As some of you may know, I’ve developed a passion for motorcycles in the past couple of years and as a life-long learner, the determination to get better at both riding and working on them. Don’t worry. I’m not planning to give up my day job to become a MotoGP Racer anytime soon. I also wear all the gear all the time and pay particular attention to all of those distracted drivers who can’t see people on motorcycles (you know who you are! 🙂
As part of that mission to improve my riding skills, this past weekend, I attended 3 riding level courses at the California Superbike School who held a session at the beautiful Barber Motorsports Park.
Here are just five lessons I learned which I thought would apply to improving the manner in which we all build and nurture relationships:
1. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know – Just like riding a motorcycle well, very few people are born with the ability to build productive, value-based business relationships. Astute relationship-developers quickly ascertain their strengths as well as growing edges and seek others who have demonstrated success in achieving results through relationships, to help elevate their own performance, execution and results. Josh at CA Superbike School was younger, but dramatically more experienced at handling a motorcycle at high speeds, steep lean angles, and dramatic braking or quick turns. All of the skills I needed to understand and learn how to apply. Go get some training, coaching, and help in both understanding what you’re doing today and ways to improve upon it. Also, one size does not fit all. Not all adults learn the same way. I’m much more visual. Figure out your preferred learning style and feed it!
2. Your Assumptions Are Holding You Back! – How would you think one would steer a motorcycle? Pull the handle toward you, right? Wrong. I’ve been gripping and pulling handlebars for the past two years of riding – no wonder I’m physically spent after each ride. The correct approach is to push on the them! Want to go left – push on the left handlebar. A motorcycle is an inverse pendulum. But that idea is counter intuitive – think of it this way: you’ve been told that they only way to get across the US is to drive. It will take you several days and that’s the only way to get there. Then suddenly someone tells you about airplanes and how you can get from NYC to LA in roughly 4 hours! It’s a shock to our system. You also don’t want to try assumption-busting techniques going 100+ mph or in middle of massive relationship-based initiative. Are there “off-track” opportunities to learn, apply, and get a feel for doing things differently? What relationship assumptions are you making everyday, which are holding you back from getting stronger, enjoying your interactions more, and creating more value for others you meet on a daily basis?
3. You Need Practice – The weekend was a strong mix of classroom instructions, on-track practice, on-track coaching, off-track coaching, video review, etc. Multimodality was the key, as well as hearing something, internalizing it, and then getting out there to try it. What we do speaks far greater volume than what we say we do. Behavior is consistent and only when you get actionable insights on your behavior, can you being to look at opportunities to modify that behavior. It’s seldom a switch; it’s often a dial and we all have growing edges of what we need to more of- and less-of with our most valuable asset: our portfolio of relationships. So in using a special video bike, I was able to see over my shoulder the techniques that I had been taught, the applications of those techniques, and areas for improvement. How often have you heard a relationship-building tip, or have observed one by someone you respect, but have never tried it on your own? You won’t improve your behavior, unless you put that knowledge or talent to practice in execution.
4. You Must Apply Both Physical and Mental Focus – At 100+ mph, even small mistakes can be costly. I survived the weekend by removing any and all distractions from what I had to do at that moment. I wore ear plugs, all of the safety gears, focused on one corner at a time, and one skill at a time. I followed my coaches and they followed me to make sure the foundational building blocks at the beginning of the day were being built upon with more advanced skills. After several sessions, you begin to see the bigger picture; you think about one corner at a time and the key steps in successful maneuvering it, before moving on to the next corner: entry speed, lean angle, throttle control, quick turn, knee-to-knee to name a few all take a tremendous amount of focus. At the end of each day, I was physically and mentally spent. Relationships likewise take physical and mental effort and focus. You have to show up, be present, think, add-value, provoke, bring candor and a unique perspective. Those who try to “wing it,” often end up off track if not in the ambulance!
5. It’s a Journey – Never Stop Learning! I improved my lap time from day one to day three by 30+ seconds. Now that doesn’t mean much, but if you’re maneuvering a 400+ lbs, 1100 cc. BMW motorcycle around a 2.5 mile track at ungodly speeds, I’m pleased. But you know what, there were guys out there who were lapping me! They’ve been riding much longer than I have, they’ve been to the same track 3-4x times more than I have, and they’ve attended several schools similar to this one. But they keep coming back to hone their skills. Also, most would agree that there is a grand canyon-sized difference between what any of us read, watch, or are told about a skill and the actual application of that skill. I felt more confident and capable each time I followed my coach because he / she set the speed, the turning points, and the lean angles. They showed me what to do and when to do it. The challenge becomes applying those skills when they weren’t riding in front of me.
The idea is both the learning and my on-track performance is a journey of continuous improvements, agility to keep learning and applying, and the breadth of my ambitions. Relationships work the exact same way! Every interaction is a learning and growing opportunity. Are you savvy enough to take advantage of the lessons you face in every interactions.
By the way, what doesn’t kill you, really does make you stronger! Make it a great week.