guy sitting in the back and evaluating me. No pressure, really.

Part of our classroom presentation includes transparencies which we show the class on an overhead projector. In the notebook on the table in front of me were twenty or thiry brand new transparencies. Did you know that brand new transparencies are really slick? Somewhere along the line the whole pile of them slid neatly to the floor. They spread out like some gambler showing the table his royal flush. Thankfully, they're numbered. Picking those pieces of plastic up off the floor in front of those long time instructors was far from my comfort level, I assure you.

I remember the night before my first police training session. I knew I was going to have to demonstrate the maximum braking exercise culminating with a run at 70 mph. On a bike with no ABS. I knew that, being the new apprentice, I would get called on. That's the way it works. As it should be, of course. The Director won't let you teach if you can't do. It was a sleepless night but all worked out well. I just hope The Director doesn't read about my 100 mph front wheel skid!

The point of this is in relating to others in similar situations. In this case it applies to our riding students and new instructors. It could apply equally to children, employees, and the list goes on. Interestingly, sympathy means being able to share the feelings of others. Empathy goes further. That word means being able to perceive the feelings of others as your own. It's the literal thing of having been there, done that, ourselves.

I find myself so much more empathetic, and thus supportive, of others reaching for new skills and being out of their comfort level. I've been there, done that. Actually, I still am!

What do they need right now?

That is a simple question with such powerful implications. So many things we do involve other people. What this is really all about is turning outwards with our focus. What if everyone in the world notched their concern for the needs of others up a few degrees? Wow!

As I mentioned in the last post, this is something I've picked up from Steve Garets, aka, The Director. I hear him ask this question a lot as we are planning and brainstorming. I've adopted it as my own with very powerful results. Here's a couple of examples.

I've related stories of students brand new to riding in the blog before. Several of you have commented on the patience I've shown. I was not born to be a person of great patience. It has taken a long time to develop. Reframing everything in light of that simple question has made a dramatic difference in my ability to be supportive of students.

Ray talks about people having "whiteboards". In case you're not familiar with the term, it's like a chalkboard in front of a classroom but you use those erasable markers. The point is that there is only so much we can write on these boards. There's a size the board is. No more.

When a student is dealing with the motorcycle's controls for the first time, this process is written in very large letters and takes up a lot of space. So does coordinating the clutch and throttle, balancing the motorcycle, dealing with the lean, and all the other good stuff. Eventually, the letters will get smaller as the processes become more second nature. Later, but not NOW. I have be aware of that fact and deal with the student accordingly. We go back to that "they're not trying to piss you off" thing. The simple fact is that their whiteboard is full right now.

What do they need RIGHT NOW? It might be that what they really need right now is a smile and some encouragement. If there's any coaching, it better be pretty simple. I had a female student recently who was really struggling. She came into my line as we were coaching the stopping technique. I gave her a smile and a literal "thumbs up". She turned to me and told me this:

"You know what's amazing? It's how much it means to me to see you smile and nod encouragingly or give me some other kind of approving feedback!"

It was amazing because this woman is a professional in her own field. I'd be lost in her world but in this case she was in new territory. She was on my turf. I knew what she needed because I tuned in to her as an individual. What did she need right now?

A couple of years ago I was called to Chicago for my other job. No matter my job title, what it all boils down to is that I am a Sales Professional. Thus I had to go through what they call the Wilson Learning Center. It's all about trying to find out where the customer is and adjusting accordingly. To that end they champion these qualifying type questions called Ben Duffy questions.

One of the exercises was to try to sell a house to a customer. A high level manager with the corporation posed as the customer. I watched as person after person did the same thing. It's what I call "show up and throw up". Nobody asked the guy any questions. Or, if they did, the questions were phrased to get only "yes' or "no" answers. The only thing they had to work on was that the customer wanted a "low maintenance" house. Everybody had their own idea and touted their vision at great lengths. That's the "throw up" part. The ratio of words out of their mouths compared to words out of the customer's mouth was about 99 to 1. Then it was my turn.

By now the "customer" had glazed over eyes. Boredom was written all over his face. I walked up and introduced myself. Then I did something nobody else had done. I asked a question.

"What does low maintenance mean to you?"

A smile crossed his face as we now heard HIS vision. From there I strove to ask short questions that used as few words as possible to get as many words as possible from the "customer". I passed that exercise having left a pretty good impression on corporate management.

Was it because I was so much more skilled than my counterparts? I guess you'd have to say yes, but it isn't a direct reflection on me. That's what I was trained to do as an instructor. How in the world are we going to get students to a certain point if we don't know where they are right now? The only way to know is to ask them. We call it "guided discussion". We use questions to evaluate the students' understanding and attitudes. That evaluation never ends. The beauty is that most of the information comes from the students. I just applied the same technique to a new situation.

So simple, yet so powerful. What do they need right now?

This is a photo I snapped quickly with the G11 at lunch yesterday. I was in Kirkland, Washington, having been summoned to the Mothership once again. That's a whole other story. I just stuck the picture in because the Aprilia looks like a treasure being proudly displayed. The sentiment fits in nicely in light of the next paragraph.

That's it. This has been an exercise for me to internally recap the year. I'm closing the loop, so to speak, in order to build from here. I could have done this privately. I did some of it here because I felt compelled to share. Some great people have invested in me. Some awesome teammates have given me their support and friendship. I appreciate it beyond words. When you find a treasure you want to share it with others. Consider this an effort to share some things of value that I have found on my two wheeled journey.

Miles and smiles,



Dean W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dean W said...

"A bit off center", and you lead with me?

Krysta in MKE said...

I still think you should write that book, & I'm still offering to edit / proofread for you.
[I know how to spell Milwaukee, for one thing...]
; )

Think of it as another way to reach a larger audience with your words of wisdom.

Anonymous said...

If you're of a solitary mind or thought, maybe you could consider
being on an island. You're not. At least not through the pages of your blog.

The Mohawk on your friend Dean is a form of internal rebellion. Don't assume his computer chip is programmed in your favour, rather it's programmed for himself,
and shape of his so-called Mohawk.

Mary Kaye as in the cosmetics trade? Pink Motorcycle? People Person?
Perfect. Sounds like she might be a handful. Oh, sorry you have Katie. Mucho experience then eh?

At least there is another person on the distaff side to keep things in line.

""I don't think Ray reads this so I think I'm safe to say that I really love Ray. It might prove to be embarrassing, otherwise. I mean, I've told him to his face how I feel about him. This is sort of like yelling out to your partner that you love them in front of a huge crowd at the mall! Ok, so I've done that already but you get the idea.""

You do realize your friend Ray might just read your blog, he perhaps is wisely saying little;
sounds to me he probably really isn't too comfortable with his own persona. External people usually invest in others, either on their own turf or on somebody else's turf.

""You can't step forward without letting go of where you are.""

Or who you are, right? And stepping forward is often the most difficult step.
In your case riding forward, is probably more like it though.

""In the same vein, the most highly skilled people are also probably the most coachable.""

High skills don't always equate in coachable results, sadly. Give yourself credit for acknowledging
your own ability tof judge these possibilities.

""That's it. This has been an exercise for me to internally recap the year. I'm closing the loop, so to speak, in order to build from here. I could have done this privately. I did some of it here because I felt compelled to share. Some great people have invested in me. Some awesome teammates have given me their support and friendship. I appreciate it beyond words. When you find a treasure you want to share it with others. Consider this an effort to share some things of value that I have found on my two wheeled journey.""

THat's not it, Dan.

You're also judging yourself, perhaps not in the correct vein.

Sharing the year with "us" means your perhaps giving us a year end
review. Not so. We all read your writings, observe your improving myriad of images, and some of us (me) wonder what is going to happen in your future.

Frequent motorcycle rides to the Kirkland Washington, head castle may in fact increase in the future.

You're not running to stay as "just" a sales professional. You sell door hardware and related, you ALSO sell safe motorcycle operation.

Sometime down the road in the future, you Dan Bateman shall have to make a decision as to your future. You're too damn good to be just kept as a sales professional.

In the meantime, keep producing, put a Christ mass tree on the back of the motorcycle and ride around your hometown, go into competition with Steve Williams who no doubt will try to upstage your effort.

In the meantime, keep your hopes up and enjoy the season of Christmas.

irondad said...

Dean W,

A bit off center as in well above average with a sense of humor. I'm pretty sure that describes you. I meant it as a compliment, you know. By the way, if you remember, I did ask permission to show your Mohawk picture here.


I'm getting closer all the time. Time has gone by such that I now worry about kicking the bucket without having done some things I really want to do. I've decided to take some forward steps even if they are small ones at first.

I'm still honored by your offer. You may think differently if I actually take you up on it. :)

Take care,


irondad said...


I appreciate your support and continued comments. Through the blog and e-mail correspondence I feel as though we have developed something of a friendship.

As a friend I am telling you I'm not entirely comfortable with some of your comments about my friends here. My observations are based on years of working closely with them so I feel they are pretty accurate. Yours may be somewhat less so.

If you were to hint to my face at any sort of impropriety between MK and I, well........

I'm sorry if I misread your comments. My reactions are based on how they came across to me as I read them.

Friend to friend,


Anonymous said...

Meant as an outside reference..
we all see things in different ways.
I saw the individuals (and they are)
as described by you.
If I mis-interpreted your commentary,
please accept my humble apologies. I screwed up.
Easy to do when reading a commentary.

Still figure you're headed for some form of promotion; you've got the brains, the wherewithall and also
a wonderful blog...enjoy Christmas.

Charlie6 said...

you sir are truly fortunate in the great people that choose to teach with you.

irondad said...


No harm no foul. We're cool.

Still a friend,


Dean W said...

If I was worried about people seeing the mohawk, I wouldn't wear it. It's just one of the ways I try to point out to the kids they need not follow stereotypes.

Who am I kidding- I put that thing on my helmet because it amuses me to watch people's reaction.

Lucky said...

The thumbs up thing reminded me of my own MSF training experience. I struggled with the right hand turn through the tiny path of evil little cones.

I had two problems, looking back. One is that I didn't want to slow down enough, and the other is that those flipping cones make me anxious.

I still get cold sweats thinking about those three inch cones mocking me. ;)

Anyway, when I finally nailed it, I heard the instructor yell "YEAH!" Made my whole day.

bobskoot said...


I like that part of being an Island and gravitating towards a group. I am going the other direction coming from groups and scanning the horizon for that illusive island and unfortunately our paths did not cross this past weekend.
I'm thinking that perhaps the middle ground is where we all end up able to choose close friends and frequent the group situation as well.
Having people you can trust over years of interaction is just priceless. It's nice to feel wanted and part of something bigger

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Krysta in MKE said...

Dean wrote: "Who am I kidding; I put that thing on my helmet because it amuses me to watch people's reaction."

I put eyes on the back of mine.

Karl has kitty ears & tail on his most of the year for just that reason; during DEC he switches them for a Santa hat. Goes with the big red sidecar...