Zen Motorcyclist: Breaking Chains

Sep 26, 2018 View Comments by

Zen Motorcyclist

I’ve had the idea for this essay in the back of my mind for what seems like years now. It’s a natural part of the independence and self-reliance of motorcycling to want to do at least some of your own maintenance. It’s that way for me even given my less than stellar mechanical aptitude. Dad was a lifelong mechanic, and my brother can tear an engine apart and put it back together again without so much as a shop guide, but gaining competence in such things was a slow process for me.

I’ve never been one to say “I can’t do that,” and the desire to get better at things and to expand my comfort zone is an intrinsic part of riding. Unless you started riding very young, it’s a daunting experience learning the controls and situational awareness necessary to ride safely; but once acquired, that confidence naturally expands into other areas of your life. I’ve gotten better mechanically and, in a more metaphoric sense, have become keenly aware of when it’s time to break chains (in life as well as on motorcycles).

I remember the first time I replaced a motorcycle chain. To those who’ve done it many times it may seem like no big deal, but the first time, when you value the motorcycle so much, you know that doing it incorrectly leaves the bike un-rideable at best and dangerous at worst. It’s a leap of faith requiring a belief in yourself, that you can do what it takes to get riding again, even if that means simply asking for help.
The life metaphor to breaking a cycle chain is an obvious one. Many years ago, I left fulltime work and became a self-employed consultant at a time when I was also raising a family. I made that difficult and frightening decision along with my family and, as the quote above implies, failure simply wasn’t an option. I had to get it done.

Sometimes, much like chains, relationships, jobs, and careers wear out despite our every attempt to maintain them. It’s then that it’s necessary to make the break. When I went on to break the chain of self-employment, it was the consequence of an offer to gain expertise in a new field. Employing me, my friend Jan showed confidence in my ability to learn and implement a new offering in the natural gas industry. Daunting, yes—but by then I’d already broken many chains, so I leapt at, and was grateful for, the opportunity.

A few years later a friend and coworker, Brian, with whom I had worked 25 years ago, emailed that “opportunity is knocking.” I broke another chain and made the leap toward helping him start a new office for the company I now work for. The skills I learned as a consultant and under my previous employer are valued here and I’m encouraged to use them all.

I read somewhere recently “maybe everything you’ve been through was preparing you for what you really wanted.” That is the case here at RTR Energy Solutions. The restriction of being kept in a box doing the same thing every day has been replaced by the chance to use every aspect of my skill set to contribute in every way possible to the growth of a young, energetic company. It was difficult breaking the chain of interesting work in a growing industry with people I’d grown fond of, but I’m glad I did, both financially and personally.

There are two consequences to breaking chains: you succeed and grow, or you fail and grow. Both positive outcomes. I’m not sure what the next chain I break will be. But I know I’ll recognize when it’s time, and that once I do, I’ll be on the other side of that decision doing whatever it takes to keep moving forward. Thanks, in part, to the decision to start riding motorcycles many years ago, I know I’ll get it done, because I “gotta get it done.”

You can get it done. 
You can get it done. What’s more, you gotta get it done.
—Lou Saban

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