Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Secret to Avoiding Failure...

broadstone balboa park
Leaving our new apartment building in San Diego
My first overnight motorcycle ride since ending our 2 1/2 year long Road Pickle motorcycle tour was a short two-nighter between San Diego to Phoenix and back. One of my clients, a gourmet beef jerky company known as Lawless Jerky, has its manufacturer facility in the Valley of the Sun, and its CEO was in town, visiting from New York.

And because I've been moonlighting the past several years as a beef jerky reviewer, I like meeting the players in the meat snacks industry.

The good news is that the weather in Phoenix is mild. It's sunny, but a comfy mid-70s to low-80s. This would be a solo trip for me, with Sash staying in San Diego.

By this time, however, I've become bored with the ride between San Diego and Phoenix. It's pretty much always Interstate 8. Yes, there are alternative routes in California, but not in Arizona. But even the alternative routes in California have become boring. I've ridden them all dozens and dozens of times over. I find myself falling into the attitude of just wanting to get there as fast as I can, and sacrificing any opportunity of new tales and chance meetings.

But I can honestly say, that I really have looked at Google Maps, and zoomed in to search for that lonely road that keeps getting ignored. But alas, there's no such road heading into the Grand Canyon State, at least none that I haven't ridden a few times already.

If anything, I did get a little bit of a fright when I discovered I was 60 minutes late to my meeting with Lawless Jerky. It seems this time of year, Arizona is one hour ahead of California. I panicked in my hotel room realizing my laptop's clock still showed Pacific Time. I texted my client, but was assured there wasn't a problem. I guess this sort of thing happens all the time when Californians visit Arizona.

"I think these are still smoking", Matt Tolnick, the CEO of Lawless Jerky pointed out to me, as he struggled to unlatch the massive, industrial sized smokers. The door cracked open a few inches, sending clouds of hickory smoke mixed with teriyaki marinade billowing out. My salivary glands stimulated into action. "Yeah, these still have a long ways to go", he said.

What amazed me is that I remember when Matt first started his business. He had just quit working as an attorney for a sports agency, determined to build a business from his jerky-making hobby. He was just like thousands of guys across the country trying to make a buck selling homemade jerky. Yet here he was, only three years later, standing inside his own USDA-inspected jerky factory. Trust me, after writing jerky reviews for 7 years now, I've seen a lot of entrepreneurs come and go.

The difference between success and failure, it seems, is simply avoiding failure.

"I think you have to fully invest yourself into what you're doing in order to succeed...", Matt explained over a capacola sandwich. "...so that you're in a sink or swim situation, so that you have no other option but to succeed."

matt tolnick lawless jerky
Matt Tolnick, CEO of Lawless Jerky, standing by a rack of marinated beef  ready to be smoked.
I nodded my head in approval.

It reminded me of a documentary called, "The Secret", which discusses the Law of Attraction. In short, it simply says that when you genuinely believe in something, you start to see those opportunities around you. Most of us instead hope and pray for a miracle, and rarely does that miracle come. Yet, if we tune our focus into believing success, we start seeing solutions. It then becomes a matter of just acting on them.

And I think Sash and I are starting to put ourselves in a similar boat as Matt. Having just signed a one-year lease on a fancy new apartment, we're determined to stay there for the full term, despite the challenge of finding new clients for our marketing business.

"We're going to make a lot of money in 2016", Sash keeps saying to me.

I know she's determined. It's time for me to put on my determination hat too.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Confirmation Bias Under Temporary Permanence

tom rogers
Me (left) with Tom Rogers, Old Town Cemetery, San Diego, CA
This morning I woke up to realize that Sash and I are no longer motorcycle vagabonds, at least for the time being. The lifestyle of moving across the country whenever, and wherever it pleased us, has dropped us with a solid "thump" in downtown San Diego, CA.

I know this because a few weeks ago we signed a one-year lease on an apartment.

But it wasn't until this morning, when I rode my motorcycle to Phoenix, that it felt different. That is, riding my motorcycle across state lines doesn't feel like running away when I have a landlord and a contract waiting for me.

A few days ago, however, we were visited by Tom Rogers. Tom is a motorcycle vagabond. He doesn't have a blog however, and he doesn't post much about it on his Facebook. There's something kinda cool about being so humble. Not needing the approval or confirmation from others is a sign of strength. I don't normally tell strangers that I ride a motorcycle, nor even tell them about my tales of riding across the country, although obviously I do write about it here.

The fact that Tom would seek us out in our new confines is interesting to me. It comes just as when Sash and I have hung up our wandering boots for the cyclical routines of domiciliary motion. It makes me wonder, however, if a vagabond is always a vagabond. Did I spend my younger years as a wanderer in domestic's clothing? Is it possible to be temporarily permanent? His visiting us is like a confirmation for me.

Philosophers have insisted that "we see what we want to see", or that, "we attract what we are".

In science, they call this confirmation bias.

That is, we tend to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms our beliefs, while at the same time shutting out alternative ideas. It's why someone who believes in ghosts ends up seeing one, why someone who believes in aliens ends up abducted by them, and even why a woman born to white parents ends up identifying as black.

I guess it's because Sash and I had identified ourselves as motorcycle gypsies that we saw many of them and hung out with them. Some are still wandering on the road, Stephanie Yue, Joe Sparrow, Kevin Bean're. But some are also on temporary permanence like Tad and Gaila. There are also those who I have yet to meet like Ara Gureghian and Scooter Tramp Scotty. There are others that Sash have met that I haven't.

Perhaps the same is true with Tom Rogers; he stopped to see us along his interstate meander because his mind wants to see the same severance from everyday convention as ours. He likes being with people who follow the same path.

Or maybe he just identifies with people who have boring names like mine.

Confirmation bias keeps us from losing our sanity. There's just too much going on around us, and too many ways of looking at something, that we have to pick a path and follow it. Like-minded people such as Tom, Stephanie, Joe, et al, are like guide posts that keep me in my lane, even when I'm temporarily out of it.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

When is a Squid Not a Squid?

Me riding through Arches National Park, Utah, June 17, 2015
Can someone ever rightfully claim to be a safe motorcycle rider? Can someone ever point out another rider as being unsafe? Can ATGATTers pat themselves on the back for being safe riders? Are squids destined to die?

I go crazy when I hear a rider point out another rider as being a "squid", or publicly espousing the virtues of wearing ATGATT, because those terms are relative. In some respects, they're just fantasy.

Binary Opposition is a subject that has been much observed particularly in recent times through feminism, racism, religion, and politics. It's basically refers to polar opposites. Humans measure things linearly. We understand expressions of "up and down", "hot and cold", "white and black", "male and female", "God and Satan", "gay and straight", "liberal and conservative", et al. But we tend to prefer one opposite over the other. Males tend to dominate females. God is good, Satan is bad. Whites are priviledged, Blacks are discriminated.

Humans are social animals, and as such, we assemble into groups and look at the world as "us versus them".

In motorcycling, ATGATT is perceived more favorably than Squid. And while ATGATT proponents point to data in the course of defending their position, the data still remains relative and inconclusive. That is, there are many motorcyclists who died despite wearing a lot of gear. Moreover, many of those lives could have been spared, had they wore even more gear.

And that's why I go crazy when I hear people espouse the virtues of ATGATT. It's simply impossible to wear all the gear, all the time. A rider can never wear enough gear to be 100% safe. You can always put on more gear that will get you closer to 100%, but you can never get to 100%.

But, safety and death do not have a direct correlation to gear. How much more gear you wear does not equate to how much more safe you'll be. Likewise, how little gear you wear does not equate to how many more injuries you'll suffer. It's very possible for an ATGATTer to suffer more injuries than a squid over the course of 100,000 miles.

So why do ATGATT afficionados like to point fingers at squids?

Again, "binary opposition" is one of those things that make up humanity. We're obsessed with polar opposites. I think it's because humans can never be 100% neutral. We're always going to have some bias, somewhere. And because we want to assemble with like-minded persons, we tend to point out those who are opposite to us. Some of this opposition becomes highly emotional, particularly with religion, politics, racism, and sexuality. I tend to witness the same emotional level of opposition in motorcycling.

I mean, look at Harley versus Metric. Cruiser versus Sportbike. Leather versus Textile. I've been around enough BMW riders to know how much they despise Harley riders. This is all under the supposed, "brotherhood of motorcycling", and yet the mudslinging can get pretty passionate.

Meanwhile, it's impossible to be a squid, simply because by definition, a squid is the polar opposite of ATGATT. And if you're the opposite of being 100% safe, then you're 100% dead. In my opinion, if a rider traveled from Point A to Point B safely, then technically speaking, they rode safely. It doesn't matter how much gear they wore, or even how fast.

In reality, we all exist in the grey area. We all wear some amount of gear, even if it's just a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Even if you rode naked, you still have a brain that kept you safe.

Safety can only be declared at the end of the ride, and is not a reflection of how much gear you wear.

I will agree, however, that wearing more gear will reduce injury and the risk of death. But there's an irony in wearing more gear. If you agree that you can't wear enough gear to be 100% safe, then you're obviously willing to risk death. And if you're willing to risk death, are you not a squid?

Otherwise, the difference between ATGATT and squid is a sliding scale of risk, with each person getting to decide how risky they want to be. That's grey area. I can see how someone would "feel" more safe if they wore more gear, but does that make them more safe? Does that give them the right to declare someone else as unsafe?

So, when is a squid not a squid?

Well, we're all squids, and we're all ATGATTers. The sliding scale doesn't include or exclude us from either opposite. We can never be either or. That really ought to unite us all.

The terms "ATGATT" and "Squid" only end up dividing us.

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)