Crash Recovery a.k.a. Change Management 101

by Liz Jansen

Recently I was interviewed by Adventure Rider Radio about Crash Recovery. It’s not something I’d expected to be known for. We were talking motorcycles but what impressed me yet again as I listened to my conversation with Jim Martin, is that crash recovery is really about change management. Have a listen. My segment begins around 1:24 minutes.

crash recoveryWhether we’ve had a tip over or a get-off, losing control of our motorcycle and greeting the road are not activities any rider aspires to. Both can rattle our confidence and make us question ourselves. No one expects either one to happen to them.

When we can prepare for change, it’s easier to manage than when we don’t see it coming. But once the event happens, it’s done. You can’t change it.

What we can control, however, is how we move forward. Depending on the severity, our plans can change dramatically in seconds, and they change the lives of those around us as well.

The process by which we respond is no different to other life crashes—serious illness, illness of a friend or family member, job loss, divorce, family conflict, financial changes, or death of a loved one.

Whatever the crash, we’re now at a new baseline. We can choose to stay there and wallow in self-pity, or we can decide how we’re going to rebuild our life.

It may take time, it can be arduous, and we may need help to get back on our feet, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But no one else can do it for us.

We can’t control many events that affect us and initiate change in our lives. What we can do is choose how we respond. All it takes to get going is that first wobbly step. And then the next. And the next.

Although there may be setbacks in our crash recovery, each step makes us stronger, in ways we couldn’t have imagined.


photo credit: Theo Crazzolara Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area via photopin (license)

Posted in Life Lessons from Motorcycles Tagged with: , ,

Celebrate One Family Day

by Liz Jansen

one family dayThis weekend, Family Day is celebrated in three Canadian provinces. (British Columbia celebrated last weekend.) Introduced in Ontario, where I live, in 2008, it still catches me by surprise. The government in power at the time decided the three-month stretch from Christmas to Easter was too long to go without a long weekend, so they created one midway, and with no better excuse, called it Family Day.

As someone who’s self employed, it’s of little significance as a designated holiday. As a matter of fact, I’m meeting with a client on Monday, and I don’t get premium pay for working. I see my family on a regular basis so it’s not necessary for an obligatory visit.

However, that doesn’t take away from the value of setting aside time to honor not just our families but our communities and our connection to each other. More than ever, it matters that we’re mindful of being part of one family. One humanity.

Even the day pays homage to diverse interests depending on where you live– from families (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario), to Louis Riel (Manitoba), Islanders (Prince Edward Island), and George Washington (U.S.). And that’s just in two countries.

We can think differently, have different feelings, and different beliefs. But this earth is home for all of us.

Embodying a life where family is not limited to the people we look like or who believe like us honors the truth that we’re connected. And it begins with honoring our self.

It just so happens that I’ll be immersed with DNA family, friends, and the Toronto Motorcycle Show— favorite communities with lots of overlap!

We don’t need a statutory holiday for an excuse to be with family whoever they are. This weekend, take the time, even in some small way, to offer gratitude to our eclectic family. Thank you for the beauty and strength you add to my mine!

All my relations.


photo credit: thor_mark  The Road to Zion… via photopin (license)

Posted in Leadership

5 Moto Secrets Revealed

by Liz Jansen

Recently I was interviewed by Adventure Rider Radio for a story on Crash Recovery. During the course of the conversation I found myself admitting one of the shadows that had crossed my mind, albeit briefly, was that people would fault me for riding a bike that was too big for me. That’s a topic for another article, but reflection brought to mind a few other memorable events over 47 years of riding,

There’s enough serious stuff making the rounds these days so I thought I’d lighten things up a bit. Here are 5 moto secrets revealed, events you might not have known about my riding history.

  1. At 17, I dropped a motorcycle with my 5-year old sister Mary on it. She was one of my first passengers and you can imagine that we had great fun flying around the family farm on my brothers’ Honda Cub. She received an exhaust burn when we fell over coming up the treed ravine at the back of the farm. The little angel wore knee socks and never said a word. Mom and dad would never have known had she not told inadvertently them about the story as she related it at a Dale Carnegie course fifteen years later. Undeterred, she went on to get her own bike.
  2. At 24, I dropped my friend Debra off the back of my 650 Yamaha. She remembers it better than I but apparently we pulled into the parking lot at a local convenience store and I lost my balance, couldn’t hold us up and over we went. She’s still not over it and hasn’t been a passenger since. We are still best friends however.
  3. Newly separated in 2003 and eager to demonstrate my independence, I pulled into an Esso station to fuel up my then-new FZ1 before meeting friends for a ride. For some reason, I decided that was also a good time to check the oil level. Never having done it before, I heaved it up on the center stand, then filled the tank. The oil level was fine, but I couldn’t get it off the stand. My feet dangled inches above the ground when I sat on the seat. Finally, standing beside it, I put the side stand down, and gave it a mighty heave, intending to pull it towards me. Unfortunately I pushed it too hard away from me and it fell on its right side. Two burly guys stood staring but not for long. I composed myself and took charge, commanding them, “Don’t just stand there. Come over here and pick it up!” And that’s exactly what happened.
  4. Sometime around age 50, I took my niece Andrea, age 10, for a ride on the back of my FZ1. The curb cut at the end of their driveway was very high and I had precious cargo so I was cautious. Too cautious and made an amateur mistake, using the front brake as I turned out of the driveway. Over we went. She too was a real sport and not fazed. Her dad, my brother, who’d been watching, helped me pick it up. She got back on, put on her gloves, and we continued our ride.
  5. Finishing up a day of photo shoots in 2013, I stopped at the nearby Morningstar Mill at Decew Falls in St. Catharines to unwind a bit before heading home. My Super Ténéré was still new and unblemished. Riding in the loose gravel driveway I
    suspected I might have trouble getting it out. I’d parked on a grade with the front wheel lower than the rear, and a slight drop to the right. I’d have to pull it back up against gravity, on gravel. I managed to move it about a foot and then decided to find help. Thinking I had the side stand down, I began walking away, turning around with horror when I heard the crash. There was no one around to help and I couldn’t lift it uphill on gravel. I went out the road and waited for the right vehicle to flag down. The taller of the two guys who jumped out of the white utility van picked it up as if it was a toy.

Motorcycle safety is always serious business and I don’t take it lightly. However, with these barely moving incidents, there’s usually a lighter side, as well as lessons.

What secrets do you have about your motorcycle experiences?

Posted in Adventure

What Riding a Motorcycle Says About You

by Liz Jansen

What riding a motorcycle says about youHave you ever considered what riding a motorcycle says about you? Not to others, but to yourself. We know they can empower, build confidence, and create unbelievable exhilaration. But there’s more to their teachings.

Ask yourself these five questions to learn about yourself from your ride.

Why do you ride?

As an instructor, it’s normal to see students nervous about learning to ride, unless they’re still in their teens. No one, however, is more anxious than the person that doesn’t want to be there and is doing it only to please someone else. Invariably, they don’t pass the course, they crash, or they pass and their motorcycle sits in the garage.

Healthy relationships depend on considering the needs, wants, and interests of others and often that means mutual compromises. Learning to ride a motorcycle isn’t negotiable. There’s too much at stake.

As much as your partner is totally passionate about riding, it doesn’t mean you are, and acquiescing puts you at risk. Have that conversation before you sign up for the course or, as an experienced rider, when you decide you’re no longer interested.

But if you do want to ride, then pull out all the stops to make it happen.

What do you do when your intuition and opinions of others differ?

What input did you have in the selection of your motorcycle?

It’s just like any other personal or professional relationship—you’re the only one that can decide who, or which motorcycle, is right for you. Arranged partnerships don’t work well in our culture.

It’s still wise to seek advice so you can make an informed choice. When I was first married, I purchased a motorcycle for my husband while he was away on the one we shared. We were both experienced riders and I knew what he was interested in. Besides it was time to each have our own bike again. When you’re just starting to ride, it’s hard to know what you’re going to like, and even harder for someone else to predict. Your first motorcycle may only be suitable for your learning period as you get comfortable with your skills and know what kind of riding you enjoy.

How do you make important life choices?

Do you trade safety for group approval?

Motorcycling is both solitary and social. Not everyone enjoys solo riding and most people ride in groups, i.e. with at least one other person, some times. The safest groups have a protocol they communicate and adhere to. Even then, you may feel pressured to ride faster than you’re comfortable with, for longer intervals than you want, or through conditions you’re not ready for.

In the end, you’re at the controls and making your riding decisions. While you can get lucky, riding mistakes, either your own or someone else’s, can have devastating consequences.

What are you potentially forfeiting to gain peer approval? And why do you feel it’s necessary?

How do you care for your motorcycle?

Aside from your riding skills, the condition of your motorcycle plays an essential role in keeping you safe on the road. Improperly inflated or worn tires, slack drive chains, burned out bulbs, loose parts, worn brakes, and inadequate levels of engine oil can put your bike, and you, in peril.

While I like to do my own checks, you don’t have to. Just make sure somebody does them on a regular basis. It’s no different from taking control of your health.

How well do you care for the body you depend on to take you through life?

Do you push your comfort zone while riding?

Different than bowing to peer pressure, this speaks to learning new skills from qualified instructors, riding somewhere you’ve never been before, meeting new riding friends, or perhaps taking your first solo overnight ride. If we don’t push our comfort zones, we don’t grow as riders or individuals.

As the saying goes, literally and symbolically, there are so many roads, so little time.

What are you waiting for?

It doesn’t matter what you ride, how far you ride, where you ride, or how long you’ve ridden. Motorcycles are our teachers.

What is yours trying to tell you?


photo credit: RaidersLight Easy Rider via photopin (license)

Posted in Personal Growth

Meet Claire Elsdon, CEO and Founder of Pikilily

by Liz Jansen

Claire Elsdon, is the CEO and Founder of Pikilily, a UK based organization that provides motorcycle maintenance education in Tanzania. Her vision evolved from a solo London to Cape Town motorcycle ride in 2012/13, during which she observed how educating riders about motorcycle maintenance could help communities, keep vital projects running, and potentially save lives. 

During that trip, she helped provide motorcycle education to microfinance workers in Mlawi. In 2015 she returned to southern Tanzania for a Midwives on Motorbikes project. Claire moved to Tanzania in April 2016 to establish a women’s motorcycle maintenance workshop and riding school, and is now working on an additional project to refurbish four motorcycle ambulances. 

Claire is living proof of the difference one person can make by following her heart, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

In this interview, Claire talks about how Pikilily came about and some of the projects they’re working on. Watch or listen, whichever works best for you.

Video Interview

 

Audio File

Summary Notes

From London Stockbroker to Solo Moto Traveler

In 2012, Claire Elsdon quit her job as a stockbroker, packed up her motorbike and spent the next year riding from London to Cape Town, South Africa.

As a stockbroker, she’d been able to afford to take some amazing trips in the short periods of time she got off so she’d travel to Mongolia or South Africa and do some incredible off-roading.

It wasn’t so much about being on the motorbike as what it gave her—interactions with fascinating people she’d not normally meet and understanding a bit about their lives and their culture. Riding made her feel really alive and she was curious to see more of that.

Advice from her Gran

Claire had been in her [stockbroker] job for 6-7 years, through a particularly intense economic time, and recognized she needed a break. She wasn’t sure if this is what she wanted to for the rest of her life.

At the same time, her gran had broken her arm in two places and was in hospital. When Claire went to visit, her gran told her, “I wish that when I was your age (29) I’d done the things I wanted to do and not the things other people expected me to do.“

That statement had a profound effect on Claire. “You hear these things from other people,” she says, “but when you hear it from someone that close, it really hits home. I thought, wow! I’ve got so much. I’ve got my health, I’ve got a bit of money tucked away. There’s no reason why I can’t do a trip like this. What would be worse than being afraid and not doing it, would be getting to Gran’s age and thinking I’ve missed my chance. I had to do it.”

Rather than take a leave, Claire quit completely to give herself space to think. About six months after returning, she went back to London, but found it a very hard adjustment. The fact that her cherished bike with which she’d shared so much was stolen didn’t help. She was heartbroken.

Keeping the spirit of the trip alive

She’d already pursued a motorbike maintenance project in Mlawi with a charity doing microfinance in rural communities. They couldn’t understand why the bikes were breaking down all the time and costing a fortune to maintain. When she got there, she found it was because there was no maintenance going on.

They spent six weeks devising a manual called Love Your Motorcycle, detailing daily, weekly, monthly, maintenance requirements and then went around teaching it to the loan officers.

From that, Claire was asked to help midwives in southern Tanzania. The work just evolved from a real need and interest in these [maintenance] skills. So she started learning more.

“If I can share these skills,” she reasoned, “it will keep people safe and provide an income too. Motorbikes have proliferated in Africa and the formal training hasn’t caught up.”

Reducing motorcycle crashes

Alcohol is a big factor in the number of crashes in Tanzania. Up to the last year, people generally didn’t wear helmets at all. Now they do but the quality is terrible. Ladies wear them on top of their elaborate hairstyles.

Maintenance isn’t the only issue but it’s a big factor. Addressing things like no brake fluid in the reservoir or slack chains that are about to jump off the sprocket are easy to address and can save crashes.

Why Mlawi

Claire knew in her first project she’d relying on a lot of help from strangers. She thought if she could share some knowledge, maybe she could share her finance background with these people and help.

She’d been able to reach out in advance of her London to Cape Town trip to see how she could help. The organization invited her to stop by for a couple of months as a volunteer and see what she could do.

Once she’d done the motorbike maintenance training and had a chat with the procurement guy about using quality spare parts, the running costs of these bikes were cut by 60%. That was very powerful for the sustainability of the organization.

After her trip, her path somehow took her back to Tanzania, probably because of the Midwives on Motorbikes project.

Getting over the voice that says “Who am I do be doing this?”

Claire hears that voice a lot! Her background isn’t in motorcycle maintenance, or logistics. She spoke to another woman who told her about her plans and she advised her she probably have more skills than she knew. And she didn’t need to know everything. I just need to be the person that cares, and looks for the answers. Click to Tweet.

And how true it was. It was amazing how things fell into place when she put that energy out there—who stepped forward to say they could help. You don’t need all the answers, but she has to remind herself of that often.

She’s taking this one step at a time. Right now it’s registering as a charity in the UK, getting grant funding for this motorcycle ambulance, and then finding apprentices and tools. Everything needs to go in its order to realize her big picture view. And she can only handle one or two things at a time anyway.

Midwives on Motorbikes Project

Songea, in the south of Tanzania, is the poorest region with the poorest health care outcomes. To help have adequate medical solutions, you need to be ready for people. One of the reasons they [mothers and babies] don’t survive is they don’t know they need to go to the hospital (90% of Tanzanians live rurally). Other basic issues are getting transport from home to hospital and having enough staff at the hospital.

Claire was there in April 2015 training midwives and health care workers in motorcycle maintenance and getting the initial logistics sussed out. She noticed since she’d been in Tanzania three years earlier the number of motorbikes had exploded.

It’s a great source of income for young men as taxi drives. But what we’re not seeing is the crashes. Hospitals actually have motorcycle crash wards. These young men need help making sure the motorbike is safe and sustainable for their passengers and themselves, and the community.

That’s when she started thinking about what she could do about it.

Gaining local support

Claire flew down on her own, unsupported in April 2016 to see what she could do. That was pretty tough because she didn’t really speak the language or know anyone there. She was fortunate to meet Khalid Maagi, the man who’s now the co-director and partner of Pikililly. He runs a carpentry business and has been hiring young men from the streets as apprentices for about 10 years, so they share common values and intentions. His shop shares a wall with the Pikililly workshop and he’s been very helpful in getting things set up.

Claire admits she’s gone through a very steep learning curve—and there’s always more to learn.

How people can help

Fundraising. They’re currently raising $100,000 pounds/$125K USD to fund the refurbishment and the running of four motorbike ambulances. They’re dilapidated and just sitting there doing nothing. They’ve been approached by the Medical Officer of Health for Sengenrema to refurbish them. It’s a community of 700,000 people currently being served by one additional ambulance, which generally is out of service.

Contribute to the crowdfunding campaign for Pikilily’s moto ambulance project page.

Claire has witnessed a number of tragedies that could have had much better outcomes if those motorbikes had been functional. There is a fundraising page on the website and Claire would be thrilled to hear from you; also she’s interested in fundraising ideas you may have.

Become a Pikilily ambassador by becoming a fundraiser in your neighborhood or workplace, or school, joining other ambassadors from around the world. Pikilily can send supportive material.

Volunteer any unique knowledge or skills, like contacts at grant-giving bodies, or other certain skill sets Pikilily can benefit from.

Like Pikilily’s FB page and sign up for their newsletter.

For more information and to watch Claire’s videos on her work in Africa, go to www.PikiLily.com.

 

 

Posted in Leadership Tagged with: , , ,

Eyes Up! Look Where You Want to Go

by Liz Jansen

look where you want to goLesson One in the curriculum for learning to ride a motorcycle is learning to focus your eyes on where you want to go. That can be a very different place from where you’re headed.

We call it using your eyes to steer your bike.

After years of practice and self-discipline, it’s pretty much second nature. When I get into a tense situation, like entering a corner a little too fast or avoiding the driver ahead of me who abruptly slows down because he’s missed his exit and is about to cut over three lanes, or back up, that discipline has saved my skin. Likely my life.

It’s tempting to freeze and fixate on the guard rail rather than looking through the exit of the curve. Or focus on the tail lights rather than an escape route. Doing that dramatically affects the outcome in a negative way.

A friend of mine could hit the only tree a field because he used to fixate on it rather than all the open space around it.

Allowing fear to focus us on what we don’t want sends our energy there and we miss out on what we do want to bring into being. It can be tough with so many voices coming at us from so many directions, especially when it’s hard to know which one to believe.

I choose to look where I want to go and where my intuition and heart guide me, not at the myriad of distractions that jump out from every corner. They’re still there and it’s important to stay aware of our environment so we can realistically anticipate what to watch for.

But when it comes to choosing a destination, I’m looking at where I want to go and enjoying the journey. Besides, there’s less traffic on this road.

Where are your eyes looking?

photo credit: Neil. Moralee Stelvio. via photopin (license)

Posted in Adventure Tagged with: ,

6 Motorcycle Books for Winter Reading

by Liz Jansen

What is winter for motorcycle riders if not a time for catching up on motorcycle books?

Here’s a selection of moto reading to entertain and inspire us for the not-so-far-away riding season. If you’re looking for more, check out my link at the bottom.


motorcycle books dylan wickramaWhen the Road Ends – The Tale of an Incredible Journey

by Dylan Wickrama

I heard Dylan speak at the Horizons Unlimited event in Virginia last April and his story is awesome in every sense of the word.

This story may be the most unusual and incredible motorcycle journey you will ever get to read about! It is inspirational, funny and moving, and has the quality to take you on an adventure.

As a young child, Dylan often daydreams of adventure and yearned to travel the world. However, growing up in Sri Lanka, facing extreme poverty and many hardships, his dream seemd as impossible to reach as the stars in the night sky. Yet, despite all the odds, and many years later, Dylan literally rides around the world on a motorcycle which he affectionaltely calls Bruce. After 130’000 miles, four continents and three years later, he finds himself in Panama where all roads suddenly end. Undaunted, Dylan builts a raft atop ten oli barrels, powered by his motorcycle and a tiny sail and ventures out across the Pacific Ocean to reach Columbia. And as you would expect, things do go wrong. But luckily for Dylan there are Dolphins … One of the most authentic and incredible adventures ever. “A true story told in an outstanding quality.” – Swiss National Radio and Television. Originally published in German as “Am Ende der Strasse”.


Revolutionary Ride: On the Road in Search of the Real Iran

by Lois Pryce

Lois’s latest book has just been released in the U.K. and the Amazon.com page says it will be available February 21, 2017. Her first two books were highly engaging and lively, written with her distinctive perspective and style.

“Revolutionary Ride is my third book, about my travels in Iran.

In 2013 relations between Iran and the UK were at an all-time low but a mysterious note left on my motorcycle from a stranger named Habib inspired me to venture into the Islamic Republic. It was a bid to find out the truth about a country that had been cut off from the world for most of my lifetime. My journey was a mind-opening, sometimes shocking, often entertaining, and endlessly surprising experience that forced me to change my outlook about Iran, the Islamic world and to ultimately confront my own preconceptions.”


Motorcycle Messengers: Tales from the Road by Writers Who Ride

Jeremy Kroeker, (Ed)

“Motorcycle Messengers is a collection of travel stories from some of the leading writers in the genre . . . plus a few people you’ve never heard of. Consider it a sample pack of authors. Read a story by the fire and discover your new favourite motorcycle travel writer.

  • Lois Pryce exploits her dead grandmother and an imaginary husband to access the Congo.
  • Neil Peart finds his rhythm through the curves of North Carolina.
  • Paddy Tyson numbs his fear of crocodiles with a few drinks in Australia.
  • Carla King rides with a screaming, doped-up trucker in China.
  • Sam Manicom is forced out of country by the military in Sudan.
  • Geoff Hill breaks a Royal Enfield, falls in love, and becomes a hookah hooligan in Iran.
  • Jeremy Kroeker yearns to slap a rain gear designer in Slovenia.
  • Ted Bishop tricks himself into one final ride through the United States.
  • Mark Richardson puts his foot up and makes connections in Rwanda.
  • Jordan Hasselmann stares down the barrel of a wooden gun and possibly a real one, too in Guatemala.
  • Christopher P. Baker nearly crashes as he crushes crustaceans in Cuba.
  • Ted Simon ponders humanity while observing a rescue at sea off the coast of Malaysia.”


Grace and Grit: Motorcycle Dispatches from Early Twentieth Century Women Adventurers

by Bill Murphy

I discovered this book while researching an article I was writing about Adeline and Augusta Van Buren, who grace the cover. Last summer I was honored to participate in the Sisters Centennial Ride, celebrating 100 years since the gutsy sisters became the first women to ride their own motorcycle across the continental U.S.

These women were pioneers in many ways and paved the roads, metaphorically speaking, we enjoy today.

Here’s the Amazon description:

“Author Bill Murphy’s driving ambition and tireless research turns up the stories of five women from 1910 to 1916 who set out to pave the way for women adventurers. They packed their motorcycles with tents, tools and tenacity and charged ahead on cross country routes to make a point: that women were strong, capable and fearless. The roads were dirty and dusty, some merely cowpaths, and fuel was hard to find. Flat tires and broken chains were left to their own ingenuity and know-how to repair. And the weather ranged from rain for days to unrelenting desert sun. They endured. Here is the incredible story of daring young women in the Victorian era who chose the adventure of the ultimate road trip on two wheels.”


Tortillas to Totems: Motorcycling Mexico, the USA and Canada. Sidetracked by the Unexpected

by Sam Manicom

Sam Manicom’s fourth book is a gripping rollercoaster of a two-wheeled journey which takes you riding across the dramatic landscapes of Mexico, the United States and Canada.
This enticing tale has more twists and turns than a Rocky Mountain pass and more surprises than anyone would expect in a lifetime.

There are canyons, cowboys, idyllic beaches, bears, mountains, Californian vineyards, gun-toting policemen with grudges, glaciers, exploding volcanoes, dodgy border crossings and some of the most stunning open roads that a traveller could ever wish to see.

 

 


Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment: Fifty Inspirational Stories of Adventure and Self-Discovery

Because I had to include this one too! I’ll let this Amazon reader review speak for itself.

By Amazon Customer on December 14, 2016

“This book expressed a lot of how I feel being a motorcycle rider. Liz does a great job of weaving her story in with the story of many women and their ride to confidence and strength. I’d highly recommend this book to all my friends even non-riders who are looking for some inspiration in their lives.”

Looking for more moto books?  Read my earlier post 10 Moto Book Gift Ideas.

Posted in Adventure Tagged with:

The Gift of Motorcycling: Letting Our Lights Shine

by Liz Jansen

gift of motorcyclingFor tens of thousands of years, people have been celebrating the December Solstice with feasts, festivals, and holidays. Whether the light in your part of the world is returning or waning, the celebrations usually involve gift giving and receiving. The most valuable gifts we have to offer, however, are the traits, talents, and passions we brought into the world with us. For some of us, that includes the gift of motorcycling.

These gifts that live within us are there to help us fulfill our purpose. Using them brings us joy and makes our light burn brighter. Sharing them delivers joy to those whose lives we touch, usually unknowingly.

One of us life’s greatest quests is finding and then honoring our gifts. Sometimes we’re afraid that speaking and acting from our heart makes us look silly or different than everyone else. I know I think about it. It feels like I’m the only one with a given perspective and sharing it will alienate me from others. It can be a lonely place if we lose our focus.

The truth is, we are different than anyone else. Consequently, the gifts we’ve been given for our role are different, customized for our unique purpose in whatever role we’ve been called to fill. Trying to conform to what we think others expect of us shortchanges us and makes us restless. It also shortchanges others because we’ve withheld our gifts from them.

The gift of motorcycling is a prime example of a distinctive tool we use to spread goodness and joy. It’s a calling and not intended for everyone. But if it’s something your heart is urging you to follow, then you know it. By responding, it’s a way you can make a difference.

It takes courage to learn to ride or to get back on when we’ve dropped our motorcycle, especially if it’s in front of others. But when we push through that comfort zone, we discover deep strengths we weren’t aware of; traits and tools that are transferable to other parts of our life’s journey. We open ourselves to new possibilities.

Like our roles in life, gifts come in all configurations, sizes, and combinations. We can’t compare their value to someone else’s because they’re given to us for this specific journey. We need concern ourselves only with using our gifts, whatever they are, to their greatest potential. That includes the gift of motorcycling.

When we do, not only does our light shine brighter, but it also offers light where it’s needed.

 

 

 

Posted in Life Lessons from Motorcycles, Personal Growth Tagged with:

Out on the Open Road

by Liz Jansen

open roadImagine yourself riding a motorcycle out on the open road. It could be a day trip or you might be in the middle of a cross-country adventure. You envision your destination, set out, and are surrounded by spectacular scenery. You’re riding down the road, completely immersed in the sensory experience. The feeling is pure bliss.

At some point you realize you don’t know where you are, but that doesn’t really matter. You’re on an adventure and your motorcycle has taken you on an extraordinary side trip where you experience sights that take your breath away, or inspire you with new confidence—experiences you would have missed had you stayed on the main road.

You can’t see where the road is leading but you know it’s in the general direction of your destination. Suddenly, a big Road Construction sign appears, partially blocking the road and breaking you out of your reverie. Suddenly fear is riding pillion, chattering incessantly about what awaits if you continue.

It can become an impasse or you can take a detour into unknown territory, which takes you on a road you’ve never been on.

You’d never have chosen this path because it looks too uncertain and too difficult. Calling on your skills, taking some deep breaths, and focusing your eyes on where you’re going, you gingerly move forward, and to your surprise, make it through the rough stuff. You gain new insights into the depth of your strength. It awakens confidence you wouldn’t have discovered on the main road. That joyful feeling returns.

In fact, this detour turns out to be quite scenic. As you round the corner, you see the exact spot you’d like to stop at for a while. You’ve reached your destination – even if it wasn’t the one you planned.

The same thing happens on our soul’s journey through life. We’re constantly faced with choices, often arising from events that are beyond our control. But we have to respond. Whether we get bogged down in the mire or listen to our heart and open ourselves to new experiences is up to us.

The open road awaits.

Posted in Adventure

Seeing Red Cars

by Liz Jansen

seeing red carsHave you ever noticed the phenomenon when for example, you buy a red car (or motorcycle)  and all of a sudden, you start seeing red cars everywhere? The same is true of seemingly innocuous events that convey profound messages. Once you start noticing them, they begin to appear more often.

One of the things I’ve struggled with, especially in the past several years, is how to balance following my heart and earning a living. There’s not a bottomless bank account to draw from, no company pension, and no one else helping to pay the bills.

It’s meant being clear on life priorities and a great deal of trust that I’m doing the right thing. I intentionally keep my life simple, which means the upkeep costs aren’t exorbitant.

For various reasons, not the least of which was body and spirit rehabilitation, I’ve kept income-generating work intentionally low since my crash. I’m certain that researching and writing my next book has been, and continues to be a priority. Unless you’re a best-selling author with a rare lucrative contract, you don’t get paid until you’ve got a book to sell.

I don’t look for deeper meaning in every life detail, but I’m reassured and grateful for messages I’m being cared for and on the right track. While all four stories seemed like a dream, only one occurred while I was sleeping.

The Man in the Bank

It’s not often I go into the bank, but this particular winter day in 2015, I went inside for business I couldn’t deal with at the ATM. An elderly gentleman bundled up in a puffy navy jacket and plaid wool scarf motioned me to move ahead of him in line. We bantered back and forth a bit, and then to my surprise, he offered me money. “How much would you like? $500? $1000?”

He went on to tell me how he had more money than he could ever use, that he cared for his invalid wife, and the money didn’t mean anything to him. I sensed his loneliness.

Even as I’d completed my business and he was still at the counter, he again appealed for me to accept money from him. I graciously declined and continued on my way, but not before giving him the hug he’d asked for. Others stood by in silence as this transaction took place, aware that they’d witnessed something extraordinary.

The Man on the Train

This was the only message that came during dream time.

I was traveling somewhere on a passenger train, heading east. Seated by the window across the aisle from me, was a nondescript man who was with me on the journey—a stranger, balding with thin wisps of light brown hair, and gold wire-rimmed glasses. As it turned out, he owned the train and was fabulously wealthy.

The scene switched and I was on the second floor of his open concept house, on an interior balcony, looking down into space. Wooden beams supported the peaked ceiling and the entire facing wall, from peak to ground was glass, allowing the light to stream in. Somehow I had to get down to the main floor.

The man encouraged me to take the step; that all would be well. As terrified as I was of stepping out into thin air, I falteringly moved my right foot forward. It was as if I was atop gymnasium bleachers tucked under each other. As if by magic, a step appeared below me, but only the next one. Each step was just as hard, required the same trust the stair would appear when needed. But I had to make the first move.

Not only was I being guided towards a deeper exploration of my past, I was being reminded to trust the process.

The Man at the Health Food Store

Last summer I walked over to pick up a few items. I was met by a sign saying the credit/debit machine was down and they were accepting cash only.

Dismayed because I’d only bought plastic for payment, I turned away just as a young man, a stranger, was approaching. He’d seen my reaction and had already pulled out his wallet, offering me whatever I needed to get what I’d come for. I was as surprised as I was grateful and profoundly touched by his kindness and generosity.

It was another reminder of gifts that appears when we’re least expecting them.

The Woman at the Pow Wow

While speaking with the Grandmother this summer at the Blackfoot Siksika Pow Wow, already having been told to “Go back to your roots,” another woman came around with a wad of five-dollar bills, handing them out randomly. The Grandmother sensed my hesitation when the money was offered to me and directed me to take it. I accepted it, and it now sits on my altar. I may not have come away with the answer I was looking for but I came away with more reassurance that I’m supported from sources I wouldn’t have imagined.

Often we go about our day so hurried, that we miss the not-so-subtle messages coming our way. They’re usually accompanied with an intuitive knowing that something out of the ordinary has just happened. Spirit is trying to get your attention. Usually, the messages are multi-faceted and always, they evoke gratitude.

Once you start acknowledging them, you’ll notice them more often, just like seeing red cars.
photo credit: Michel Curi 1965 Volkswagen Beetle via photopin (license)

Update December 15, 2016

I rented a car for this weekend and oddly enough, my rental was a red Yaris. I drove out of town to my destination, parked it, and when I came back to it, red cars were parked in three of the next four parking spots. Coincidence?

Posted in Adventure

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