Spring is coming and I’m looking at trying out a new hobby because…well, because reasons. Because I’ve never ridden a motorcycle before and because I’m at a place in my life where I have the resources to learn. It’s a risky venture for sure, but as I go through the steps of taking it on, it seems that a lot of those steps are critical to safety and success in any activity that comes with a potential for failure. Whether you’re thinking about moving out, launching your own business, or just getting started with a new hobby like mine, try keeping these things in mind:
Educate yourself. We live in an age where enormous amounts of knowledge are available, often for free, on the Internet. While you will need to ensure that you are using reputable resources, there are many out there in almost every field. I’m not going to go into evaluating a website or expert for what’s good or not (we’ve talked about that here at other times), but one thing to keep in mind as you look is that if a wide range of experts start saying similar things, there’s probably something to it. You can also look for backup in objective information that opinions are based on, and for people who specifically disagree to see what their counterarguments are. Try also lurking or participating in relevant Facebook groups or Internet forums to see who they’re referencing for information, and what kinds of answers they crowdsource to various questions. There could be a lot of bad information – but there could also be a lot of good information. Think about the qualities you look for when researching areas you do know a lot about, and apply those to these new areas. I’m gathering my initial motorcycle information from friends who are experienced riders, and using the manufacturer and large review sites they point me to for more.
Consider getting some formal guidance if it’s available too. There are coaches and classes out there for just about everything, especially if hands-on skills are part of what you want to learn. Some of them will be really educational, but even if you don’t think they’re all that helpful now, you may discover otherwise later. Or at the very least, you will have had the exposure to concepts and terms that you can dig into more with additional training and research. When you are first starting out, all information is part of building your knowledge base, good or bad. Just remember to keep your mind open to learning more as you get deeper into the new thing you’re doing, and realize that what you think is true today might not be the case as you become more experienced and skilled – not to mention how fast certain fields can move and change. You’ll also want to think about continuing to take classes and consult mentors and instructors as you continue on your journey. That’s why I’ll be taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RiderCourse as soon as it’s available to me, and have already looked at what’s involved in their more advanced classes.
Get yourself geared up with the right equipment and tools. Let’s not lie – money is almost always an object, and there’s almost always a budget of some sort whether it’s mandatory because we just don’t have any more saved up, because we don’t want to waste too much money on something we might not really get into, or somewhere in between. It might require a little more work, or a little more time gathering your pennies, to get properly equipped but it’s worth it not to go with the bare minimum if there’s any way you can avoid it. Having the correct gear is not only key to making your learning experience go more smoothly, it can be necessary to your safety – especially when you have fewer skills and less experience to overcome potential dangers. Maybe not so much on the safety part if your new hobby is, say, knitting, but even then, having quality needles and yarn in the right sizes will certainly make those first few projects more beginner-friendly. That’s why I’ll be using a highly recommended “starter” motorcycle (a Honda Rebel 300, if you’re curious) and am investing in a full set of riding-specific gear that I will wear every time I’m on the bike.
Commit to your new endeavor. It’s easy to get discouraged when everything is new, you’re feeling lost, and nothing is going quite right. It might be because you haven’t yet internalized what you need to, or you’re going through the common early days of starts and stops that always happen. Progress is never a steady path, always going up. You will learn something only to forget it completely the day after. There will be one good moment followed by three bad ones followed by five good ones, and you’ll wonder if you’re actually getting anywhere and if it’s worth it to suck a lot now. The outcome you dreamed of once may seem increasingly unreachable once you really figure out how hard it’s going to be to get there. I suggest deciding at the beginning how long you’re going to stick with it anyway, no matter what seems to go wrong. It can be a time-based deadline or an experienced-based goal, that once you’ve accomplished a certain thing or done it for a certain period, then you can rethink doing it at all. That will help you ensure that you put in enough effort to really make a go of it, instead of giving up at the first bump. Me, I’m going to ride a full season before I decide whether to hang up my helmet for good.
Related to that – remind yourself often why you’re going on this grand new adventure. There is undoubtedly some spark, some vision, some goal that you wanted to fulfill. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be meaningful to anybody to yourself. It just has to matter to you. Write it down. Better yet, put it somewhere you’ll see it on a regular basis. Above your desk? As your phone wallpaper? In a calendar reminder? If you’re shy about letting other people know, that’s okay. You don’t have to tell them, and you can make any visible reminder a little code just for you – just something that tells you, often, that the work and frustration will be worth it. Because it will be work, it will be frustration, even on the road to surpassing your wildest, most secret hopes. And even if you don’t achieve your original dream, even if you find out you don’t like this new thing after all, you’ll remember why you did it and why you wanted to do it, and why it’s so amazing you did what you did after all.